The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Two Oaths

Rich Galen

Monday April 16, 2017

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  • As every freshman in every American History 101 class in every college and university in America knows, the oath of office taken by every President-elect at his (and someday her) inauguration is as follows:
    "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

  • It is the only oath that is prescribed by the U.S. Constitution. It is right there at the end of Article II, Section 1. "Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation …"

  • You will note that the key phrase in the oath is "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution."

  • That is a broader charge than the oath taken by every other person "elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services." That's the one that contains the phrase, "… I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…"

  • The Constitution requires all public officials - federal and state to take an oath "to support this Constitution" but the language of that oath is left to the Congress.

  • Both oaths, notice, contain the mandated words "defend the Constitution of the United States." Only the President swears to "preserve and protect" it.

  • Donald Trump and James Comey each took an oath.

  • Only six living people: Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and the aforementioned Donald Trump have taken the first oath.

  • According to the Associated Press, some 2,800,000 people currently employed by the federal government have taken the second. I am one of the tens of millions who has taken it - in my case a number of times - at one time or another in our careers.

  • Each time, I meant it.

  • I am pretty certain I have never met either Donald Trump or James Comey. I think I would have remembered if I had.

  • I knew about Trump, largely from listening to him in the early days of "Imus in the Morning," the radio show that became a morning cable TV phenomenon on MSNBC starting in 1996. I thought Trump was a blowhard then, but as a developer of luxury office and apartment buildings, expensive golf courses, and failed casinos his life and mine were not likely to intersect.

  • As to Comey, I don't think I knew he was the FBI Director prior to his coming into public view during the Hillary email case.

  • If you had threatened to pull out my fingernails I might have remembered Comey was the Deputy Attorney General who raced to the hospital bed of John Ashcroft in 2004 to stop the semi-conscious Attorney General from reauthorizing a secret domestic surveillance program.

  • Adding to the dizzying criss-crossing of lines that routinely occur in a one-industry town like Washington, DC, the official who accompanied Comey to the hospital that night was the then-FBI Director, Robert Mueller.

  • Today, Trump and Comey are locked in a battle that has all the charm and elegance of a fist fight behind the teacher's parking lot at the local high school over what one said to the other in the cafeteria.

  • The problem with idealizing or, worse yet, deifying people like Comey or Trump is that they are not ideal or deities. They are humans with a range of faults - that range depends on how you viewed them in the first place.

  • If you're a Trump person, then the faults are minor compared to the accomplishments. He's a New Yorker from Queens with all the panache and grace that implies. In the rough and tumble world of construction and development being the nicest guy on the block will not likely result in having the nicest building on the block.

  • If you're a Comey person, you know that he's been at the front lines of law enforcement for most of his life. Every case, every investigation, every trial knocking off another molecule of principle weighed against the greater good of getting another bad guy off the streets.

  • Trump has kinetic weapons as he demonstrated over the weekend when he launched missiles into Syria. Comey has intellectual weapons as his book - scheduled for official release on Tuesday - will demonstrate.

  • They both took an oath. The oath was not to their reputation. The oath was not to their success. The oath was most certainly not to each other.

  • The oath was - is - "to defend the Constitution of the United States."

  • So help me God.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Cornell University page of the text of the oath taken by all public employees; to the House of Representatives' examination of its history, and to the LA Times summary of the nighttime run to the hospital by Comey and Mueller.

    The Mullfoto is a dramatic shot at sunset on Saturday night.

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