New CIA Director John Brennan thought he was taking the oath of office with his hand on the U.S. Constitution. He’s wrong. Not only did the document he used represent only a portion of the Constitution — lacking the amendments which are integral to it — but he swore his oath on a draft of a document that Framer James Madison specifically called “a dead letter.”
This goes beyond the bad optics of having the nation’s top spy sworn in on a Constitution stripped of the bill of rights — lacking the 5th amendment, for example, which sparked Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster this week.
As viewers of my ‘Freedom’s Charter‘ series on the making of the Constitution know, along with many other Americans, a “draft” of the Constitution from the Federal Convention of 1787 was nothing but a proposal. I don’t care if it had George Washington’s marginal notes on it. It’s not the Constitution.
As Madison knew, the Federal Convention had nothing but recommendatory power. It was the state-by-state ratification, carried out by conventions of the people (not legislatures), that gave the Constitution its power.
Brennan reportedly wanted to use the prop to demonstrate that the United States is a nation of laws not of men. He actually did the exact opposite. That draft of the Constitution is not law, it’s a suggestion by a group of 39 men.
In addition, the Constitution in 2013 includes 27 amendments, inseparable from the charter as “the supreme law of the land.”
So, we now have a CIA Director who has sworn his oath on a proposal that lacked due-process protections, that permitted slavery and allowed no women (nor 18-year-olds) to vote, allowed imposition of poll taxes, contained no term limits for the presidency, excluded the District of Columbia from the electoral college, and holds no limits on when and how Congress can raise its own pay. And the list goes on.
Hey, John, how about a do-over, and this time, use the Bible as an attestation that there’s a law-giver who’s smarter than all of us, from whom we derive our notions of right and wrong, and to whom we all ultimately answer. But if that gives you the willies, then at least use an actual copy of the U.S. Constitution.