Conservative First

July 18, 2009

Summer Reading: The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution

Filed under: Politics — Sofie @ 11:18 am
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I just finished reading The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution by Kevin R. C. Gutzman (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2007).  It took me a while to figure out why there was a pig on the cover, but I finally got it (PIG = Politically Incorrect Guide).

I should have read it before Who Killed the Constitution? by Gutzman and Thomas E. Woods Jr. because it starts with the American Revolution and provides a good introduction to Who Killed the Constitution?, which begins with World War I.

The main point of the book for me was that “[f]ar from being the protector of the Constitution, the Supreme Court [along with Congress and many presidents] as been a relentless agent of an ever more powerful and unrestrained federal government” (200), as Gutzman thoroughly demonstrates in both books.

I was interested in one idea Gutzman mentions in the “Conclusion”:  “create a constitutional council of the fifty states . . . [that] could help restore the republican federal government of very limited powers we started off with and undo the unrepublican judgeocracy of limitless powers we have now” (220).  This idea caught my attention (obviously), and I’d like to learn more about it.

June 3, 2009

Summer Reading: Who Killed the Constitution?

I began my summer reading program with Who Killed the Constitution? The Fate of American Liberty from World War I to George W. Bush, by Thomas E. Woods Jr. and Kevin R. C. Gutzman (New York:  Crown Forum, 2008).  As the authors state at the beginning of the introduction, “Many Americans worry that the Constitution is dying.”  They then deliver the bad news that “the Constitution is already dead.  It died a long time ago” (1).

In the chapters that follow, they “chronicle a dozen of the words examples of the federal government’s defiance of the Constitution–twelve actions from the past century that, taken together, dealt the death blow to the Constitution” (2-3), actions taken by presidents, congressmen, and Supreme Court justices of both parties.

Whether it can be resurrected or not is up to the American people, who need to better understand the Constitution and its relationship to the federal government.

Reading Who Killed the Constitution? can help you become better informed about attacks on the Constitution during the last century and the precendents those attacks set for politicians and judges today.

The book is easily accessible by the average reader.

January 23, 2009

Presidential Pardons

There has been a lot of discussion this week about President Bush pardoning and/or commuting sentences for Scooter Libby, Jose Compean, and Ignacio Ramos.  Someone told me that Compean and Ramos couldn’t be pardoned because they hadn’t served the required five years minimum of their sentences.* 

I asked where that restriction appeared in the Constitution and was told in response that it is the current law.

Here is the relevant passage from Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment. (emphasis added)

I can’t find any other place where this power is mentioned in the document. 

If you read this paragraph carefully, you can see that there are no limits the President’s power to grant reprieves and pardons.  I don’t see how there could be “a current law” that restricts power granted to the President in the Constitution.  No court has the authority under the Constitution to change it.  That can only be done through the amendment process.

In “Federalist No. 74,” Alexander Hamilton wrote about this power granted to the President:

He [the President] is also to be authorized to grant “reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, EXCEPT IN CASES OF IMPEACHMENT.” Humanity and good policy conspire to dictate, that the benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed. The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel. As the sense of responsibility is always strongest, in proportion as it is undivided, it may be inferred that a single man would be most ready to attend to the force of those motives which might plead for a mitigation of the rigor of the law, and least apt to yield to considerations which were calculated to shelter a fit object of its vengeance. The reflection that the fate of a fellow-creature depended on his sole fiat, would naturally inspire scrupulousness and caution; the dread of being accused of weakness or connivance, would beget equal circumspection, though of a different kind. On the other hand, as men generally derive confidence from their numbers, they might often encourage each other in an act of obduracy, and might be less sensible to the apprehension of suspicion or censure for an injudicious or affected clemency. On these accounts, one man appears to be a more eligible dispenser of the mercy of government, than a body of men.

The expediency of vesting the power of pardoning in the President has, if I mistake not, been only contested in relation to the crime of treason. This, it has been urged, ought to have depended upon the assent of one, or both, of the branches of the legislative body. I shall not deny that there are strong reasons to be assigned for requiring in this particular the concurrence of that body, or of a part of it. As treason is a crime levelled at the immediate being of the society, when the laws have once ascertained the guilt of the offender, there seems a fitness in referring the expediency of an act of mercy towards him to the judgment of the legislature. And this ought the rather to be the case, as the supposition of the connivance of the Chief Magistrate ought not to be entirely excluded. But there are also strong objections to such a plan. It is not to be doubted, that a single man of prudence and good sense is better fitted, in delicate conjunctures, to balance the motives which may plead for and against the remission of the punishment, than any numerous body whatever. It deserves particular attention, that treason will often be connected with seditions which embrace a large proportion of the community; as lately happened in Massachusetts. In every such case, we might expect to see the representation of the people tainted with the same spirit which had given birth to the offense. And when parties were pretty equally matched, the secret sympathy of the friends and favorers of the condemned person, availing itself of the good-nature and weakness of others, might frequently bestow impunity where the terror of an example was necessary. On the other hand, when the sedition had proceeded from causes which had inflamed the resentments of the major party, they might often be found obstinate and inexorable, when policy demanded a conduct of forbearance and clemency. But the principal argument for reposing the power of pardoning in this case to the Chief Magistrate is this: in seasons of insurrection or rebellion, there are often critical moments, when a welltimed offer of pardon to the insurgents or rebels may restore the tranquillity of the commonwealth; and which, if suffered to pass unimproved, it may never be possible afterwards to recall. The dilatory process of convening the legislature, or one of its branches, for the purpose of obtaining its sanction to the measure, would frequently be the occasion of letting slip the golden opportunity. The loss of a week, a day, an hour, may sometimes be fatal. If it should be observed, that a discretionary power, with a view to such contingencies, might be occasionally conferred upon the President, it may be answered in the first place, that it is questionable, whether, in a limited Constitution, that power could be delegated by law; and in the second place, that it would generally be impolitic beforehand to take any step which might hold out the prospect of impunity. A proceeding of this kind, out of the usual course, would be likely to be construed into an argument of timidity or of weakness, and would have a tendency to embolden guilt.  (emphasis added)

Hamilton makes it clear that the President’s power to grant pardons should be restricted as little as possible. 

(From reading “the dread of being accused of weakness or connivance [. . .] would beget equal circumspection,” it’s clear that Hamilton never envisioned someone like Bill Clinton being elected President.)


* I was also told that Compean and Ramos did not want to be pardoned because that would imply an admission of guilt.  I can understand that reasoning.

November 19, 2008

Video: “How Obama Got Elected… Interviews With Obama Voters”

Filed under: Politics — Sofie @ 3:34 pm
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November 17, 2008

Video: “Bobby Jindal for President, 2012”

Filed under: Politics — Sofie @ 11:59 am
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