I’m not at all a fan of Donald Trump. Spend five minutes on my blog reading some of the other posts I’ve wriiten, and that much becomes clear. I’ve essentially shut down this blog, which I once really enjoyed writing, because responding to Trump’s actions can be an all-consuming task, especially when it’s done on a volunteer basis. In other words, life is too short to engage with a Trump presidency.
But having said all that, I wasn’t going to ignore his speech from the Oval Office this evening. I knew there was nothing he could say that would win me over to his way of thinking, and he didn’t really even try to do so. But I found one sentence at the end of the speech to be nothing less than stunning.
Of course, as soon as the speech was over, the paid political analysts began flooding the air at CNN, MSNBC, and (I would presume) Fox News. Some people get paid big money to tell us, the unwashed masses, what to think. It feels as though we’ve outsourced any intelligent thought of our own to the same two dozen or so talking heads who call this their career. After all, we have Kardashians to keep up with, and isn’t that challenging enough?
But I prefer to think for myself. I started this little blog–in the great online wildneress in which it resides–to put my own thinking on the record, in whatever humble fashion that may be. And here’s what nobody seems to have noticed from the end of Donald Trump’s speech.
The exact words that escaped from his mouth are linked to above, and they begin at 9:16 of the video posted to CNN.com. His exact words were “When I took the oath of office, I swore to protect our country and that is what I will always do.” But that, like so many other things he has said over the first two years of his presidency, was a misrepresentation of the truth.
The U.S. Constitution–in Article II, Section 1–sets forth exactly what the Presidential oath of office is. I think of it as a script, which has been passed down from Washington and Hamilton and all the others from 1787 to today. The presidents who take the oath are like actors, who can bring whatever inflections or verbal interpretations to the words they want to. But the words themselves are not subject to being improvised or rewritten. In order to become the president, the words have to be spoken exactly as the Founders intended.
The words that Donald Trump uttered, not quite two years ago, are as follows:
I, Donald John Trump, 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.
What was said on that January morning, as the Constitution requires, is that the president swore to defend not the United States itself, but the Constitution that established it so many years ago. It must be said that the land itself, and the people who live on it, are not addressed in the presidential oath.
Was this misrepresentation of the presidential oath intentional on Trump’s part? I have to believe it was. The stated rationale for building a wall on the Southern border is to keep out all the drugs and the gangs and the people who are coming to take our jobs and ruin the country we all love. But there’s no Constitutional mandate for this course of action. Checks and balances, the enumerated and reserved powers of the three branches of government, and the provisions of all the amendments made through the years are what he actually swore to protect.
To the extent that a Trump supporter would ever read these words, I would say I know that you will defend him at all costs. He’s always right, in your worldview. I’m a misguided and dangerous far left radical who doesn’t love this country in the way that you believe I should.
And you’re wrong in these beliefs, of course.
I’m merely pointing out the words that Trump uttered back on Inauguration day, and describing the role that he has agreed to take on. If he’s willing to be dishonest about that, why should anything else he says ever be believed?
The present government shutdown threatens to drag us all down, the longer it goes on. But strip all of the rest away, and it’s clear–to me, at least–that Trump does not grasp what his duty actually is. He doesn’t owe me, or you, or any other American any form of personal protection. But what he does owe to me, and to you, and to every other person in the United States, is fidelity to the terms of the document that created and sustains this nation.