Blessings to you, the readers of this page, in Jesus Christ our Lord. May He guide you and protect you always.

Al Gore's Speech, January 16, 2006
Full Text, Full Video, and Excerpts

Full Video

Video Excerpts

Full Text (Also copied below.)

Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we 
have joined together today with thousands of our fellow 
citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern 
that America's Constitution is in grave danger.
In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong 
agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at 
serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a 
truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.
As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has 
been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has 
brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without 
regard to the established law enacted by Congress precisely to prevent 
such abuses. It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be 
restored in our country.
And that is why many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound 
an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan 
differences insofar as it is possible to do so and join with us in 
demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.
It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set 
aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who 
challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by 
extending its promise to all of our people.
And on this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially 
important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. 
King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans 
whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government 
during that period.
The FBI privately labeled King the "most dangerous and effective Negro 
leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The 
government even attempted to destroy his marriage and tried to blackmail 
him into committing suicide.
This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the 
FBI conducted this long-running and extensive campaign of secret 
electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the 
Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate 
details of Dr. King's life, was instrumental in helping to convince 
Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.
And one result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), 
which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence 
surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that 
there was indeed a sufficient cause for the surveillance. It included 
ample flexibility and an ability for the executive to move with as much 
speed as the executive desired. I voted for that law during my first 
term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a 
workable and valued means of affording a level of protection for 
American citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue 
whenever it is necessary.
And yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that 
in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been 
secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years 
and eavesdropping on, and I quote the report, "large volumes of 
telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the 
United States." The New York Times reported that the President decided 
to launch this massive eavesdropping program "without search warrants or 
any new laws that would permit domestic intelligence collection."
During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the 
President seemed to go out of his way to reassure the American people on 
more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required 
for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, 
these constitutional safeguards were still in place.
But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be 
false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was 
uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story 
was true, but in the next breath declared that he has no intention 
stopping or of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.
At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic 
surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually 
compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been 
breaking the law repeatedly and insistently.
A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our 
government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established 
a government of laws and not men. They recognized that the structure of 
government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks 
and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it 
would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive 
shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of 
them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."
An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate 
legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of 
the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to 
nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent 
of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James 
Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and 
judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and 
whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be 
pronounced the very definition of tyranny."
Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American 
Revolution, succinctly described America's alternative. Here, he said, 
we intended to make certain that, in his phrase, "the law is king."
Vigilant adherence to the rule of law actually strengthens our 
democracy, of course, and strengthens America. It ensures that those who 
govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that 
our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping 
policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the 
people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive 
officials operating in secret without constraint, under the rule of law.
And make no mistake, the rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that 
decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed, and examined through the 
normal processes of government that are designed to improve policy, and 
avoid error. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents 
over-reaching and checks the accretion to power.
A commitment to openness, truthfulness, and accountability helps our 
country avoid many serious mistakes, that we would otherwise make. 
Recently, for example, we learned from just declassified documents, 
after almost forty years, that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which 
authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false 
information. And we now know that the decision by Congress to authorize 
the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information. Now 
the point is that America would have been better off knowing the truth 
and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history. And that is 
the reason why following the rule of law makes us safer, not more 
The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all 
too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new 
challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must 
be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.
Where we disagree is on the proposition that we have to break the law or 
sacrifice our system of government in order to protect Americans from 
terrorism. When in fact, doing so would make us weaker and more 
And remember that once violated, the rule of law is itself in danger. 
Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the 
executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to 
perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its 
constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to 
information that would expose its mistakes and reveal errors, it becomes 
increasingly difficult for the other branches to police its activities. 
Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become 
a government of men and not laws.
The President's men have minced words about America's laws. The Attorney 
General, for example, openly conceded that the "kind of surveillance" we 
now know they have been conducting does require a court order unless 
authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act 
self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no 
one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. 
Incredibly, the Administration claims, instead, that the surveillance 
was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those 
who attacked us on September 11th.
But, this argument simply does not hold any water. Without getting into 
the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, 
another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the 
Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law 
and that is why they consulted with some members of Congress about the 
possibility of changing the statute. Genl. Gonzalez says that they were 
told by the members of congress consulted that this would probably not 
be possible. And so they decided not to make the request. So how can 
they now argue that the Authorization for the use of military force 
somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Indeed, when the 
Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to 
have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use 
military force domestically - and the Congress refused to agree. Senator 
Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made clear 
statements during the debate on the floor of the house and the senate, 
respectively, clearly stating that that Authorization did not operate 
domestically. And there is no assertion to the contrary.
When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him the power he 
wanted when this measure was passed, he secretly assumed that power 
anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as 
Justice Frankfurter once wrote: "To find authority so explicitly 
withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear 
will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and 
the constitutional division of authority between the President and the 
This is precisely the "disrespect" for the law that the Supreme Court 
struck down in the steel seizure case during the Korean War.
It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now 
brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of 
the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass 
violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming 
indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of 
Americans in both political parties.
For example, as you know the President has also declared that he has a 
heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any 
American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, 
and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, that person 
imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer-even if he wants to argue 
that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned 
the wrong person. The President claims that he can imprison that 
American citizen -- any American Citizen he chooses -- indefinitely for 
the rest of his live without an even arrest warrant, without notifying 
them about what charges have been filed against them, without even 
informing their families that they have been imprisoned. No such right 
exists in the America that you and I know and love. It is foreign to our 
constitution. It must be rejected.
At the same time, the Executive branch has also claimed a previously 
unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that 
plainly constitute torture and have plainly constituted torture in a 
widespread pattern that has been extensively documented in U.S. 
facilities located in several countries around the world.
Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by 
Executive branch interrogators and many more have been broken and 
humiliated. And, in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who 
documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of 
the victims were completely innocent of any criminal charges whatsoever. 
This is a shameful exercise of power that overturns a set of principles 
that our nation has observed since General George Washington first 
enunciated them during our Revolutionary War. They have been observed by 
every president since then - until now. They violate the Geneva 
Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, and our 
own laws against torture.
The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap 
individuals on the streets of foreign cities and deliver them for 
imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in 
nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for 
torture. Some of our traditional allies have been deeply shocked by 
these new, and uncharacteristic patterns on the part of Americans. The 
British Ambassador to Uzbekistan - one of those nations with the worst 
reputations for torture in its prisons - registered a complaint to his 
home office about the cruelty and senselessness of the new U.S. practice 
that he witnessed: "This material getting is useless,. he wrote 
and then he continued with this . .we are selling our souls for dross. 
It is in fact positively harmful."
Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our 
Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which 
these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be 
prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop on 
American citizens without a warrant, imprison American citizens on his 
own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?
The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the 
Executive Branch's extravagant claims of these previously unrecognized 
powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit 
torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to 
promote apartheid, to license summary execution."
The fact that our normal American safeguards have thus far failed to 
contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is, itself, 
deeply troubling. This failure is due in part to the fact that the 
Executive Branch has followed a determined strategy of obfuscating, 
delaying, withholding information, appearing to yield but then refusing 
to do so and dissembling in order to frustrate the efforts of the 
legislative and judicial branches to restore a healthy constitutional 
For example, after appearing to support legislation sponsored by John 
McCain to stop the continuation of torture, the President declared in 
the act of signing the bill that he reserved the right not to comply 
with it. Similarly, the Executive Branch claimed that it could 
unilaterally imprison American citizens without giving them access to 
review by any tribunal. And when the Supreme Court disagreed, the 
President engaged in legal maneuvers designed to prevent the Court from 
providing any meaningful content to the rights of the citizens affected.
A conservative jurist on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that 
the Executive branch's handling of one such case seemed to involve the 
sudden abandonment of principle, and I quote him, "at substantial cost 
to the government's credibility before the courts."
As a result of this unprecedented claim of new unilateral power, the 
Executive branch has now put our constitutional design at grave risk. 
The stakes for America's democracy are far higher than has been 
generally recognized.
These claims must be rejected and a healthy balance of power restored to 
our Republic. Otherwise, the fundamental nature of our democracy may 
well undergo a radical transformation.
For more than two centuries, America's freedoms have been preserved in 
large part by our founders' wise decision to separate the aggregate 
power of our government into three co-equal branches, each of which, as 
you know, serves to check and balance the power of the other two.
On more than a few occasions, in our history, the dynamic interaction 
among all three branches has resulted in collisions and temporary 
impasses that create what are invariably labeled "constitutional 
crises." These crises have often been dangerous and uncertain times for 
our Republic. But in each such case so far, we have found a resolution 
of the crisis by renewing our common agreement to live together under 
the rule of law.
The principle alternative to democracy throughout history has, of 
course, been the consolidation of virtually all state power in the hands 
of a single strongman or small group who exercise that power without the 
informed consent of the governed.
It was in revolt against just such a regime, after all, that America was 
founded. When Lincoln declared at the time of our greatest crisis that 
the ultimate question being decided in the Civil War was, in his 
memorable phrase, "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and 
so dedicated, can long endure," he was not only saving our union, he was 
recognizing the fact that democracies are rare in history. And when they 
fail, as did Athens and the Roman Republic upon whose designs our 
founders drew heavily, what emerges in their place is another strongman 
There have of course been other periods in American history when the 
Executive Branch claimed new powers later seen as excessive and 
mistaken. Our second president, John Adams, passed the infamous Alien 
and Sedition Acts and sought to silence and imprison critics and 
political opponents. And when his successor, President Thomas Jefferson, 
eliminated the abuses, in his first inaugural he said: "[The essential 
principles of our Government] form the bright constellation which has 
gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and 
reformation... [S]hould we wander from them in moments of error or of 
alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and regain the road which 
alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."
President Lincoln, of course, suspended habeas corpus during the Civil 
War. Some of the worst abuses prior to those of the current 
administration were committed by President Wilson during and after WWI 
with the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids. The internment of 
Japanese Americans during WWII marked a shameful low point for the 
respect of individual rights at the hands of the executive. And, of 
course, during the Vietnam War, the notorious COINTELPRO program was 
part and parcel of those abuses experienced by Dr. King and so many 
thousands of others.
But in each of these cases throughout American history, when the 
conflict and turmoil subsided, our nation recovered its equilibrium and 
absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.
But, there are reasons for concern this time around, that conditions may 
be changing and that the cycle may not repeat itself. For one thing, we 
have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of 
presidential power. In a globe where there are nuclear weapons and cold 
war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging 
spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counter- 
intelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the 
global stage. When military force has been used as an instrument of 
foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost 
always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership. 
But, as Justice Frankfurter wrote in that famous Steel Seizure Case, 
"The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, 
however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the 
restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of 
A second reason to that believe we may be experiencing something new -- 
outside that historical cycle -- is that we are, after all, told by this 
Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the 
country is going to "last. in their phrase, .for the rest of our lives." 
And so, we are told that the conditions of national threat that have 
been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will, in 
this case, persist in near perpetuity.
Third, we need to be keenly aware of the startling advances in the 
sophistication of eavesdropping and surveillance technologies with their 
capacity to easily sweep up and analyze enormous quantities of 
information and then mine it for intelligence. And this adds significant 
vulnerability to the privacy and freedom of enormous numbers of innocent 
people at the same time as the potential power of those technologies 
grows. Those technologies do have the potential for shifting the balance 
of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the 
individual in ways that are both subtle and profound.
Don't misunderstand me: the threat of additional terror strikes is real 
and the concerted efforts by terrorists to acquire weapons of mass 
destruction does indeed create a real imperative to exercise the powers 
of the Executive Branch with swiftness and agility. Moreover, there is 
in fact an inherent power conferred by the Constitution to the any 
President to take unilateral action when necessary to protect the nation 
from a sudden and immediate threat. And it is simply not possible to 
precisely define in legalistic terms exactly when that power is 
appropriate and when it is not. But the existence of that inherent power 
cannot be used to justify a gross and excessive power grab lasting for 
many years and producing a serious imbalance in the relationship between 
the executive and the other two branches of government.
And there is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing 
something more than just another cycle. This Administration has come to 
power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this 
excessive concentration of presidential power is exactly what our 
Constitution intended.
This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary 
executive but which ought to be more accurately described as the 
unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until 
the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us 
become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the 
President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making 
foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary, cannot be checked by 
Congress. And President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to 
its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, 
invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other 
roles, both domestic and foreign. And when added to the idea that we 
have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory 
stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.
This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design 
into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch 
with a subservient Congress and subservient judiciary is ironically 
accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's 
foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority 
into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to 
establish a form of dominance in the world.
And the common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to 
intimidate and control.
This same pattern has characterized the effort to silence dissenting 
views within the Executive branch, to censor information that may be 
inconsistent with its stated ideological goals, and to demand conformity 
from all Executive branch employees.
For example, CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House 
assertion that Osama bin Laden was linked to Saddam Hussein found 
themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing 
promotions and salary increases.
Ironically, that is exactly what happened to the FBI officials in the 
1960s who disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover's assertion that Martin Luther 
King was closely connected to Communists. The head of the FBI's domestic 
intelligence division testified that his effort to tell the truth about 
King's innocence of the charge resulted in he and his colleagues 
becoming isolated within the FBI and pressured. And I quote: "It was 
evident that we had to change our ways or we would all be out on the 
street.... The men and I (he continued) discussed how to get out of 
trouble. To be in trouble with Mr. Hoover was a serious matter. These 
men (he continued) were trying to buy homes, mortgages on homes, 
children in school. They lived in fear of getting transferred, losing 
money on their homes, as they usually did. ... so they wanted another 
memorandum written to get us out of the trouble that we were in."
The Constitution's framers who studied human nature so closely 
understood this dilemma quite well. As Alexander Hamilton put it, "a 
power over a man's support is a power over his will." (Federalist No. 
In any case, quite soon, there was no more difference of opinion within 
the FBI. And the false accusation became the unanimous view. In exactly 
the same way, George Tenet's CIA eventually joined in endorsing a 
manifestly false view that there was a linkage between al Qaeda and the 
government of Iraq.
In the words of George Orwell: "We are all capable of believing things 
which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, 
impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. 
Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an 
indefinite time: the only check on it is that, sooner or later, a false 
belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield." 2,200 
American soldiers have lost their lives as this false belief bumped into 
a solid reality.
And indeed, whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable it almost 
inevitably leads to gross mistakes and abuses. That is part of human 
nature. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence 
flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded. It is human nature -- 
whether for Republicans or Democrats or people of any set of views.
Last week, for example, Vice President Cheney attempted to defend the 
Administration's eavesdropping on American citizens by saying that if it 
had conducted this program prior to 9/11, they would have found out the 
names of some of the hijackers.
Tragically, he apparently still does not know that the Administration 
did in fact have the names of at least 2 of the hijackers well before 
9/11 and had available to them information that could have led to the 
identification of most of the others. One of them was in the phonebook. 
And yet, because of incompetence, unaccountable incompetence in the 
handling of this information, it was never used to protect the American 
It is often the case, again, regardless of which party might be in 
power, that an Executive branch, beguiled by the pursuit of unchecked 
power, responds to its own mistakes by reflexively proposing that it be 
given still more power. Often, the request itself it used to mask 
accountability for mistakes in the use of power it already has.
Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not 
challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system. 
That.s why many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked 
power to this President means that the next will have unchecked power as 
well. And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you 
do not trust. And that is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be 
concerned with what this President has done. If his attempt to 
dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, then our 
constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost. And the next 
President or some future President will be able, in the name of national 
security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would 
have imagined possible.
This same instinct to expand its power and to establish dominance has 
characterized the relationship between this Administration and the 
courts and the Congress.
In a properly functioning system, the Judicial branch would serve as the 
constitutional umpire to ensure that the branches of government observed 
their proper spheres of authority, observed civil liberties, adhered to 
the rule of law. Unfortunately, the unilateral executive has tried hard 
to thwart the ability of the judiciary to call balls and strikes by 
keeping controversies out of its hands - notably those challenging its 
ability to detain individuals without legal process -- by appointing 
judges who will be deferential to its exercise of power and by its 
support of assaults on the independence of the third branch.
The President's decision, for example, to ignore the FISA law was a 
direct assault on the power of the judges who sit on that court. 
Congress established the FISA court precisely to be a check on executive 
power to wiretap. And yet, to ensure that the court could not function 
as a check on executive power, the President simply did not take matters 
to it and did not even let the court know that it was being bypassed.
The President's judicial appointments are clearly designed to ensure the 
courts will not serve as an effective check on executive power. As we 
have all learned, Judge Alito is a longtime supporter of a powerful 
executive - a supporter of that so-called unitary executive. Whether you 
support his confirmation or not - and I respect the fact that some of 
the co-sponsors of this event do. I do not . but whatever your view, we 
must all agree that he will not vote as an effective check on the 
expansion of executive power. Likewise, Chief Justice Roberts has made 
plain his deference to the expansion of executive power through his 
support of judicial deference to executive agency rulemaking.
And the Administration has also supported the assault on judicial 
independence that has been conducted largely in Congress. That assault 
includes a threat by the Republican majority in the Senate to 
permanently change the rules to eliminate the right of the minority to 
engage in extended debate of the President's nominees. The assault has 
extended to legislative efforts to curtail the jurisdiction of courts in 
matters ranging from habeas corpus to the pledge of allegiance. In 
short, the Administration has demonstrated a contempt for the judicial 
role and sought to evade judicial review of its actions at every turn.
But the most serious damage in our constitutional framework has been 
done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power 
and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts 
by the Executive to attain this massive expansion of its power.
I was elected to the Congress in 1976, served eight years in the house, 
8 years in the Senate, presided over the Senate for 8 years as Vice 
President. As a young man, I saw the Congress first hand as the son of a 
Senator. My father was elected to Congress in 1938, 10 years before I 
was born, and left the Senate after I had graduated from college. 
The Congress we have today is structurally unrecognizable compared to 
the one in which my father served. There are many distinguished and 
outstanding Senators and Congressmen serving today. I am honored to know 
them and to have worked with them. But the legislative branch of 
government, as a whole, under its current leadership now operates as if 
it were entirely subservient to the Executive branch. It is astonishing 
to me, and so foreign to what the Congress is supposed to be.
Moreover, too many members of the House and Senate now feel compelled to 
spend a majority of their time not in thoughtful debate on the issues, 
but instead raising money to purchase 30 second TV commercials.
Moreover, there have now been two or three generations of congressmen 
who don't really know what an oversight hearing is. In the 70's and 
80's, the oversight hearings in which my colleagues and I participated 
held the feet of the Executive branch to the fire - no matter which 
party was in power. Yet oversight is almost unknown in the Congress 
The role of the authorization committees has declined into 
insignificance. The 13 annual appropriation bills are hardly ever 
actually passed as bills, anymore. Everything is lumped into a familiar 
single giant measure that is not even available for members of Congress 
to read before they vote on it. Members of the minority party are now 
routinely excluded from conference committees, and amendments are 
routinely disallowed during floor consideration of legislation.
In the United States Senate, which used to pride itself on being the 
"greatest deliberative body in the world," meaningful debate is now a 
rarity. Even on the eve of the fateful vote to authorize the invasion of 
Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd famously asked: "Why is this chamber empty?" 
In the House of Representatives, the number who face a genuinely 
competitive election contest every two years is typically less than a 
dozen out of 435.
And too many incumbents have come to believe that the key to continued 
access to the money for re-election is to stay on the good side of those 
who have the money to give; and, in the case of the majority party, the 
whole process is largely controlled by the incumbent president and his 
political organization.
So the willingness of Congress to challenge the Executive branch is 
further limited when the same party controls both Congress and the 
Administration. The Executive branch, time and again, has co-opted 
Congress' role, and too often Congress has been a willing accomplice in 
the surrender of its own power.
Look for example at the Congressional role in "overseeing" this massive 
four year eavesdropping campaign that on its face seemed so clearly to 
violate the Bill of Rights. The President says he informed Congress, but 
what he really means is that he talked with the chairman and ranking 
member of the House and Senate intelligence committees and sometimes the 
leaders of the House and Senate. This small group, in turn, claimed they 
were not given the full facts, though at least one of the committee 
leaders handwrote a letter of concern to the vice-president.
Though I sympathize with the awkward position in which these men and 
women were placed, I cannot disagree with the Liberty Coalition when it 
says that Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share 
the blame for not taking sufficient action to protest and seek to 
prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program. Many did.
Moreover, in the Congress as a whole-both House and Senate-the enhanced 
role of money in the re-election process, coupled with the sharply 
diminished role for reasoned deliberation and debate, has produced an 
atmosphere conducive to pervasive institutionalized corruption that some 
have fallen vulnerable to.
The Abramoff scandal is but the tip of a giant iceberg threatening the 
integrity of the entire legislative branch of government.
It is the pitiful state of our legislative branch which primarily 
explains the failure of our vaunted checks and balances to prevent the 
dangerous overreach by the Executive Branch now threatening a radical 
transformation of the American system.
I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to 
uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along 
to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of 
American government you are supposed to be under the Constitution of our 
country. But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must 
also be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the 
dangerous imbalance that has accompanied these efforts by the Executive 
branch to dominate our constitutional system.
We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of 
America's democracy. We-must examine ourselves. We - as Lincoln put it, 
"[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and 
not preventing the shocking decay and hollowing out and degradation of 
American democracy! It is time to stand up for the American system that 
we know and love! It is time to breathe new life back into America.s 
Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true 
repository of the public will" America.s based on the belief that we can 
govern ourselves. And exercise the power of self-government. The 
American idea proceeded from the bedrock principle that all just power 
is derived from the consent of the governed.
The intricate and carefully balanced constitutional system that is now 
in such danger was created with the full and widespread participation of 
the population as a whole. The Federalist Papers were, back in the day, 
widely-read newspaper essays, and they represented only one of 
twenty-four series of essays that crowded the vibrant marketplace of 
ideas in which farmers and shopkeepers recapitulated the debates that 
played out so fruitfully in Philadelphia.
And when the Convention had done its best, it was the people - in their 
various States - that refused to confirm the result until, at their 
insistence, the Bill of Rights was made integral to the document sent 
forward for ratification.
And it is "We the people" who must now find, once again, the ability we 
once had to play an integral role in saving our Constitution. And here 
there is cause for both concern and for great hope. The age of printed 
pamphlets and political essays has long since been replaced by 
television - a distracting and absorbing medium which sees determined to 
entertain and sell more than it informs and educates.
Lincoln's memorable call during the Civil War is now applicable in a new 
way to our dilemma today: "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we 
shall save our country."
Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted 
television as their principal source of information. And its dominance 
has now become so extensive that virtually all significant political 
communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 
30-second television advertisements, and not the Federalist 
The political economy supported by these short but expensive television 
ads is as different from the vibrant politics of America's first century 
as those politics were different from the feudalism which thrived on the 
ignorance of the masses of people in the Dark Ages.
The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has 
encouraged efforts by the Executive branch to believe it can and should 
control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of 
important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people.
The Administration vigorously asserts its power to maintain secrecy in 
its operations. After all, if the other branches don.t know what is 
happening they can't be a check or a balance.
For example, when the Administration was attempting to persuade Congress 
to enact the Medicare prescription drug benefit, many in the House and 
Senate raised concerns about the cost and design of the program. But, 
rather than engaging in open debate on the basis of factual data, the 
Administration withheld facts and actively prevented the Congress from 
hearing testimony that it had sought from the principal administration 
expert who had the information showing in advance of the vote that, 
indeed, the true cost estimates were far beyond the numbers given to 
Congress by the President. And the workings of the program would play 
out very differently than Congress had been told.
Deprived of that information, and believing the false numbers given to 
it instead, the Congress approved the program. And tragically, the 
entire initiative is now collapsing- all over the country- with the 
Administration making an appeal just this weekend to major insurance 
companies to volunteer to bail it out. But the American people, who have 
the right to believe that its elected representatives will learn the 
truth and act on the basis of knowledge and utilize the rule of reason, 
have been let down.
To take another example, scientific warnings about the catastrophic 
consequences of unchecked global warming were censored by a political 
appointee in the White House who had no scientific training, whatsoever. 
Today, one of the leading scientific experts in the world on global 
warming in NASA, has been ordered not to talk to members of the press, 
ordered to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the 
Executive branch can monitor and control what he shares of his knowledge 
of global warming. This is a planetary crisis . we owe ourselves a 
truthful and reasoned discussion.
One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow 
of information has been by consistently resorting to the language and 
politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its 
agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest. 
President Eisenhower said this: "Any who act as if freedom's defenses 
are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine 
that is alien to America."
Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and 
opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once 
wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."
The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their 
endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of 
our country was at risk.
Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the 
full Bill of Rights.
Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when 
the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more 
dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands 
of nuclear missiles ready to be launched on a moment.s notice to 
completely annihilate the country? Is America in more danger now than 
when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when the last generation 
had to fight and win two World Wars simultaneously? 
It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so 
much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they 
did. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it.s up to us to 
do the very same thing!
We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to 
life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore 
vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to 
safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the 
intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive branch and the 
President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.
I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, and I quote: "The 
President has dared the American people to do something about it. For 
the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."
A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney 
General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him 
from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by 
the President. had a fresh demonstration of how an independent 
investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence 
in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown 
neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive branch 
has violated other laws.
Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the 
bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of this 
special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by the warrantless 
wiretapping of Americans by the President, and it should be a political 
issue in any race -- regardless of party, section of the country, house 
of congress for anyone who opposes the appointment of a special counsel 
under these dangerous circumstances when our Constitution is at risk. 
Secondly, new whistleblower protections should immediately be 
established for members of the Executive branch who report evidence of 
wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of authority in 
these sensitive areas of national security.
Third, both Houses of Congress should, of course, hold comprehensive-and 
not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal 
behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the 
evidence wherever it leads.
Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive branch in 
its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no 
circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and 
enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the 
American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been 
Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government 
with access to private information concerning the communications of 
Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist 
their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of 
American citizens.
Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the 
restoration of the health of our democracy.
It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be 
protected against either the encroachment of government or efforts at 
control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy 
depends on it.
In closing, I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is 
reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that 
America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our 
democracy will be re-established by the people and will flourish more 
vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.
As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it 
is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be 
sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond 
the darkness that seems so close around us."
Thank you, very much.

Source of text:

Blessings to you. May God help us all.

       Rev. Bill McGinnis, Director -

If you are looking for a spiritual home, please visit our website at => Internet Church Of Christ
*** Bible-Based, Christian, Progressive, Universalist ***

All of our original content on all of our web pages is in the Public Domain. You may link to these pages by any means you choose, including "framing."


"Seeking The Greatest Good For The Greatest Number, With Basic Rights For All."
Search all pages in The Network,
using the search box below . . .

For list of suggested searches, click => HERE!

See what we do => On The Web

To support us, please visit the advertisers appearing on our pages.

We are . . . Internet Church Of Christ - - Teaching the practical Christian life.
"Treat Others As You Would Like To Be Treated."

You can follow Rev. Bill McGinnis on Twitter, at =>

God's One Law For All Mankind: "Love All People As Yourself."