Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Let's start again

Here's an example of how strange the US Constitution is. With Hillary Clinton's expected nomination as Secretary of State came the need for special legislation to lower the salary of the Secretary of State to the level that prevailed in 2006 once she takes office. Why? Because as a Senator, she voted for the legislation that increased the salary of the Secretary of State, among many other government positions.

Does anyone think that Hillary voted for this legislation because she expected to be Secretary of State in the future and so stood to personally gain from that vote? Yet the Constitution devotes some of its scarce space to a provision (Article I, Section 6) against such a supposed conflict of interest.

On the other hand, the Constitution gives the President unrestricted pardon power, including the power to pardon law-breaking in his own administration -- a provision likely to be used by George Bush to pardon Scooter Libby and the team involved in torture decisions.

Thus the constitution which is often cited as one of the world's finest examples of the genre finds an imaginary conflict of interest in Cabinet appointments but is silent on a very real one which in effect puts the executive branch above the law. Or, according to Dick Cheney, puts the executive branch above moral law. The best hope is that one of the many unintended consequences of George W. Bush will be to get people thinking about alternatives to this deeply flawed and outdated document.

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