John Kerry for President
Richard J. Garfunkel
Letter to the Editor:
The Journal News
October 25, 2004
On March 4, 1789 the New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the new Constitution of these United States. Therefore the Constitution became officially the “law of the land.”
The Preamble states the following:
“We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.”
With regards to that famous and profound “Preamble” the Founding Fathers created a magnificent document that was in a philosophical sense a more conservative departure from the Declaration of Independence that stated:
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…”
Most Presidents, whether they are the good, the bad or the ugly have stood up for these precepts. But we are, as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has said, “ a different country every generation.” Therefore with all the changes that history has witnessed over the last 228 years there have been many, many changes, but the Constitution has still remained relevant and the most important document in the history of free governments. But the Constitution without the Preamble and the Bill of Rights is still only a document creating a framework of government. I believe that Harold L. Ickes said “the Bill of Rights means nothing to a hungry man!” Therefore the Preamble and the Bill of Rights must deliver to keep on separating the American People from the rest of the governed around the world.
In regarding the Preamble, the phrase “insure domestic tranquility” is most important to me. No matter how we feel about politics, taxation, state’s rights, the “establishment clause,” foreign intrigue and adventurism, and the like, we all accept as a “given” that all Presidents will provide for the “common defense,” and protect our nation state in times of grave peril. Obviously that is why the Congress and the People of the United States usually back their Chief Executive on those matters. Whether it was the firing on Fort Sumter, or the “freedom of seas,” issue that came about with our Undeclared War with France, the Barbary Coast War, The War of 1812, or the First World War, or when we felt the Monroe Doctrine was being infringed upon, or whether we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, or whether we had treaty obligations, as with South Korea, the President was supported. In time of war we usually pull together and back our government.
The President is granted a great deal of latitude regarding these difficult periods. One could say that our current President was given that latitude regarding both Afghanistan, with its nest of Taliban and Al Quieda terrorists, and with Iraq regarding its history of regional bellicosity. Many of us backed both wars, understanding the gravity of our actions and the concerns expressed by the Executive Branch. Those two actions and their justifications are history now. We cannot remake them. We cannot go back in time. But now we have to consider whether these actions have been managed with sincerity and care. In my opinion they have been managed disastrously, and the continued rationale of the Iraq War becomes more of a question mark every day. In other words, it is always prudent and wise to smother or drown a fire, but throwing gasoline on a small brush fire can burn down the surrounding forest and may even threaten one’s own home. Therefore, from my perspective, as a person that would have certainly removed the Taliban and hunted down Osama Bin Laden to the ends of the earth, and I backed the President with those actions. Unfortunately he took his “eye off the ball,” diverted our attention and resources, and has so far mismanaged our whole effort. So where are we today, bogged down in an almost un-winnable war, fought by a “stretched out” and undermanned military. But that alone should not automatically cause me or most other reasonable people to “fire” a President.
Therefore one should explore further the record of accomplishment over the past four years, or even the intent. To me therefore the critical distinction revolves around how we survive domestically. With all that in mind, the President must remember the importance of the phrase “to insure domestic tranquility.” This President has done almost nothing to “insure domestic tranquility.” Coming into office without a majority of the electorate is not unusual, but receiving fewer votes than his opponent is quite unusual, but it has happened before. Coming into office in the wake of a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court is even more unusual. Therefore one would think that anyone coming into office with such a razor thin and judicially decided mandate, would work to heal the country, bring it together and to administer in a more bi-partisan effort. Therefore what is the record and why has the so-called “Compassionate Conservative” not achieved or even attempted this?
“Domestic Tranquility” is important to all. People do not eat in the “long run.” We have ongoing critical problems regarding our health care institutions, our failing educational system, our energy dependency, our trade deficits, our budgetary hemorrhaging, our blurring of the “establishment clause,” the future of our “safety net” entitlements, our job creation, our “jobs” outsourced overseas, our declining stock market, our soaring oil prices, our illegal immigration flood and a myriad of other problems.
But what has this President stood for? He has stood for tax cuts for millionaires, he has stood for state’s rights, he has stood for religious fundamentalism, he has favored the drug companies over the elderly, he has favored tax relief for the energy industry, he has favored the polluters over the environment, he has chosen and backed his anti-rights Attorney-General, he has supported buyouts of tobacco quotas, he is against “choice,” he is against scientific research, he opposed “caps on carbon dioxide emissions,” and he has sought to trivialize the US Constitution with frivolous amendments.
In other words, reflective of what he is for and what he has opposed, George W. Bush has divided this country unlike any President since the days of Vietnam. But he has gone one step farther. He has divided the country not only on foreign policy but also on domestic policy. Any and all Presidents must remember the phrase “insure domestic tranquility.” In other words people deserve from their government more activity than collecting tolls on a bridge.
As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his Second Inaugural on January 20, 1937:
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
Who are now the class of people who have too little? It is the elderly who must choose between food and drugs. It is our children who are looking at a new age of staggering debt; it is the next generation that deserves the cleanest water and air. It is a generation unborn that may see its coastlines disappear if the worst predictions of global warming come true. It is the middle-aged worker who is wondering whether after a lifetime of work he/she will see his pension disappear and social security bankrupt. It is the erosion of the middle-class, as jobs in manufacturing disappear from the American landscape. The real meaning of “domestic tranquility” is peace and security at home. It is the promise of a bright future for all Americans. But we have entered into an age of anxiety and our leadership is deaf to all but the “squeaky wheel” of the powerful. It is the powerful that gets the proverbial “grease.”
Therefore I say it is time for a change, and we all have that power to actuate that change the democratic way, come next Tuesday.