Friday, June 4, 2010

Does Congress Remember Oath Includes “Support & Defend the Constitution”?

An Interview with Joe Miller, Challenger for US Senate Seat for Alaska

Recently I was discussing an earlier article I wrote about the passionate political debate going on in America in 2010, including debate on whether or not current and proposed federal legislation was constitutional, with a European friend from London. She was telling me her in-laws were moving back to London from Dallas, because they felt America is not what it used to be under President Obama – America was no longer living up to or cared about its Constitution. In fact, the majority of my European friends warn me about the US going down the path of socialism that they feel has ruined innovation, productivity, and prosperity in Europe. Are they correct in their feelings and warnings that in fact many Americans are expressing too?

These conversations got me thinking about the US Constitution, and the intent of our Founding Fathers who painstakingly composed it in 1787. They built the Constitution and our country on principles of free-enterprise and limited government especially limited federal power. They wanted to ensure liberty and the fruits of one’s labor to the individual citizen. The words of these men leave no doubt of their intent for future generations regarding the Constitution, and their words provide wisdom and warning for those that would come after them.

“Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.” James Madison

"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people; it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."
Patrick Henry

“A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
Thomas Jefferson

“But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”  John Adams

The US Constitution is the shortest and oldest written Constitution still in use by any nation in the world today. The handwritten original document penned by Jacob Shallus is on display at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. The US Constitution has been used as a model for their own Constitution by over 100 countries around the world. It is one of the most read and influencial documents ever written – if not the most influential and honored. Our courts and citizens debate its interpretation, yet it survives as one of the most studied and revered legal documents in existence. No one questions or minimizes the wisdom and eloquence of its underlying intent and principles. It stands as the beginning of what would become the most prosperous country in the world and a beacon for freedom worldwide. Even with the problems in the US today, the US remains the country most chosen by immigrants wanting the “American Dream” of freedom and prosperity for themselves and their family.

The US Constitution was written to create a federal government to serve the states by delegating limited and enumerated powers at a federal unified level. The US Constitution is meant to set the rules for and to manage the federal government in its service to the states. At times it seems Congress and the White House have willfully disregarded this or perhaps don’t understand this intended structure now.

It is vital to our individual liberty to hold our government to the intent that the founders considered “rights” to be “what you were born with” and not “given” to one by the government or even the Constitution. The laws set forth in the Constitution were to ensure protection of our natural rights. It seems at times Congress needs to be reminded there is no federal power without the US Constitution. And with this “service to the states” granted to the federal government by the US Constitution, the states and the people have all rights not specifically delegated to the federal government by the Constition. Without this intended and written limited federal power structure, the US Constitution would never have been ratified by the original states; and there would not have been a “United States” of America.

Did you know Article 6 of the US Constitution requires that all federal and state legislators, officers, and judges take oaths or affirmations to support the Constitution? Looking at what many Americans see as the recent overreaching legislation such as the Patriot Act under President Bush and the Healthcare Reform under President Obama, it is obvious the oath to “support and defend the Constitution” seems to be misunderstood by those in government at best, and “just words” to politicians at worst. When you add bailing out failing companies and nationalizing companies, even if difficult to admit for some, we all know our Founding Fathers would in fact be turning over in their graves at what most Americans see as a disregard for the actual powers given in the Constitution and most citizens do not support.

Americans are left to wonder why those in Washington would seek a position that requires they take an oath to support the Constitution and then exert there is no framework for Constitutional legislation or their own power to control the states and the people. Why would they vote for legislation they have not read or refuse to support and enforce laws simply because they don’t find them politically beneficial to re-election efforts? Why would they act as if those citizens and states questioning this behavior are the ones with the problem? It only takes one look at the YouTube video clip of Representative Alcee Hastings talking about Congress and rules to see how convoluted upholding the Constitution can be even after an oath to do so was taken.

I went looking for a senate candidate, from either political party, who seemed to embody the oath they would take as a Senator to “support and defend the US Constitution”. Considering the economic crisis in America, someone whom understood economics wouldn’t hurt either. Joe Miller, a challenger for the US Senate seat for Alaska, seemed to fit this bill perfectly. He currently lives in Fairbanks where he practices law. Rarely do I or anyone agree with any politician on their complete platform, yet I do agree with Joe Miller’s stand on restoring our founding principles, limited constitutional government, and reversing government growth. Whether you agree with someone or not politically, one of our strongest governing principles is the right of freedom of expression guaranteed in the 1st Amendment. Our Founding Fathers understood there would be passionate debate and differing opinions and prepared for this to be without censorship or reprisal.

Joe Miller is an Alaskan by choice. He grew up in a working class family in Kansas. He headed to the Last Frontier sixteen years ago because of his love for the outdoors. After graduating from law school, he accepted a position at a prestigious law firm in Anchorage. He quickly mastered the law and three years later, at the age of 30, he was appointed as a State Magistrate, the youngest then serving in Alaska, as well as a Superior Court Master for the Fourth Judicial District. Further honors followed four years later when Joe Miller was appointed an Acting State District Court Judge and, shortly thereafter, U.S. Magistrate Judge in Fairbanks. He again had the distinction of being the youngest then serving in that federal position, not only in the state, but also in the entire US. He was also the only judge in the US, at that time, serving at both the federal and state levels simultaneously.

In 2004, Joe Miller stepped down from the bench to run for State Representative. He overwhelmingly won the contested Republican primary and nearly pulled off an upset in the general election receiving over 48% of the vote against the Democratic incumbent in a traditionally Democratic district. This was the closest re-election campaign the officeholder has ever faced. He returned to the successful full time practice of law at his own firm. He has represented clients in a wide variety of cases, a number of which have gone all the way to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Prior to becoming an attorney and a judge, Joe Miller served as an officer in the US Army. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his leadership in combat during the First Gulf War. He received his commission from West Point, where he graduated with honors. He is also a graduate of Yale Law School and holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Alaska.

An Interview with Joe Miller, Challenger for US Senate Seat for Alaska:

BKH: What made you decide to run for the US Senate especially against a powerful incumbent?
JM: I'm a concerned citizen, hard working taxpayer, father, and devoted husband who believes that our country is at a crossroads. Are we going to keep faith with the Founders and defend our Constitutional Republic? Or will we continue our headlong plunge into socialism and more government control? We already know what is at the end of that road: the decline of the dollar, further constriction of our economy,
sustained high unemployment, crippling government regulations, and a deeper dependency on hostile foreign powers. I'm running to turn that around, to stand up for individual freedoms, and to stand up for Alaska.

BKH: Why do believe you can win your primary challenge to Lisa Murkowski? What sets you most apart from her for voters?
JM: Murkowski has lost touch with the Alaskan voters on crucial issues, especially in the area of government growth and spending. This is a small state where conservative activism and volunteerism determine elections. I’ve received more endorsements from sitting and prior legislators than Sarah Palin did when she defeated Frank Murkowski for Governor. A number of former borough mayors have also endorsed me. Former Governor Palin gave my campaign a resounding endorsement. She shares the belief that our nation is at a crucial juncture. It is time for true change away from the long discredited notion that Big Government knows best and back towards our Constitutional moorings rooted in individual freedom and personal responsibility. Murkowski and I differ most markedly on the following issues:

ObamaCare: I want to repeal it and seek true cost saving reform. Murkowski wants to work within the framework of the existing 2000+ page healthcare law.

Pro-Life: I am unequivocally Pro‐Life. Murkowski is not and has voted multiple times to support taxpayer funded abortions and embryonic stem cell research. She endorses Roe vs. Wade as constitutionally sound.

Illegal Immigration: I oppose amnesty. Murkowski has voted for it. She has also refused to fund the fence. She has voted against photo ID requirements to prevent election fraud.

Cap and Trade: I oppose this job killing legislation. Murkowski believes in manmade global warming and is open to some form of Cap and Trade. In fact, she has stated that she would trade the opening of ANWR for Cap and Trade legislation.

Hate Crimes: I believe hate crime laws that abridge the freedom of speech and extend unequal protection under the law are not only misguided, they are dangerous. Murkowski voted for Obama’s hate crimes legislation this year and has supported such legislation in the past.

BKH: What do you think the majority of Alaskans and Americans care about most today?
JM: The state of the economy, national security, and the direction of the federal government are most important.

BKH: Why is Washington missing the mark in your opinion?
JM: Washington has forgotten the lessons of the 80s and 90s: that less, not more government, is better. When the government takes from one person’s hard work to give to another who has not worked for it, there is an overall negative effect on the economy. There is less money left in the hands of individuals and businesses to invest and grow and create jobs. Conversely, when the government starts wealth redistribution programs, whose benefits people do not have to pay for or pay full value for, it invariably leads to more people flocking to them and becoming more dependent on government. The government then has to turn around and raise taxes again leading to fewer jobs and more people dependent on government. The downward spiral continues. Where does this all lead? Margaret Thatcher said it best, “The problem with socialism [Big Government] is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

BKH: You have a Master's Degree in Economics. What do you think of the economic policies coming out of Washington the last 10 years?
JM: In addition to what I have said before, I would also note that such policies have created a debt load that is devastating the competiveness of the American economy and the ability of our nation to pursue its national interests. We are on the road to serfdom.

BKH: What is necessary to balance the federal budget and bring down the national deficit?
JM: Again, the 80s and 90s are instructive. We cannot increase taxes enough to balance our budget, particularly in our global economy, because we must remain competitive. The reason we had balanced budgets in the late 90s was primarily because our economy was growing and innovating. We attracted the world’s capital and some of its best talent. But also, we restrained the growth of federal spending. Under the Republican Congress, federal spending, including that for entitlements, grew at its slowest rate since World War II.

BKH: Former President George W. Bush increased federal spending, in deficit, to sustain the Iraq war and also largely increased entitlement spending with the Medicare prescription plan. Federal spending including entitlements increased to the largest deficit known in the US prior to President Obama’s deficit spending now.
JM: President Bush increased federal domestic spending 36% from 2001 to 2006, which included, as you mentioned, the prescription drug benefit. With the nation at war and already running a deficit, this decision was fiscally indefensible. Lisa Murkowski voted for that new benefit. She also voted to increase Schip - the children’s health insurance plan to include children from middle class families. President Bush vetoed this increase twice. One of President Obama’s first acts was to sign an expansion of Schip bill into law - funding for the program increased by $35 billion. Lisa Murkowski joined five other Republican Senators in voting for this bill.

In defense of President Bush and the Republican Congress, they did encourage a pro-growth economic climate by lowering income and capital gains taxes. The economy grew, federal revenues hit record levels, and the deficit shrank from its heights of just over $400 billion to $162 billion by fiscal 2007. If the Republicans had controlled spending, we could have had some budget surpluses.

The mortgage meltdown followed in 2008, and the deficit went up again to $455 billion that year. The Democrats took over both houses of Congress, and then federal deficit spending really took off. They tried to capitalize on the sense of crisis in the country by substantially growing government and adding the largest new entitlement program since the Great Society. For this year, we can expect a deficit of at least $1.6 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the federal deficit for the next ten years will be at or near $1 trillion per year, if we stay on this path. That is unsustainable.

BKH: You have a judicial background and are a strict constitutionalist. Do you think those in Washington are upholding their oath to support and defend the US Constitution?
JM: Many are not. There are a few solid constitutionalists like Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, but most seem to buy into this mistaken notion of a “living Constitution.” Words, whether in the laws or our Constitution, must mean something. But our Representatives and Senators, along with the complicit courts, mold the Constitution into whatever form fits their purpose. Usually, Congress justifies its most egregious power grabs by misconstruing the Commerce Clause. The original purpose of the Commerce Clause was to ensure the free flow of goods and services between states. But Congress just misused this clause to force everyone to buy health insurance and pay higher taxes, in a bid to control our healthcare system. This is an unconstitutional power grab. The Commerce Clause has also been used to justify enactment of federal gun control laws. Yet the only constitutional provision relating to guns is the Second Amendment, protecting the individual’s right to keep and bear arms. If the proposed Cap and Trade law passes, the justification will again be the Commerce Clause. What gives the federal government the authority to force American manufacturers to buy carbon credits in order to conduct their business? The federal government has no such enumerated power, whether carbon is ever proven to cause global warming or not. Powers not enumerated in the Constitution are reserved to the states.

BKH: Specifically, do you believe the recent Arizona illegal immigration legislation is constitutional? Do you think it will withstand a court challenge?
JM: The borders must be secured. If the federal government refuses to act, the states have the responsibility and constitutional authority to protect their citizens.

BKH: Do you believe the healthcare reform legislation just passed is constitutional? Do you think it will withstand a court challenge?
JM: The new healthcare is not constitutional. Hopefully, it will be struck down both on 10th Amendment grounds and as an abuse of the Commerce Clause. In effect, the 2000+ page law forces individuals to purchase healthcare insurance or face fines or imprisonment. There is nothing in the Constitution requiring citizens to purchase a product from a private entity that they do not want. Under the 10th Amendment, those rights not granted under the Constitution to the federal government are reserved to the people and
the states. A similar line of reasoning holds regarding the Commerce Clause. This clause has never been expanded to force citizens to buy a product from private entity. Given the current membership of the Supreme Court, I have high hopes that ObamaCare will be struck down.

BKH: Do you believe Cap & Trade is constitutional? Do you think it will pass? If passed, do you think it will withstand a court challenge?
JM: No, as I noted before, I do not think it is constitutional. It probably will not pass the Senate since we’ve entered the election season.

BKH: Do you believe Former President Clinton offering a non-paid Board position to Congressman Sestak to not participate in the Pennsylvania Senate race against incumbent Senator Arlen Specter violates any rules in the constitution?
JM: I don’t have all the facts on this yet, so would rather wait to comment on this potentially explosive issue.

BKH: What do you believe are the most misunderstood or misinterpreted US Constitutional elements by Congress and the White House if any?
JM: The Commerce Clause, the 10th Amendment, and the whole notion of original intent.

BKH: Is federal, state, or local refusal to enforce any current law defendable? Is it constitutionally sound?
JM: We are a nation of laws. Of course there are limited scenarios where the right isn’t necessarily the legal. For example, those local officials, who knowingly allowed the Underground Railroad to operate in their towns, helping slaves escape north, or those who facilitated hiding Jewish people during World War II, not enforcing Nazi deportation laws did the right, though not the legal thing. They were actually obeying a higher natural or moral law. Similarly, it may be defendable where a law is clearly not constitutional. The norm, of course, is to uphold the law as written.

BKH: Some would use this argument to justify opposition to enforcing illegal immigration law. What are your thoughts on this?
JM: The western world has generally followed the precept that foreigners amongst us should be treated with respect; however, I believe that does not mean granting people who have broken our laws either citizenship rights or the benefits of citizenship. You do not reward the breaking of law through law. That just doesn’t make moral or legal sense. Those wishing to become Americans must follow our immigration laws. Those who feel we need to allow more immigrants into this country must work through the Congress to change the law.

BKH: Are there ever legitimate reasons to not follow the intent of the US Constitution?
JM: Never.

BKH: What are the main steps that must be taken in Washington to "support and defend the US Constitution" once again?
JM: We must elect officials who will uphold the Constitution’s original intent and stand against the whole notion of statism: the erroneous belief that government is all powerful and responsible for granting our rights. Our rights come from God, and the Constitution is the means of securing those rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Additionally, judges must be held accountable to their oath to uphold the Constitution

BKH: Do you believe this will be done?
JM: Yes, I believe we’re heading in that direction. The American public is awakening to the solvency crisis brought on by statism and the failure to follow the Constitution. Primary election results in the lower-48 suggest that Congress will have a dramatically different look in January 2011.

BKH: If you are elected to the position of US Senator for Alaska, what are the most important things Alaskans and all Americans can expect from you on their behalf in Washington?
JM: I will keep my oath to the Constitution. I will work tirelessly to avoid the impending insolvency crisis, repeal ObamaCare, oppose Cap and Trade, and reverse the growth of government. It is time for true change away from the long discredited notion that “big government” knows best and back towards our Constitutional moorings, rooted in individual freedom and personal responsibility. Americans can expect me to act with honesty and candor. I look forward to getting this message out to the people of Alaska and, with their support, taking these values to Washington.

You can learn more about Joe Miller at http://www.joemiller.us/

Everyone knows George Washington is considered the Father of our Country and the first President of the United States. Did you know Washington’s Farewell Address is considered so important that it is read in its entirety every year in the Senate, and beginning in 1862 has been read in one or both chambers of Congress every year? I was struck by the relevancy of his words as we look at our federal government today, especially these paragraphs.

Contained in Washington’s Farewell Speech of 1796:

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution.

As Americans, we must honor our US Constitution or lose our way as a country, a culture, and a people. We must insist our political leadership live up to their responsibilities to the Constitution and their oath in support and defense of it. As voters we must live up to our responsibilities in our governing as intended in our constitutional legacy. We must continue to challenge the constitutionality of legislation within our judicial system. The US Constitution is meant to serve our states and to protect our people. We must vote for politicians that understand the intent of the Founding Fathers, respect the sacredness of our Constitution, will uphold the true purpose of the Constitution on our behalf, and will uphold the integrity of their oath of office. We must accept no less. The federal government is not meant to hold power over our liberty. We declared our independence against this type of governing in 1776. We must vote for federal leadership that does not see their oath to “support and defend the US Constitution” as mere words to toss aside as soon as they have pledged them as a part of their swearing-in ceremony.

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