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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Senator Cruz, Give The Oath Of Office Some Teeth

by Ralph Benko, Contributing Author: Senator Cruz, you are well steeped in the Constitution. Here’s a simple thing you could do to set in motion something to help shift the federal government back toward Constitutional integrity.

The very first action of a newly-minted Congressperson or Senator is to take an oath of office. The oath goes as followsI, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.Executive branch officials, down to career civil servants, take this oath, too. That of the president, set forth in the Constitution itself, differs slightly.

But is it really an oath?

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines an oath as “a solemn promise, often invoking a divine witness, regarding one’s future action or behavior.” If the oath of office is indeed an oath it’s a solemn promise. If it’s not that, then let’s be honest and call it something else. Like a “ceremonious statement.”

. . . Forgive me if I’m being fussy. I just don’t know how someone can legitimately swear (or affirm) to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” if he, or she, doesn’t know what’s in it. A lot of the nonsense that’s coming down from Capitol Hill indicates that ignorance of the Constitution is prevalent.

So, here’s a proposal.

Amend the Senate rules to require that before the administration of the Oath of Office the Senator-elect must pass a test certifying solid knowledge of the contents of the Constitution. Thereby, set a precedent to be followed by the House and then, by legislation, the executive branch.

It may seem like a small matter. Yet so much of the legislation and regulation, not to speak of the conversation, emerging from Official Washington seems rather blissfully uninformed. Maybe by demanding that our officials demonstrate a firm grasp of what the Constitution holds the quality of our legislation and regulation would be, at least somewhat, improved. . . .

There may be some resistance to this proposal. Sufficient pressure from voters, individually and in civic groups, could prevail.

What goes into the test? Illinois, for example, requires applicants to pass a test on the federal and state Constitution to be awarded a High School equivalency certificate. The study guide is 128 pages long, 52 of which are devoted to the US Constitution. It’s a pretty good test of the basics. . . .

Yes, mastering these basics is a lot to ask. And yet, a High School Equivalency grasp of America’s fundamental charter is not an excessive request of those swearing (or affirming) to support and defend it. A higher standard of mastery would be appropriate. The Constitution spells out the duties, powers, and limitations of powers of the lawmakers we elect.

It contains their job description! It really isn’t excessive to ask that our officials demonstrate any first-year law student’s knowledge of the most basic book of rules of American government.

How should such a test be graded? Should this be a pass-fail exam or assigned a letter grade? Personally, I would relish seeing certain Senators who received a D thereafter live down some ribbing from their more erudite colleagues.

And explain their D to the voters in the next election.

One can, without much difficulty, imagine resistance from some prospective Representatives and Senators. It would be rather humiliating to flunk the exam and to have to crack the books until passing it before taking your seat. And yet….

It's their job description. They take an oath to support and defend it.

They need to know what’s in there or the oath becomes a mockery.

There’s a way to mitigate the risk of voter disappointment over failure to have the person they elected be seated if they flunk the test. A nonpartisan group, such as the League of Woman Voters, could administer the Constitution Test to the candidates during the election. And publicize the results. That way, if a candidate flunked the test during the election and still won, the voters will be on notice when the person elected still must pass the test before getting seated. Caveat emptor!

It would be even more interesting if such pre-test were administered publicly during the campaign. Preferably this would be broadcast by a local access cable channel, highlights surely would be featured on the local evening news.

One can imagine objections to imposing the requirement of passing such a test as undemocratic. The great newspaperman H.L. Mencken, no friend of democracy, would have relished this. As he wrote in The Smart Set: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

. . . Questions remain. . . .

These questions, and others, call for a Blue Ribbon Commission. I would be happy to serve on that Commission.
As a retired lawyer with a very long engagement with the Constitution, I know what’s in there.

Do you? Does your elected Representative? Does your Senator? (Does your President?)

Shouldn’t we know?

Senator Cruz? It’s clear that you know the Constitution inside out. Let’s change the rules, starting with those of the U.S. Senate, to require that any federal official pass a Constitution Test before being allowed to take the oath of office.
Ralph Benko is an advisor to nonprofit and advocacy organizations, is a member of the Conservative Action Project, a contributor to the contributor to the ARRA News Service. Founder of The Prosperity Caucus, he was a member of the Jack Kemp supply-side team, served in an unrelated area as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House. The full article which first appeared in Forbes.

Tags: Ralph Benko, Senator, Ted Cruz, Give The Oath Of Office Some Teeth To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
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