Commentary

Law, oaths and the truth

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In today’s partisan, impeachment-centric political climate, the following have become figurative lapel pins and brooches for the ruling class. As you read them, images of Jerry Nadler, Nancy Pelosi, and Adam Schiff may come to mind. My sincere apologies.

“We are a nation of laws.” (see Note 1 below)

“No one is above the law.” (see Note 2 below)

“Equal justice before the law.” (see Note 3 below)

The majority of us embrace these as core truths of our unique American experiment, yet their regular flaunting, and at the same time abuse, by those who should be their guardians erodes their meaning and value. Most often, we find those who proclaim them most loudly are the very ones who least believe in them. 

A very obvious “loophole” in these foundational maxims is that “the law” does not treat of all situations in our civil and political existence.

Note 1: Except when we aren’t, especially when “by any means necessary” is the golden rule. Not to mention those situations where there is no applicable law, or the law explicitly gives an exception to Congress.

Note 2: Except for Members of Congress and those with whom they agree and/or seek favor.  The law only means something when those charged with enforcing it actually do so. The mere existence of words on paper has no effect on behavior anymore than a highway speed limit sign constrains vehicle performance.

Note 3: Except when it is politically inconvenient to the anointed, and can interfere with social justice agendas and similarly sacred motivations.

I suspect we all grew up hearing things like “it’s against the law to rob a bank;” or “it’s against the law to kill someone.” How many times have we heard someone say “there ought to be a law against that?”  Eventually I realized I had never seen words in criminal statute that said “thou shall not rob a bank.”  Or “thou shall not kill someone.”

Instead, what we find is language in statute (state and/or federal) that defines criminal acts and specific penalties for committing them. The vast majority of our law enforcement officials spend most of their time pursuing perpetrators and seeing that appropriate penalties are meted out, rather than preventing the acts before they happen. Admittedly, the presence of a police car parked along a highway tends to increase our attention to speed limits, and a policeman walking a beat will likely discourage robbery and vandalism.

What is law?  In the simplest terms, it is statutory language enacted by state and/or federal legislative action. We’re familiar with prosecutorial discretion, in which decisions are made based on available resources and the overall function of our system of justice. Now, however, we are seeing something far worse; abandonment of the law as it relates to behavior as wide ranging as illegal entry into our country, to using drugs and defecating in public.  

Candidates, some with highly troubling backgrounds, are even seeking and gaining office on the platform of ignoring laws that have existed for decades. Chaos has to follow; the first waves are already upon us.

We are in a period of Congressional inquiry hearings, where selected witnesses are called to testify under oath. These hearings are a once in a lifetime opportunity for those in charge, and they all too easily bend “the law” to suit their purposes. Why? The lust for political power, of course, and the belief that the unwritten code of the swamp is superior to the “laws of men.” The swamp, we all know, has books full or “rules,” and can make new ones at the drop of a hat.

As best I can remember, Chairman Adam Schiff has been swearing in witnesses before the House Intelligence Committee with these words:

“Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

The thought occurred to me that if I was called as a witness and asked to take this oath, I would reply “Sir, I will take this oath if you will take the same oath with me, and every member of the committee, or any staff who will testify, takes it as well.”

Can you imagine what the response would be?  “The witness will suspend, and will be held in contempt,” I can hear Schiff say, his face gleaming with pomposity.

Which raises the question of why members of Congress are not held to the same standards as those who come before them? We read of various individuals indicted, convicted, and sentenced for “lying to Congress” and similar “crimes.” Yet we’ve also seen paragons of virtue like Sen. Harry Reid lie through his teeth in public on the Senate floor about Mitt Romney’s failure to pay his income taxes.  And Adam Schiff invent his own version of the transcript of the phone conversation between President Trump and the President of the Ukraine. Yet each is immune from any consequences for such barefaced public lying and/or fabrications.

How can this be when “no one is above the law?” I refer you to the three notes above and to the  Speech and Debate Clause of the US Constitution (Article I, Section 6, Clause 1) which reads  “….for any Speech or Debate in either House, [Senators and Representatives] shall not be questioned in any other Place.” The Supreme Court has upheld the clause in multiple cases. In Doe v. McMillan (1973), “….the Court has held that the clause protects such acts as voting, the conduct of committee hearings, the issuance and distribution of committee reports, the subpoenaing of information required in the course of congressional investigations, and even the reading of stolen classified materials into a subcommittee’s public record.”  (The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, page 81).

Given that Congress is above the law, and has their own special exemption, how can we possibly trust anything they say as they conduct the official business of “we the people?”  The sad truth is that we cannot. In the gut wrenching language in said hearings, “how does that make you feel?”  It makes me feel like we could use a new amendment to the Constitution to repeal the clause, among other things.

When you come right down to it, while there are exceptions for the masters of the swamp, there is little if any law that addresses honor, integrity, ethics, and accountability, to name a few main principles of personal conduct. Sure, Congress has “Ethics Committees” and rules, but these do not have the force of or the penalties of law us mere mortals must live by. And don’t forget the hush money slush fund.

Further complicating things is the concept of post-modernism, which among other things, holds that there is no such thing as “objective truth.” The simple example is in Orwell’s 1984 where 2 + 2 = 5 was the version of truth from Big Brother. In our era, it’s now asserted that we each have our own truth; you have yours, I have mine, and they have theirs. “The truth” no longer exists; all conceptions of truth are now entirely personal and individual.

In other words, truth is no longer indisputable and commonly understood; it is as you like it.

Remember the Kavanaugh hearings?  Do you recall references to “her truth?”  Pay attention, and you will more and more see such phraseology used in discussing the contentious events of our day. Congress wasn’t so much seeking the truth as they were seeking “their truth” – that being the version of the truth that would allow them to reject the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh.

Of necessity, this leads to the question of what these words in the referenced oath actually mean: “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  We should demand that Schiff tell us when he asks us to take the offered oath. “Which truth would you like Congressman? Mine, yours, or someone else’s?”

We are at the point where oaths and truth no longer have meaning, because if my truth is subjective and personal and different than someone else’s truth, than the entire notion of conducting hearings, inquiries, and investigations to determine the truth “before the law” is hollow and irrelevant. Those of you steeped in STEM subjects may recall “the real and imaginary axes” used in complex variable analysis. Did you ever think we’d transition to conducting business on the j-axis?

Therefore, all such exercises should be terminated immediately, unless we can find enlightenment by the Board Members of the Ministry of Truth.

Let me close with this advice. Buy up as many wool futures contracts as you can afford, because the very public attempts to pull the wool over the eyes of millions of Americans is sure to drive wool prices through the roof.  You might as well benefit from the behavior of the free market while it still exists.

And that’s the truth.  Or, I should say, my truth.

About Pem Schaeffer

Pem Schaeffer is a retired engineer who progressed to a position in business development leadership in defense electronics. He lives and writes in Brunswick, Maine, and blogs at: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/ He can be reached at pemster4062@yahoo.com or you can always buy him lunch at an MHPC luncheon. He's easy that way, and he'll still respect you if you do.

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