DC Constitution Day Forum Protests Lost Freedoms

Americans are frittering away precious freedoms created by the Constitution writers.

Bruce Fein BookThat was the theme of prominent Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein during a forum on Sept. 17 in the nation's capital to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

"Freedom and perpetual warfare are totally irreconcilable," Fein argued as part of an interactive lecture describing how congressional abandonment of its war powers in deference to presidents is destroying the checks-and-balances fundamental to the government founded by the Constitution..

Fein was dressed in Colonial-era costume to portray Constitution-drafter and future president James Madison. Other speakers were similarly dressed in costume, portraying such figures as George Washington and Patrick Henry. The innovative presentation was hosted by the Committee for the Republic, which was "founded on the reluctant and fearful recognition that our Republic is being undermined by a combination of forces and circumstances that demand debate and understanding."

Fein, a litigator and author of the important book at right, is a board member of the committee. It opened its season of evening discussions with his remarks in a format that enabled other characters to shout out objections or amplifications as if it were the original Constitutional debates. Fein, formerly a high-ranking official in the Reagan Justice Department, was recruited to draft formal impeachment papers against two Republican presidents (Richard Nixon and George W. Bush) and two Democratic ones (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama) for usurping the Constitution..

In announcing the forum, the Committee leaders said:

Today, the President of the United States wields more power than King George III ever exercised over colonial America. Congress and the courts no longer act as an effective check on the executive....

The war power, which Madison so carefully placed in the first branch, is repeatedly usurped as the executive engages in unilateral wars around the globe at times and places of its choosing. As Madison predicted, permanent war sacrifices our civil liberties. Salon speaker Jim Bamford  [former investigations editor of ABC-TV and author of several major books on national security] reports that the National Security Agency is building a one million square foot facility in  Utah capable of housing all the emails, telephone calls and financial transactions of every American citizen.

Bruce Fein

Fein, shown at left in a Wikipedia portrait by Gage Skidmore, warned especially against standing armies and presidentially decreed wars as threats to freedom. In noting how the Constitution requires that Congress decide when to move from peace to war, Fein noted the hypocrisy of Vice President Joe Biden on the issue.
In November 2007, the Delaware Senator Joe Biden stated during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination that he would move to impeach President Bush if he were to bomb Iran without first gaining congressional approval. That statement was reported here, under the headline “Biden: Impeachment if Bush bombs Iran.” The story continued, “Presidential hopeful Delaware Sen. Joe Biden stated unequivocally that he will move to impeach President Bush if he bombs Iran without first gaining congressional approval….When an audience member expressed fear of a war with Iran, Biden said he does not typically engage in threats, but had no qualms about issuing a direct warning to the Oval Office.” Biden has been largely silent on the issue since become vice president, Fein noted in saying the Founders knew that power always corrupts, especially in wartime situations.
In terms of reform, Fein said the public must pressure Congress to reassert is authority as the most powerful branch under the Constitution. Separation of powers is the public's most vital protection, he argued. The Bill of Rights and courts are weak protections, he said, because a president can diminish them in an era of perpetual war.  "We don't need to accept the status quo," he said.
Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment


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