Republican Governors and The Bill of Rights

398px-JMR-Memphis1By William L. Anderson

American politicians, while taking oaths to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” for the most part despise the document and its restrictions upon their behavior. The few politicians who do take the law seriously – like former Rep. Ron Paul – generally are despised by their colleagues and mocked for their fealty to both the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

While one can argue that “limited government” is in itself an oxymoron, given that people given power over others generally will not permit legal – or even moral – limitations placed upon their behavior. Instead, they will ignore those limits, convincing voters that such restrictions actually place ordinary people in peril and safety and that security can be had only by allowing government agents near-limitless powers.

This is not a partisan statement. Democrats and Republicans both despise the Constitution and they abhor any limits placed upon their authority even more. (In fact, I would argue that Americans in general, despite their heritage of liberty, hate real liberty more than do any other people on this planet. The vicious treatment of Ron Paul is Exhibit A.)

Not surprisingly, the politicians and their lackeys like to take aim at the Bill of Rights, which is an easy target, given that it often serves as a means of protection for people whose actions or even just birth circumstances render them unpopular. The First Amendment is used to restrict rights of people who have certain religious beliefs; the Second Amendment is interpreted by many on the Left to mean that the government agents have a “right” to have guns (and use them indiscriminately), but individuals should be disarmed.

And so on. The Fourth Amendment is eviscerated because the government claims it leaves us open to “terrorism,” while the Fifth Amendment is used as a bludgeon against anyone who invokes the “right to remain silent.” Left and Right, the political classes hate the Bill of Rights.

Perhaps no amendment is hated as much as the Sixth Amendment, which reads:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

It is safe to say that none of those things applies to life in America, anymore. The framers of the amendment were following the views of the great English jurist, William Blackstone, who helped to articulate the “Rights of the Accused” and whose work influenced those who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. There also is the famous Blackstone’s Ratio, which is that it “is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”.

About 50 years ago, as crime rates were rising in American cities, a number of politicians decided that a “war on crime” was needed, and that “war” really turned into an assault on the Bill of Rights, and especially the Sixth Amendment. Criminal defense attorneys were smeared as “sleazebags,” and any dismissals of criminal charges due to violations of the Bill of Rights committed by police and prosecutors were derided as “getting off on a technicality.”

Republicans beginning with Richard Nixon embraced harsh policies that essentially did away with Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights and also launched the modern phenomenon known as mass incarceration and brought back and expanded state-sponsored executions. For that matter, few Republicans have changed their “tough on crime” mantra in the past half century.

(Democrats have taken a different road, but essentially have ended at the same place, as neither Republicans nor Democrats care anymore about the Rights of the Accused, but they go about eviscerating them in a different way. For example, Democrats were the biggest cheerleaders when the Clinton administration’s FBI massacred 80 people at Waco in 1993, and I am sure that most Democrats would enthusiastically support any mass killings committed by Obama administration bureaucrats in the current Clive Bundy standoff in Nevada.)

So, while it is sickening, no one should be surprised that the Republican Governors Association has put out an advertisement attacking the opponent of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in this year’s election because he is a criminal defense attorney. Period.

The advertisement says that State Sen. Vincent Sheehan, a Democrat, has “made money off criminals” and he represented people including those “charged with violent acts,” such as child and sex abuse. Indeed, I am sure that many of the people Sheehan represented were guilty of terrible crimes, but the fact that Sheehan was their lawyer does not make him guilty of anything except representing his clients as good counsel will do. (I would add that most criminal defendants cannot afford to pay the full freight for thorough legal representation, so I doubt that Sheehan has become wealthy receiving attorney’s fees from his accused clients.)

What is reprehensible is not that Sheehan agreed to represent people charged with crimes, but the fact that Republicans are claiming that such actions on the part of the gubernatorial candidate should disqualify him from holding office. Thus, we get the following logical construct from the RGA:

  • American governors are supposed to defend the law, and the law clearly states that those who are accused of crimes have a “right to counsel,” along with other rights that were stated to help keep falsely accused people of being railroaded into convictions;
  • Vincent Sheehan, as an attorney, has followed the law and has served as counsel to the accused;
  • Therefore, Sheehan is “unfit” to be governor of South Carolina.

The only fair explanation I can give is that “law and order” Republicans do not believe that the U.S. Constitution should be obeyed. Furthermore, the current head of the RGA is none other than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who rode his role as a federal prosecutor in New Jersey before being elected governor in 2009 (and re-elected in 2013).

I hardly am surprised that a former federal prosecutor would be leading the charge to eviscerate the Bill of Rights. Christie wants to be President of the United States, and his actions as a U.S. Attorney no doubt have helped to prepare him to occupy the chair of one who claims absolute power over the lives of others.

When confronted with the despicable content of the anti-Sheehan ad, a spokesman for the RGA defended it, declaring: “Vincent Sheheen made a deliberate choice to defend violent criminals who abused women and children. He is unfit and unprepared to serve as governor of South Carolina.”

So there you have it. Republicans are saying that holding to the Rule of Law disqualifies a person from holding public office. Being “tough on crime” apparently means being tough the Rule of Law itself.

[LewRockwell.com, April 28, 2014]

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