March 29, 2008

Is Obama Applying for the Wrong Job?

Pennsylvania is receiving a lot of attention from the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. The battle for votes in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary is beginning to produce lots of stories in local media.

I awoke today to a segment on my local NPR affiliate describing an Obama speech in Pittsburgh in which the candidate said something like, “My first job will be to keep you safe.” I was still a bit sleepy, so that may not be a precise quotation, but it captures the essence of what Obama said.

I was struck by the emphasis. As Commander in Chief, the President surely bears significant responsibility for national defense. In the oath of office, however, the incoming President says, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” [Article II, Section 1]

We are not electing the Commander in Chief or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We are electing a President of the United States whose job is broader. His first job, I would suggest, is to “defend the Constitution of the United States,” including the Bill of Rights.

We currently have a President who is confused about his job. President Bush thinks that defending the country against foreign threats requires him to use any means necessary in doing so, including ignoring the Constitution and the civil rights of citizens and non-citizens alike.

What we need, however, is a President who has the priorities of the job straight, a President who will use any means necessary to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Obama could be that President. Or maybe not.

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