Political Code Words

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

Political Code Words or phrases, which on the surface sound reasonable and innocent enough, can be used to bolster a particular partisan agenda.

Code words are presented below along with a brief discussion of their relevant meaning.

The nominee should receive an up-or-down vote in the full Senate

  • The nominee should receive an up-or-down vote in the full Senate - an attempt by a majority party to discredit the opposing party's efforts to either block a nominee in committee or filibuster the nomination on the floor of the Senate. Should the nomination come to an up or down vote, it would presumably be passed by the majority. An up or down vote for nominees is neither guaranteed nor required by the Constitution.

According to the Whitehouse website fact sheet on Judicial Nominees: "Every judicial nominee should receive an up-or-down vote in the full Senate, no matter who is President or which party controls the Senate. It is time to move past the partisan politics of the past, and do what is right for the American legal system and the American people." - President George W. Bush, August 1, 2003 [1]

This statement seems to contradict Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution which states: "and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States"

There is much disagreement about the true meaning of "Advice and Consent of the Senate" with opinions ranging all the way from a full rubber stamp approval to a vigorous vetting and examination of the nominee. Use of the filibuster to halt the nomination process is highly controversial, as the filibuster is not provided for in the Constitution, but rather is a long-standing procedural rule in the Senate.

The dilemma over advice and consent nearly developed into a full constitutional crisis in 2005 as the Republican majority leadership proposed to use the "Nuclear Option" aka the "Constitutional Option" which would have stripped the minority of their ability to filibuster a nomination of judicial candidates. A bi-partisan group of 14 Senators (the Gang of 14), sufficient in number to prevent a filibuster agreed to refrain from voting for the use of the filibuster or for the use of the Nuclear Option.

"To Protect America" and "To Protect Americans"

The notion that the President's job is to "protect America" or "protect Americans" is an invention of the Bush Administration. This erroneous concept has become "conventional wisdom" since 9/11, and has been cited repeatedly as a given, by both liberal and conservative media and has been used as a justification for any number of laws, policies and programs that have the effect of diminishing the liberties of Americans and others.

It is wrong.

The Presidential oath of office is as follows (Article II, Section I of the Constitution): "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States [emphasis added]."

There is nothing whatsoever in that oath that says anything at all about America or the American people.

The President's job is to protect the Constitution, not to protect America or the American people. Rather, the Constitution itself -- when faithfully preserved, protected, and defended -- was specifically designed by our Founding Fathers to protect America and the American people.

And that is why it is so vital to preserve, protect and defend it. And that is why the Presidential oath is worded as it is.

It is the President's sworn duty, as chief executive, to "execute the office of the President". That duty is reiterated in Article II, Section III: "... he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed..." (Article II, Section III).

Likewise, every member of the military pledges their loyalty to the Constitution, not to the President, or even America, or the American people.

Likewise, the solemn task of our military, from the Commander in Chief on down, is to protect, preserve, defend, and be loyal to, the Constitution -- the foundation of our laws. Soldiers do not pledge fealty to their Commander in Chief. They pledge fealty to the Constitution. For that is what we are fighting to preserve, protect and defend.

We are indeed, a nation of laws, and not of men.

Other SourceWatch Resources

External Resources

  • "Judicial Confirmation and the Constitution: The issue: What role should the United States Senate play in considering Presidential nominees to be federal judges, especially justices of the the Supreme Court?", Exploring Constitutional Conflicts, accessed December 2006.