Washington, Briefly

[ Posted Monday, February 15th, 2010 – 16:33 UTC ]

I am actually taking the day off today, so today's column will be brief. As a matter of fact, this may be the briefest column ever seen on this site.

Because we celebrate the birthday of George Washington today, I offer up for your reading pleasure the briefest of his speeches. This, in its entirety, was Washington's second inaugural address -- which set a brevity record that has never been touched since. In this spirit (and in the spirit of taking today as a holiday), this will constitute the entirety of today's column, as well. In his own words, here is President George Washington:

Fellow-citizens: I am again called upon by the voice of my country to execute the functions of its Chief Magistrate. When the occasion proper for it shall arrive, I shall endeavor to express the high sense I entertain of this distinguished honor, and of the confidence which has been reposed in me by the people of united America.

Previous to the execution of any official act of the President the Constitution requires an oath of office. This oath I am now about to take, and in your presence: That if it shall be found during my administration of the Government I have in any instance violated willingly or knowingly the injunctions thereof, I may (beside incurring constitutional punishment) be subject to the upbraidings of all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony.


-- Chris Weigant

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


18 Comments on “Washington, Briefly”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I guess there is something to be said for brevity because that was quite the profound inaugural address. Actually, those brief and profound remarks by Washington almost make a person yearn for a return to a simplicity in what really matters.

    Anyway...hope you had a chance to watch some of the Olympics on your day off ... it's been an exciting couple of days!

  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    Since this appears to be an open commentary..... :D

    Under the heading of, WHAT CAN OBAMA DO TO SAVE HIS PRESIDENCY, I offer up this Michael Goodwin commentary..


  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    This may be an open commentary but, that does not mean we don't care about the facts anymore.

    Clearly, your Michael Goodwin wouldn't know a fact about what the administration is doing - on any issue, least of all terrorism - if said fact jumped up and knocked him upside his head.

    Here's the most precious part of his essay:

    "Terrorism issues are fundamental to how the nation sees him. Large majorities want a military trial and oppose giving constitutional protections to Islamic fanatics and the damage to Obama's standing has grown into larger doubts about his values."

    I suppose the people would have less doubts about his values if he came out in favour of waterboarding as an effective way to retrieve actionable intelligence. In fact, forget about supposing - I have no doubt that a majority of the electorate would praise Obama for that. You want to talk about values! Gimme a break.

    Goodwin is absolutely correct about one thing - the electorate is as, if not more, ill-informed as he portrays that collective to be.

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Clearly, your Michael Goodwin wouldn't know a fact about what the administration is doing - on any issue, least of all terrorism - if said fact jumped up and knocked him upside his head.

    One doesn't have to be knocked in the head by the facts.

    They are readily apparent.

    FACT #1: Obama wants to treat terrorists as common criminals.

    FACT #2: Obama wants to give American jurisprudence rights to avowed and confessed terrorists.

    FACT #3: The majority of Americans are against both of those.

    "These are the facts. And they are undisputed."
    -Captain "Smilin'" Jack Ross, A FEW GOOD MEN

    I suppose the people would have less doubts about his values if he came out in favour of waterboarding as an effective way to retrieve actionable intelligence.

    As Obama's own Intelligence team has stated on several occasions, waterboarding terrorists DID produce actionable intel.

    Goodwin's analysis is spot on..

    All those independents that Obama has been losing, as evidenced by New Jersey, Virginia and the Massachusetts Massacre, would flock back to Obama with a vengeance (no pun intended) if Obama would do the right thing and reverse his bleeding heart policies with regards to terrorists and terrorism.

    Obama has clearly shown he CAN do the right thing, as evidenced by the "summary executions" of terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    It simply appears that Obama doesn't have the same stomach for doing the right thing here in the US..


  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    One of these days, you'll surprise me with something you write. I look forward to it.

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    In other words, when I write something that is non-factual in nature, you'll be surprised.. :D

    I can live with that. :D


  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Look out!

    I'm about to throw something ...

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:


    Go ahead, I deserve it.. :D


  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    There ... I feel much better now.

    You okay, Michale?

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Michale holds a raw steak to his eye

    I'll be OK... Gimme a day or two.. :D


  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I knew you'd be able to handle that. But, just keep in mind, it wasn't my best shot. :)

  12. [12] 
    Hawk Owl wrote:

    "I am called upon by . . . my country to execute the functions of its Chief Magistrate."

    "Magistrate"? I am no historian, but would like to hear from someone who knows more than I do
    an explanation of the meaning & history behind this choice of words.

    I did hear Gary Wills on NPR last week explaining that the Supreme court's role as final arbitrator of the constitutionality of laws was not in their original "mission," but was abrogated by them unto themselves decades later.

    Washington was neither dumb nor disingenuous. What did he mean here?

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Hawk Owl,

    Wouldn't he be referring to the Constitution, in the language of the day.

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:


    Now yer just teasing me.. :D

    Hawk Owl,

    I noticed that as well..

    "Chief Magistrate" sounds like more of an Attorney General than a President.

    I too would be interested in the history of that particular term..


  15. [15] 
    Moderate wrote:

     Magister means "master". I assume "Magistrate" in terms of courts simply designates the judge as "master" of proceedings. As for the Presidency, "Chief Magistrate" of the US would translate to "Master-in-Chief" AKA Commander-in-Chief, which is obviously the President.

    Decided to consult Wikipedia (despite not being the most reliable source) and here's what the entry on "Chief Magistrate" says (I've shortened it):

    Chief Magistrate is a generic designation for a public official whose office—individual or collegial—is the highest in his or her class [for example] as a major political and administrative office (in a republican form of government, at state or lower level)

    And also on the same entry:

    References to the U.S. Presidency

    References to the President of the United States as "Chief Magistrate" were common in the early American republic, although less so today.

    It goes on say that Alexander Hamilton, James Monroe, Lincoln and Wilson all referred to it as such. If you want to read the entry for yourself:

  16. [16] 
    Hawk Owl wrote:

    Thanks for the feedback, especially to "Moderate's" graciously overlooking the fact that I should've looked it up on Wikipedia myself. What you quote there makes sense from what i remember of reading in the Federalist Papers many, many years ago. The entry to which you referred me was very interesting.

    Just in passing, when I heard Wills the other day, he mentioned that the Pres. as "Commander in Chief" was historically a temporary position, i.e. only applicable when there was a "standing army" -- their original assumption was that the military would be disbanded if the was no Declaration of War and the President would go back to . . . to "presiding over Congress" (which I have always assumed was the root of the term.)

    Thanks everybody.

  17. [17] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    Took me awhile to notice this, but here you go:

    Fact #1: The Bill of Rights applies to everyone on American soil. Not just US citizens, not just green card holders, but every person on US soil. Period. That is the law.

    Fact #2: See Fact #1.

    Fact #3: The Bill of Rights (thankfully) does not rely upon popular opinion polls. That's why it is there in the first place.

    It's not Obama, it's not even Ashcroft (who just came out in support of this reasoning), it is the Constitution they both swore to uphold.


  18. [18] 
    Moderate wrote:

    Actually Chris, there's nothing in the Constitution that dictates that a suspect be given Miranda rights. All Miranda does is give the defendant the right to suppress evidence obtained in non-Mirandised interrogations.

    There are several reasons Miranda needn't have been given here:

    1) The evidence obtained in a non-Mirandised interrogation must be used in a criminal prosecution. If you don't ever actually use that evidence in that way, it needn't have come from a Mirandised interrogation. So, for example, if all you wanted was information on future plots or terrorist training camps, to use to either thwart such plots or to militarily strike against such camps, Miranda is irrelevant. Suppression applies to the criminal prosecution only.

    2) The evidence obtained must be used against this specific defendant (as it falls under the right against self-incrimination). Whilst the right to counsel is an aspect, the case itself fell under the fifth amendment, not the sixth, and the right to counsel is only invoked as a means of protecting against self-incrimination. So if the evidence is used against a third party, it's fine.

    Massiah was the case that dealt with the sixth amendment right to counsel and that only applies after the suspect has been formally charged.

    3) Even if you want to use the non-Mirandised statements in a later criminal case, you're not entirely barred from doing so (they can be used to impeach) and nor is derivative evidence (fruit of the poisonous tree) covered. It's only under Massiah where the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine applies.

    4) If all else fails, the public safety exception would allow interrogation where there's a clear and present danger (you know, like a bomb attack during the holiday season, when a lot of people fly) and the officers reasonably believe the suspect may have evidence that can stop the emergency (so basically until they could be sure there was no further bomb plot over the holidays).

    For me Miranda was irrelevant under the first of the reasons I've listed. The interrogation was likely not going to be used in a criminal prosecution, since the main area where the informant could have been helpful is regarding the training camps where he trained. Those would've been military targets. Even if the evidence was going to be used in criminal proceedings, it wouldn't have been necessary against him (he was caught red handed) but against his superiors, who wouldn't have been protected by Miranda (under the second and third reasons I listed above).

    If they needed his statements to prosecute him (when he was actually caught in the act) then the DOJ suck as lawyers. Miranda rights would not apply to any other use of the statements (to prosecute another person, to obtain more evidence or for military strikes).

Comments for this article are closed.