When humans first came together to live in agricultural communities the need developed for rules and laws. It became important for those early leaders, just as today, to set good examples to follow for the rest of the community. Those social rules and laws have become the glue that holds modern civilization and societies together. Unfortunately, for our nation, those bonds have eroded during the past eight years, both at the local and national levels.
At the national level it is easy to blame the current administration for leading the erosion of our laws, but both political parties are complicit in this decline, the Republicans for breaking the laws and the Democrats for standing idly by watching for one political reason or another. Supposedly, the argument can be made that impeachment or criminal prosecution would tear the nation apart and that the nation has more pressing problems. However, upholding the rule of law would also lose votes for Democrats at election time. These concerns need to be weighed against the examples set for future administrations. What administration will ever follow the law after this period in our history if the rule of law is not upheld? The rule of law, as required by our Constitution, should be applied equally without regard to politics or political parties.
Few would argue that under this administration the list of abuses is endless, including cherry picking intelligence information to falsely mislead the nation and Congress into war, major loss and corruption in the granting of no-bid war contracts, illegal wire taps, brutal interrogation of detainees in violation of U.S. and international laws, and politicizing the hiring of justice department officials. All these offenses and many more deserve independent investigation and, where appropriate, prosecution.
Even more disconcerting than the list of abuses is the U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to prosecute offenses by the administration. It is this breakdown of the rule of law that prompted George Washington University constitutional law professor, Jonathan Turley, to conclude “that the administration is making its own argument for new independent prosecutor laws to replace the ones that have recently lapsed.”
It is clear that the U.S. Attorney General is working for and defending the president, but not upholding his oath to the people of the United States to defend the Constitution and U.S. laws.
Not so obviously as at the national level, this breakdown of respect for the law has spread during the last few years down to the local level. Some officials in California see national leaders ignoring the law and they do likewise. Today, some local elected officials do not comply with clearly stated conflict-of-interest laws that prohibit trying to serve two masters at the same time in employment and elected office. Local constituents deserve their undivided attention and loyalty. Local individuals and businesses should not be forced to hire private attorneys to force local cities and counties to keep meetings open to the public.
Nationally and locally citizens deserve better conduct from elected officials. Elected officials should be setting good examples for us all to follow.The correction of misbehavior locally should be as simple as sending a letter to the offending elected office holder. The standard for elected office holders should not be the audacity of relatively short-term illegal custom, but avoiding the mere appearance of impropriety.
The rule of law, the glue that holds our society together, needs to be strengthened by Congress passing a new permanent independent counsel law that allows for independent investigations and, when appropriate, prosecutions completely free of all political considerations. Only then will America began to truly apply its laws equally.
Ken McCalip resides in Santa Maria and holds bachelor and doctorate degrees in history, cultural geography, and law from various California universities. Send comments to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.