Happy New Year!
On Tuesday, Governor-elect Deval Patrick advised legislators to violate
the state constitution.
Today, Governor Deval Patrick takes an oath to uphold the state
For the next four years, we will have a governor who apparently perjured
himself on his inauguration day before kicking off a four-day
celebration of his election. Sadly, voters probably won't care what he
does because, a) they wanted "change" and Deval is "nice;" b) they don't
"get" the concept of a Constitution and; c) they don't "get" the concept
of an oath.
In case you missed it, just before the Legislature was scheduled to meet
in a Constitutional Convention to take constitutionally required votes
on the gay marriage and health-care petitions, Patrick issued a
statement about the former:
DEVAL PATRICK STATEMENT ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION AND MARRIAGE
EQUALITY (1-2-07): "I favor ending this petition initiative promptly. If
adjournment can accomplish that, so be it. If the Constitutional
Convention chooses to vote on the merits, I want to be utterly clear
that I believe a vote to advance this question to the 2008 ballot is
irresponsible and wrong."
He had a right to the opinion contained in his third sentence above. The
constitution allows legislators to vote "no" on the issue.
But Patrick had no right to support adjournment of the ConCon before the
vote was taken. The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled just last month
that adjournment before the vote was taken would be a violation of the
But Patrick didn't care about that. And yet today he was scheduled to
place his hand and take the oath of office on the John Quincy Adams
Bible -- given to the 19th-century president by the slaves he defended
-- and swear to uphold that same constitution.
Patrick didn't advise upholding it on Tuesday; so will he suddenly be in
an upholding mood today?
Is it possible that our new governor just isn't very bright and doesn't
grasp the concepts of a "constitution" and "oath"? Or is he so arrogant,
so flush with having conned a majority of voters with the impression
that he was "different" from other pols, that he thinks he can get away
with anything now as long as he says, "I respect your opinion," before
he disrespects it?
Fortunately, enough legislators came to their constitutional senses
after the SJC made its unambiguous statement, and the initiative
petition on gay marriage came to a vote Tuesday despite the
governor-elect's opposition. A dozen more than the required 50
legislators supported the issue, so it moves forward to another
Constitutional Convention and maybe onto the 2008 ballot.
I not only can see both sides of this subject, I agree with them both --
from different perspectives. There are lots of things about which I
haven't yet made up my mind. But there are values about which I have no
doubt, and can't imagine anyone else having any either.
One is my regard, as an American, for our constitutional form of
government, from which all our rights are derived. Another is much older
than America - the certainty that an oath is indeed sacred.
Early in mankind's history, it was determined that there had to be a way
to trust the truthfulness of certain statements. Wikipedia defines an
oath as "either a promise or a statement of fact calling upon something
or someone that the oath maker considers sacred, usually a god, as a
witness to the binding nature of the promise or the truth of the
statement of fact."
The Internet encyclopedia also says, interestingly, that some Jews avoid
taking oaths, since "even an unintentionally false oath would violate a
Biblical commandment" about truthfulness. Even though he's not Jewish,
maybe Patrick should simply have skipped the oath part of his
The oath to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth is essential
for our justice system. Without it, a jury couldn't believe anything it
heard during a trial, and thus couldn't make an informed decision. If
this were the case, none of us would be safe from either criminals or
Without the Hippocratic oath, none of us could trust our doctors to
behave ethically. A surgeon could steal a kidney to sell while he was
taking out an appendix. Knowing what you know now, would you trust
Patrick if he were a doctor with a scalpel, and a loved one of yours was
on the operating table?
Members of the military take an oath to uphold the Constitution; this is
what protects us from a military coup. Good thing Patrick doesn't have
Boy and Girl scouts, just kids really, take their oaths seriously: "On
my honor, I will do my best...." Can we now trust our new governor to
keep his campaign pledges? Together, can we, really?
I can tell you one thing. If we believe in an oath of office and one's
obligation to uphold the Constitution, we are better than he is. Even
though I was dismayed by his lack of respect for the voters' mandate for
an income-tax rollback and never bought his pledge to cut property
taxes, I figured we should give him a chance.
He just blew it, flunking the tests of trust and honor. How sad. The
honeymoon was over just days before the wedding.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens
for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and
Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and
Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the
Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.