and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
January #1

Disappointing start for Bay State's new governor
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, January 4, 2007

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 constitution.

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 state constitution.

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 inauguration.

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 false accusation.

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 an army!

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.