and to my great surprise neither Nichols nor Fein corrected him. It is critical to the argument they were making.
Moyers at one point blurted out that the introduction to the Constitution begins with the idea of of defending the Country. THAT IS WRONG. After announcing the desire to "form a more perfect union," a phrasing probably required because of the perpetual union established by the Articles of Confederation, the next item listed is establish justice. That is BEFORE provide for the common defense (so is "ensure domestic tranquility" - h/t DemocraticLuntz). There is no point defending a nation that has abandoned justice.
And that is critical, because that is what this administration has done.
While I thought it was a remarkable almost 50 minutes, with many insightful comments by both Fein and Nichols, this point is critical. I will offer a very few observations of my own to make this diary of sufficient length.
In the Declaration Jefferson makes clear the importance of rights and of justice. Let me repeat some of his words, bolding some relevant.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
Please note that in this concept government may exercise only just powers. That is why it is critical that"establish justice" is listed BEFORE provide for the common defense.
This administration has chosen to ignore rights in the name of providing for the common defense. That is a gross distortion of the intent of the Founders. And in the arguments being made by Fein and Nichols, it was unfortunate - and to me shocking - that they did not correct the misstatement by Moyers.
I have previously - two weeks ago - made clear my belief that we must move forward with impeachment hearings. I found my arguments strongly supported by what Fein and Nichols offered in there remarks.
The government is at risk. There is no choice. And I will end this diary as I ended that one:
If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy.
UPDATE at 8:20 AM on 7/14 Vico has argued in several comments that I am not being accurate as to what Moyers said, and MyBrainWorks was able to post the relevant passage from the transcript:
BILL MOYERS: But read that prologue of the Constitution. The first obligation is to defend the people, to defend their freedom, to defend their rights.
Had I had access to the transcript I would have written this diary differently. I would not have described it as a major mistake, but as an emphasis that is wrong. I still would argue that saying the first obligation is to defend the people is prone to being interpreted as referring to providing for the common defense - especially in light of the use the Bush administration has made of the defense argument for the actions he has taken. I heard it in that context, and given my own predisposition to emphasize the prior listing of justice in my own teaching, reacted the way that I did. I can see why Fein and Nichols might have reacted to the latter part, on the people's rights. Nevertheless, there was no mention of justice, without which there can be no rights, at least not in my conception of it.
I have sent a followup to the message I had posted in feedback on the Moyers Journal website acknowledging that I can see how someone might interpret it differently than I did. I still believe that a teachable moment was lost in not emphasizing the order, that justice comes before defense.