The President Speaks for Himself?
In an interview with Chris Wallace (Fox News) this past weekend, Mr. Wallace asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about a UN resolution, passed by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, criticizing President Trump’s remarks about events in Charlottesville. Mr. Tillerson responded that the State Department speaks for the American people, and stands for the values of respect for the intrinsic rights of all people. When asked whether he agreed with President Trump’s remarks, he responded “The President speaks for himself.”
The Constitution plainly states that the Executive power of the US government is vested in the President. Everything that goes on in the Executive branch takes place on the President’s responsibility. So, the President of the United States is the one person in the country empowered to represent, and therefore speak for, the whole people of the United States.
As one of the President’s appointed cabinet officers, Mr. Tillerson (and the Department he represents) are assumed to act and speak for the President. If Mr. Tillerson, or any other cabinet officer, arrogates to him- or herself the power to enunciate the stance of the US government in their area of responsibility, as distinct from that of the President, it means that the Constitution’s vestment of power in the President is being adulterated. It means that the US government is has drifted away from the unitary Executive, established in order to assure energy and due accountability for the use and/or abuse of the US government’s Executive power.
Like all occupants of the Oval office. President Trump swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. It hardly seems consistent with this duty to let cabinet level officials feed the perception that the Executive Branch no longer speaks with one voice on matters of critical importance to the people of the United States. In this respect, what matters are more critical than those that touch upon the basic premises and principles of our national identity as a people?
The identity of the American people has more to do with the origins of our self-government than with the biological heritage of individuals. The nation’s birthright lies in a common pedigree of ideas about right and rights. It begins with the equality of human persons, all of whom are bound to respect the rules and measures by which the Creator, God determines the existence of humanity, and distinguishes our natures. from that of non-human things. From their observance of these rules and measures, human beings derive unalienable rights, which consist in the actions and activities authorized by the Creator to preserve and perpetuate humanity.
Obviously, just as the distinctive existence of human nature accords with right, so, within the bounds of respect for human nature, the existence of various tribes, nations and races of humankind accords with right. The care people have taken, throughout human history, properly to preserve the different families and tribes of the human species is not “racist” in the pejorative sense. In the midst of the present anti- “white” furor being fomented in the United States, some people have a stake in distracting Americans from this fact.
In this respect it’s worth noting that, in Article 5, the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination states plainly that:
“States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour [sic], or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:
(d) …civil rights, in particular:
…(iii) The right to nationality;
…(vii) The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
…(viii) The right to freedom of opinion and expression;
…(ix) The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;
(e) Economic, social and cultural rights, in particular:
…The right to equal participation in cultural activities.
Before speaking in terms that abet the assertion that “President Trump speaks for himself”, and that he, the Secretary of State, speaks for the American people Mr. Tillerson should have been briefed on the contents of the International Convention that is supposed to govern the activities of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Whatever the auspices of the demonstration protesting the removal of General Lee’s statue, so long as the people who participated in that demonstration did so peacefully, the Convention explicitly supports their right to do so. If, for the sake of argument, we accept the notion that all “white people” constitute a culturally distinct ethnic group, the Convention also supports their right to engage in cultural activities. Presumably, activities that show pride in their ethnic heritage (like, for instance, the Columbus Day Parade that takes place in New York City) fall within the purview of that right.
To be sure, the demonstrably anti-white agenda of Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and other such anti-white groups, strenuously opposes the notion that “whites” should take pride in General Lee’s life, since he was a slaveholder. But does this give them the right to disrupt the cultural activities that protest against the suppression of public displays respecting him? The anti-“white” organizations have their reasons for promoting their agenda. And they have the right to hold demonstrations to articulate and show support for those reasons. But is it right for them to do so in a manner intended to provoke confrontations, and physically intimidate those who disagree with them?
The notion that any admiration for General Robert E. Lee implies racism is no more or less absurd than the notion that any admiration for Mao Zedong simply implies support for mass atrocity; or that any admiration for Che Guevara, Yassir Arafat, or Winnie Mandela simply implies support for the practice of terrorism. A case can be made that all these people had other aspects to their lives and public careers that warrant admiration. Support for the rights of free speech and conscience plainly stated in the UN Convention quoted above, argue in favor of allowing such arguments cases to be set forth—so long as it is done peacefully—no matter how much we disagree with them.
Insofar as the gathering in Charlottesville protesting the removal of General Lee’s Statue involved violence, that violence must be vigorously condemned and prosecuted. Insofar as it involved advocacy of the explicitly racist views of the Nazis or the KKK, those racist views ought to be vigorously disputed and rejected. But it is also true that the anti- “white” agenda of Antifa involves explicitly racist views, because it indiscriminately burdens all whites with culpability for slavery and racism; and encourages violent attacks against “white” people and/or their lawfully held belongings.
Thus, in terms of the very Convention the UN’s experts committee is supposed to be applying, President Trump’s statement that there is fault on both sides of the events in Charlottesville appears to be correct. Rather than demonstrating his own ignorance, or failure of due diligence, in a way that seems to contravene the Constitution’s provision for a unitary Executive, Secretary Tillerson should have performed the proper function of his office. He should have been prepared to explain the content and nature of international agreement in question; and to make clear how and why President Trump’s statement is consistent with the principles it contains. His failure to do so, at the very least, warrants a clear rebuke. But Secretary Tillerson’s dereliction has Constitutional implications serious enough to warrant deploying the phrase familiar from President Trump’s TV avocation: “You’re fired.”
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