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The Genius of 1789

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Five years after a disputed and deeply divisive presidential election, a week short of the fourth anniversary of a devastating attack on the United States and the start of a war with a deadly enemy which has seen the U.S. invade and topple two brutal enemy dictatorships and replace both with the seedlings of free regimes, two months after a surprise resignation from the highest court in the land and now on the night of the death of the court’s anchor for two decades and a member for 33 years, and just five days after the greatest natural disaster to ever smash into our country, with order restored in the New orleans and a massive relief effort underway throughout thousands of square miles for the displaced and the devastated…

and I doubt if there is even one elected or appointed member of the United States government in any of its three branches, or any of its states’ governors or state supreme court justices, any of its senior military commanders, any among its responsible bishops, pastors, rabbis or other senior religious leaders, or any of its major newspaper editors, network execs, church or widely respected public intellectuals, or any major college or university president who does not agree that the state of the union is secure, its people committed to the government as it has existed for 216 years, its partisan divisions while severe, not disabling, and the love of country as deep as the Grand Canyon and as enduring as the Rockies.

Five years of extraordinary change and turbulence, war and disaster, and yet there is no crisis of confidence in the country’s purpose or its structure outside of the very small precincts of the extremes, and nothing but certainty as to its orderly transitions of power on the court in the next few weeks, in the elected branches in November of next year, and in January, 2009, in the presidency.

And while the task of recovery from the storm is huge, and while the loss of life and livelihoods cannot be underestimated, the vast resolve of the American people to come to the assistance of their fellow citizens is unmistakable. In no other country in this age or any age could so much have been done to come to the aid of its people as has happened in the past five days. Far from perfect, but far more effective than anything else in recorded human history.

And all of this record of the past five years is unremarkable because it is the United States of America. Because of the nature of its people and the genius of its Constitution’s framers.

William Rehquist was a great believer in that document, and a great servant of the people it protects. We will be blessed to have a replacement half as wise and dedicated, though I am also certain President Bush will find such a jurist. (In fact, in order to add to the stability, the president may just change the wording on the Roberts’ nomination while he searches for a new associate justice –which would allow a Chief Justice Roberts to be seated by the opening of the term.)

Even though the past five years have been full of all sorts of shocks –of terror attacks at home and across the globe, political upheavals, and now from nature– the country is fundamentally secure and stable because of its Constitution. Which is why I expect this president to name another new justice in the mold of Roberts, and a third and a fourth if he has the chance. It is the Constitution that has kept the country together not just for the past few years of crisis and uncertainty, but through its young years, its Civil War, depressions and conflicts that dwarf the one we are now enagged in.

The president knows that it is the Constitution that has, along with God’s grace, allowed this country to survive and prosper and, when necessary, recover, and will look for another nominee who knos that as well.

I suspect President Bush, so very aware of the Constitution’s vital role, will search for the best nominee, without regard to that nominee’s race, creed, or background.

Which is why I would not be surprised by, and would be gretaly pleased with, the nomination of Judge Michael Luttig.

With that bit of appreciation and speculation, back to the raising of aid. Two more days in the blogburst, and NZ’s counter stands at slightly more than $700,000 raised. Please consider a gift to the special fund at for the families of military serving overseas who have been affected by Katrina. I will be making one in honor of a great American, Chief Justice Rehnquist. He never retired, but served until the end. Please consider doing the same, and let NZ’s site know about it.

And if you are a member of the Presbyterian Church, USA, please read the post below and act on it.


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