This I Believe

Paul - Littleton, Colorado
Entered on November 10, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

This I believe: Credibility, one destroyed, is gone forever. Saying one thing and doing the opposite is a sure shortcut to failure.

I grew up, like most of us, believing that the United States is a land where no one is above the law. I believed that my government values the rights and liberties of all men. I grew up believing that America did not torture its prisoners and that it observed such basic international treaties as the Geneva Convention. When I was a boy growing up in the 1950’s, I believed that America was a moral beacon to the world, that America promoted fair play and supported the rights of the underdog. My teachers in high school taught me that America had a system of checks and balances to safeguard against the accumulation of power in a single pair of hands, and I believed them. Surely, I thought, elected congressional representatives would look out after my interests and prevent a ruthless and ambition president from ruling by executive order.

These things I no longer believe. Credibility, once destroyed, is gone forever.

In my lifetime, trust in government has all but completely evaporated. Presidents have participated in criminal cover-ups and have perjured themselves. Congressmen have used their offices to enrich themselves. Theft, embezzlement, lying and worse – what crimes have not been committed by public officials entrusted to do the right thing? Americans are so jaded by all this that they openly speak of voting for “the lesser of two evils,” as though voting for evil were a foregone conclusion.

Now, I have lived long enough to watch a president lie to Congress, defy U.S. and international laws, and invade another sovereign state in an unprovoked act of aggression. The justification for his acts – that ‘pre-emptive warfare” is somehow legitimate and right, could just as easily have been used to justify the attack on Pearl Harbor, of the invasion of Hungary.

A President sworn to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies has, instead, used his power to subvert and undermine such basic rights as habeas corpus. I have watched, dismayed, as a single American president has consciously misused his authority to spy on average citizens. I have cringed in fear as he set himself up as the final arbiter of who is and is not an “enemy combatant,” giving him the ultimate power of life and death over virtually every single American. I call that tyranny.

How can any American now honestly teach his children that “no one in the United States is above the law” when such flagrant abuses of power go unpunished? How can any high school civics teacher ever again claim, without blushing, that the laws of our country, and especially the Supreme Law of the Land, the U.S. Constitution, bind the President as well as every citizen? The truth of the matter is this: any child of average intelligence can sense the hypocrisy that exonerates or pardons criminals out of a false “respect” for the offices they hold. Offices have been dishonored and laws have been broken. This I believe: if future generations of Americans, beginning with our own children, are to be expected to honor our laws, criminals in high office must be prosecuted. Officials of the American government, if they have violated laws, should be indicted, tried and punished.

This I believe: moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. Barry Goldwater said that. There should be no moderation in bringing a President to justice who has usurped powers, violated the Bill of Rights, abolished habeas corpus, and authorized torture and illegal detentions. Such a President is a criminal, and ought to be treated as one. This I believe: elected officials, of whatever political party, who voted to empower such a President against their better judgement, are accomplices in the crimes he has committed. Legislators of one political party who voted to authorize a war drummed up on transparently phony pretexts by a President belonging to another party, simply out of fear of losing their jobs, or of a mob’s angry censure, are likewise guilty of high crimes and they ought to be impeached, tried, and punished if convicted.

This I believe: a Congress empowered to bring articles of impeachment against a criminal President, which fails to do so, is itself a part of a criminal government. This I also believe: that the Declaration of Independence gives us the right to alter or abolish such government when it no longer pursues justice and slumps into mere expediency, forfeiting its responsibility to show, to demonstrate, to prove for all to see, that in America, no one is above the law.

This I believe: governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed, and if my government fails to prosecute a criminal who sought to make himself Caesar, I no longer am bound to consent to be governed. This I believe: credibility, once destroyed, is gone forever, and I do not find it credible that a country could claim that no one, not even its highest officer, is above the law and then proceed to pardon, overlook, or altogether ignore his crimes. This must not be allowed to happen. Our credibility before the world depends upon it.