An unseen cancer on the body politic
11/1/2000 12:00:00 AM - Walter E. Williams
The social chaos seen in other countries such as sabotage, guerilla bands and political assassinations has yet to emerge in our country. Because of that, we Americans have little appreciation and even indifference to the attack on the laws, customs and institutions that create the fabric for a free society.
The Clinton/Gore administration has racheted up to an unprecedented level the attack on the rule of law and constitutional government; what's worse is that we have applauded and supported the attack. Let's look at the last eight years and ask ourselves if this is the America we want to bequeath to our children and grandchildren.
For centuries, common law has held that criminals were responsible for their crimes, not those who manufactured the implement criminals used in the crime. Nowadays, that's not the view of local government officials who've brought suit against gun manufacturers; neither is it the view of the Clinton/Gore administration. The logical extension to suing gun manufacturers for murder and mayhem is to sue match manufactures for arson, kitchen utensil manufacturers for stabbings, chemical manufacturers for poisonings.
The list of whom-to-sue-for-what is limited only by one's imagination. Attorneys and city officials involved in the attack on gun manufacturers know the common law. They are simply engaged in extortion as a means to fatten city budgets.
Another Clinton/Gore administration attack on the rule of law that received wide American support was its offensive against the tobacco industry. For decades, there have been suits against tobacco manufacturers by smokers who became ill from smoking. The suits were routinely dismissed. Judges and juries ruled that smokers themselves are responsible for their sickness. They reached their decision using the centuries old common-law doctrine known as assumption-of-risk. For at least four decades, smokers were warned by government and medical authorities of risks associated with cigarette smoking. Should we now sue confectioners for obesity, skateboard manufacturers for broken bones and weathermen for erroneous predictions?
Another legacy of the Clinton/Gore administration sanctioned by most Americans is the idea that it's OK for a person to commit and suborn perjury, obstruct justice, and tamper with witnesses if it's "just about sex." In defending Clinton, members of the White House staff, some of them lawyers, attacked and demeaned a duly appointed officer of the court -- Kenneth Starr. So here's my question to you: If some future president is summoned to court, is it OK for him to commit perjury, suborn perjury and obstruct justice? As surely as night follows day, a future president will employ Clinton's strategy if he gets in trouble.
Through the use of executive orders and regulatory agencies, the Clinton/Gore administration has made a mockery of separation of powers. The administration has summarily bypassed congressional legislative authority in important areas such as environmental, labor and civil-rights law, not to mention waging war in several countries.
While the Clinton/Gore administration has led the attack on rule of law and constitutional limits, it has had willing supporters on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Those not backing the Clinton/Gore agenda, for the most part, have been too cowardly to raise their voices in objection.
Then there's our Supreme Court, which Alexander Hamilton called "the least dangerous" branch of government. Justices are fully aware of the ongoing assault on the fabric of our society, yet they sit in silence while the White House and Congress put nail after nail in our Constitution's coffin. Often they pick up the "hammer" to lend a helping hand.
I ask you: Is this the American trend that you want for your children and grandchildren one where there's rule by men, not rule of law?