August 12, 2010 – Federalist No. 77- Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Greetings from Arizona!  What a beautiful state and friendly people.  We stopped to get gas, and several people wanted to know more about Constituting America – we ended up having fascinating conversations with them, about the importance of the Constitution, and their love for our country.

I haven’t blogged since I arrived in California on Friday, so I would like to take a moment to catch you up on our Constituting America We The People 9.17 Road Trip!

We spent Friday with Jacob Wood. If you haven’t listened to Jacob’s prize winning song, “What the Constitution Means to Me,” please go to www.constitutingamerica.org and listen!

Jacob is an outstanding young man! We filmed him all day in preparation for a music video we will release in the next few weeks. We loved getting to know Jacob! We also got to speak with his Pastor, and his parents who shared with us some wonderful stories about him.  Look for our Behind the Scenes Video in the coming weeks to learn more about Jacob!

Saturday we prepared for our departure, and today we took off from Los Angeles, headed to Arizona!

As we drove along looking the impressive desert vistas, I read Federalist Paper No. 77, only interrupted by Janine reminding me to look out the window and take in the views!

Federalist No. 77, The Appointing Power Continued and Other Powers of the Executive Considered, continues to explore the President’s power to nominate, and how the Senate’s role affects the balance of power between the White House and the legislative branch.  Hamilton even takes time to explore the ramifications if the U.S. House shared in the Advice and Consent role. Near the end of the essay, the remaining powers of the President outlined in Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution are quickly mentioned:

“The only remaining powers of the Executive are comprehended in giving information to Congress of the state of the Union; in recommending to their consideration such measures as he shall judge expedient; in convening them, or either branch, upon extraordinary occasions; in adjourning them when they cannot themselves agree upon the time of adjournment; in receiving ambassadors and other public ministers; in faithfully executing the laws; and in commissioning all the officers of the United States.”

The requirement in the Constitution that the President deliver a State of the Union address to Congress:

“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union,”

is one of the few specific requirements of the President in the Constitution. Most of the powers given to the President may be utilized at his discretion, but the State of the Union is required.  I am surprised Publius did not spend more time on Article II, Section 3.  I find the State of the Union requirement of the President fascinating, as a validation of the President’s unique bird’s eye view of the country, and as a confirmation of the importance the framers placed on the legislative branch of government, by requiring a report be made to them.

Dr. Matthew Spalding, in the Heritage Guide to the Constitution, gives an interesting history of State of the Union speeches, on page 217.  Presidents Washington and Adams delivered their State of the Union speeches orally, as was the expectation by the framers.  Thomas Jefferson, however, broke with tradition and delivered his State of the Union speech in written form, read aloud by the clerks in Congress. Jefferson felt an in person delivery was “too pompous.” President Wilson was the first after John Adams to deliver his State of the Union orally, and every President since President Franklin D. Roosevelt has followed that tradition.  President Coolidge’s State of the Union address was the first broadcast by radio in 1923, and Harry Truman’s 1947 State of the Union address was the first broadcast by television.

I have had the privilege of attending several State of the Union Speeches, including one by President Reagan, one by President Clinton, one by President George H.W. Bush, and one by President George W. Bush.  All I witnessed were an impressive display of the three branches of government, personified by the individuals filling the U.S. House Chamber:

The members of Congress: U.S. House of Representative Members and U.S. Senators, fill the Chamber. The Speaker of the House is seated behind the President, as is the Vice President, who serves as the President pro tempore of the Senate.  The Supreme Court Justices line the front row.

One of the more famous State of the Union speeches occurred when President Obama rebuked the Supreme Court for their Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision:

“with all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that corrects some of these problems.”

Many have debated if it was appropriate for President Obama to criticize the Judiciary Branch so strongly in such a forum, with the Justices seated directly in front of him.  The appropriateness of Justice Alito’s reaction, of mouthing “not true,” has also been debated and discussed.  I believe that when attacked, a person has a right to defend himself. Justice Alito was perfectly within his bounds mouthing “not true.”  It is unfortunate it was necessary.

Just as President Obama should not have attacked the Supreme Court in his 2010 State of the Union, Representative Joe Wilson should not have shouted out “You lie!” in President Obama’s first State of the Union in 2009. When decorum is breached in the State of the Union, or anywhere, sadly standards degenerate on all sides.

The intricate layers of checks and balances in the United States Constitution is amazing.  They are buried in the nooks and crannies of the Constitution, and the State of the Union requirement is an example of this.  The simple requirement of a State of the Union speech puts yet another check and balance into play, and give and take between the branches goes on!

Looking forward to Federalist No. 78, the Judiciary Department!  AND looking forward to telling you about the next We the People 9.17 winner we are unveiling tomorrow in Arizona!!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

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