Can Sarah Palin Say the Pledge of Allegiance in Good Conscience?

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Mr. Herman is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Central Washington University. He is currently a research fellow at the Clements Center at SMU.

Can Sarah Palin say the Pledge of Allegiance in good faith? Can she take the Oath of Office in good faith? No, she can’t, as I’ll explain below.

Remember when in 2003 Michael Savage said he'd like to rip “traitors” from their cars and beat them senseless because they exercised their constitutional right to speak against the war? Unlike Savage, I want to talk about real traitors: enemies to the Constitution.

As you HNN readers probably know, Sarah Palin has supported the idea of allowing Alaskans to vote on whether to leave the U.S. McCain’s flacks insist that she never really wanted Alaska to leave, but even they--extraordinary liars--refuse to say whether she supported a vote on the matter. No one can ask her about it because she won’t dare talk to the press, but obviously she has supported such a vote, else the McCain people would have said otherwise.

More evidence: as you also probably know, in 2006, Palin told members of the Alaskan Independence Party (as in independence from the U.S.) that they were “inspirational,” adding “God bless you and keep up the good work.” Their chairman called her “our candidate.” For seven years her husband, her “closest advisor,” was a member of the AIP (see the LA Times of September 3, 2008).

What most Americans do not know is that the very IDEA that a state has the right to leave the union is an attack on the Constitution.

Remember that the Civil War was a war against secession first and only later became a war against slavery. In 1861, secessionists were deemed traitors. Palin, however, thinks they are “inspirational.”

What did the founders say about the right of states to secede? Precious little. They left the question open in order to get the Constitution ratified. The Constitution, however, reads “We, the people,” not “We, the states,” which confirms that sovereignty lies in the people of the U.S., not in the states. Too, the Constitution was intended “to create a more perfect union” than the one that existed under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. A union that was perpetual could hardly be made more perfect by being made temporary.

You cannot have a union if you give states the right to leave. Every time a state is angry with Washington, it will want to secede

Because the founders failed to address secession head-on, they left citizens to address it through war. That happened in 1861. The Union lost 360,000 men-and its greatest president putting down secession. The Confederacy lost 260,000 defending it.

Afterward, the U.S. passed the 14th Amendment, in part to prevent any future attempts at secession. The 14th Amendment forbids a state to “abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” If a state leaves the Union, it abridges (really abolishes) those privileges and immunities. In other words, a state CANNOT secede. To attempt to do so is to attempt treason.

Now consider: the oath of office will require Palin to swear on a Bible to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Secessionists are domestic enemies. I suspect that some have ties to militias that would love to bring down our government. I'm not saying that Palin has such ties, but it is likely that some AIP members do.

The founder of the AIP said he had “no use for America or her damned institutions,” and vowed not to be buried on U.S. soil. He was murdered while purchasing plastic explosives (like a drug deal gone bad, but in this case an explosives deal gone bad). One wonders what he was planning to do with those explosives.

If Palin cannot take the oath, neither can she say the Pledge. The Pledge commits us to “ONE nation, under God, INDIVISIBLE,” words explicitly meant to deny the right of secession. If Palin recites the Pledge while believing in the right of secession (even if she does not think Alaska should secede), she violates its meaning. Either she is too shallow to realize the Pledge’s meaning or she doesn’t care.

This is the Pledge that conservatives bitterly defended when it was suggested that “under God” be removed (a phrase added in the 1950s). Yet they ignore the words “ONE nation” and “INDIVISIBLE.”

Sarah Palin cannot take the oath of office or recite the Pledge of Allegiance without making a mockery of both of them, yet somehow our press has ignored that fact.

President Palin? God help us.

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Daniel J. Herman - 10/9/2008

Texas v. White did not deal with the 14th Amendment because it wasn't ratified until 1868, whereas TX left the Union in 1861. In other words, it left before there was a 14th Amendment. The 14th did not apply to its case.

Thanks for your ignorance.

Javier Ramirez - 10/5/2008

Wow, you got all that from the very little that she said? Thanks for trying to clarify her words, but I dont see where this "provision" of indivisiblity. Were you trying to clarify her position or is this yours as well?

Gary Watts - 10/5/2008

Daniel Herman writes"... the U.S. passed the 14th Amendment, in part to prevent any future attempts at secession. The 14th Amendment forbids a state to “abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” If a state leaves the Union, it abridges (really abolishes) those privileges and immunities. In other words, a state CANNOT secede. To attempt to do so is to attempt treason."


When I read something by someone of whom I have never heard writing about something about which I know a little, it helps me make a judgement about what else (s)he writes or concludes.

Texas v. White (1869) is the definitive case on why a state cannot leave our union, and the opinion of the Court (written by Chief Justice Chase) mentions the 14th Amendment not even once.

Mr. Herman interprets the "Privileges and Immunities" Clause of the 14th Amendment in a manner that, so far, the Supreme Court has yet to follow.

Arnold Shcherban - 10/4/2008

The main point of contention forwarded
by Ms Paul (as far as I understand it, though she never explicitly stated it) was that while the US has a provision in its Constutution that the territory of the United States is
undivided and should not be changed either by the outside forces, or through willing concession of some of its States (at the will of the majority of those States' residents), it divides the territories of foreign
sovereign countries and changes the socio-political structures in those countries at its will, mostly against the expressed desire of those countries' majorities and as you mentioned does support any breakaway
province/part of the foreign country..., as long as that country does not play a Monopoly game with the US corporate elites. However, it strongly opposes the right of concession of the provinces of its temporary or more permanent allies, even if that right is written into their Constitutions or administrative-territorial agreements.
This is undeniable fact (actually multitude of them), which is also undeniable violation (often submitted through war crimes and ethnic violence) of the basic principles of the international relations, the UN charter, and human rights allegedly fully recognised and supported by the US governments.

Mark Reitz - 10/2/2008

Can you provide a cite to the Bush "lie" that unless we attack, there will be mushroom clouds over US cities? I don't seem to recall that line of argument.

As to Iraq / Al Qaeda connections, contemporary sources did say:

Before the Iraq War, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice-Chairman, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) saw a ``substantial connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.'' Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CN) reported that, ``I've seen a lot of evidence on this. There are extensive contacts between Saddam Hussein's government and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.'' Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) ``[Saddam Hussein] has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.'' The Clinton Administration's legal indictment in Federal Court against bin Laden in 1998 claimed, ``Al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government, and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the government of Iraq.''

So was everyone lying, or just Bush? What was the motivation for the others to lie? Why would they too promote a Bush hegemony?

Raul A Garcia - 10/2/2008

Good thing the Israelis hit that nuke plant in the early 80's otherwise Hussein would have had the ability to lob one, albeit with an errant Scud missile.
I am moving to Australia and voting anarchist.

Javier Ramirez - 10/1/2008

Well,well, Ms. Paul thanks for those totally irrelevant comments. As for my country's actions I think I know a whole lot more than you, I promise you that much. I may not be (and in fact most of the time I'm not) proud of my country's actions and especially that of its foreign policy, what I did mentioned to you was historical fact, and I challenge you to do a google search on that. I see though you felt no need to interact w/ my previous comments other than to say that Im "uninformed" and that my comments were "ludicrous". You have totally jumped ship from my original post. Im not here to defend my country's foreign policy, Im in fact totally against it and even supported the only candidate who was truly opposed to our current FP. But what has this to do with the price of tea in China? Your original post challenged me on the US and its recognition of breakaway provinces and I gave you examples. Not surprisingly you provided no challenge. When you want to engage in serious discussion then I will be ready to discuss it w/ you. Furthermore, I didnt say that the US was consistent only that on your criterithe US has recognized secessionist movements which it has, and my second post was to say only that who cares whehter the US has or has not, its irrelevant. Try to stick to the original topic Ms Paul, you are losing credibility very fast in front of everyone.

Lorraine Paul - 10/1/2008

Mr Ramirez, you are so uninformed of your country's actions around the world that I am amazed that you feel confident enough to comment on it.

As for your second comment, it is so ludicrously opposite to the actions of your government that it would have to be one of the most arrogantly stupid statements I have ever read.

Do a google on how many foreign military bases your country has around the world...it might give you some insight into your government's interventionist foreign policy.

Arnold Shcherban - 10/1/2008

<Did he knowingly make an untrue statement with the intent to deceive?>
Yes he and his closest assistants (Vice-President and Secretary of State) did, Mr. Reitz!
Like saying that unless the US attack Iraq immediately, we might see a mushroom cloud of the atomic explosion over American cities while knowing exactly (as well, as his UK friend) that Iraq
did not and could not have an atomic weapon.
Like insinuating that Hussein's regime has operational connection with Al-Qaeda and participated (though, perhaps indirectly) in 9/11 attacks.
And don't try to deceive us and yourself by saying that those two lies were the actual conclusions submitted to him by the US intelligence, cause we know now they weren't.
Those BIG LIES, however, constituted the main reasons why the majority of Americans and the governmental officials supported agression against Iraq.
The case is closed in the view of any man with a speck of social conscience and integrity; exactly those qualities that bushes lack.

Javier Ramirez - 10/1/2008

And one final point to add to my earlier reply, why should it matter whether the US has ever recognized the legitimacy of a people's justification to breakaway, who cares. The US or any other nation do not decide what rights are or are not.

Javier Ramirez - 10/1/2008

The author sounds very intimidating by writng how the 14th amendment prevents the states from seceding using all CAPS!! He represent one side of this view of the amendment and folks who support his views on the union sometimes dont even bring the issue of the 14th amendment up. I dont see how and amendment that was a civil rights amendment has anything to bear on this issue. If a state has a right to secede then it no longer has any of the protection of the immunities that it guarantees. If it stays within the union then it comes under this amendment. In other words the author has to assume from the outset the view of the union he is trying to defend. He is arguing the cart before the horse. As for the notion of the amendment not being lawfully ratified, this is not too far fetched, read Forrest McDonald's article in the Georgia Journal of Southern Legal History (Spring/Summer 1991) Also look at the late Raoul Berger's two rigorous works on the amendment,Government by Judiciary: The Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment (1975) and The Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights (1989)

Javier Ramirez - 10/1/2008

What was the postition of the US, under Clinton, during the Chechyna crisis? (A little hint it wasn't yours). He was critical of Russia's crackdown. Although to be fair it may have been for other motives to oppose Russia, it's still fair to say that the US was not antagonistic either. Under this current presidency, the US position has been a little more favorable towards Russia in this regard. Its not surprisning that this tyrant Bush II would be more favorable towards Russia against the Chechynans. Yeltsin btw actually invoked Lincoln's name to put down the breakaway republic.
Also remind me what was the American policy towards the breakup of the former Yugoslavia? We supported the breakaway provinces. We only took military action to keep one break away province from killing the other breakaway provinces. The US has had a history of supporting breakaway (read secessionist) movements for a long while. Under TR, the US supported Panama's break from Colombia. I could go on.

Lorraine Paul - 9/30/2008

'I dont advocate it, but I certainly believe that any body of people have the right to political self determination an idea that has been part of Western politcal history.'

Really?? Then why hasn't just about every US government in the modern age recognised that fact when it comes to other countries??

Lorraine Paul - 9/30/2008

You say aluminum....I say aluminium LOL...aluminium is only hard for children to pronounce. Try, it's not that hard!! LOL

Lorraine Paul - 9/30/2008

Where is the fiction? You have not addressed my question, instead raising disengenuous questions which do not deserve an answer.

There is no such animal as a '...neutral observer of events.' Using such a ridiculous misnomer merely highlights your own lack of insight.

By the way, I am an Australian, living in Australia, so am probably in a position to be slightly more objective than your average American.

My honest opinion is that a politician is a politician, therefore, we voters will always have to vote for the one we find less repulsive. From my 'lofty position', I would say that the two major parties will never look after their constituents but will always pander to the big end of town.

Raul A Garcia - 9/30/2008

I am waiting for the little green men conspiracy theory. I know you know that both parties don't have their hair just right. Mediocrity is the check and balance on would-be alphas.

Stephen Barber - 9/30/2008

"The U. S. passed the 14th Amendment"....actually, states ratified it, with some southern states doing so at end of a bayonet. Secession would not happen again, not because of some legally sound interpretation of the Constitution or a hearing before the Supreme Court, but because the Radical Republicans had a more powerful army at their disposal.

Stephen Barber - 9/30/2008

Dr. Herman has defined a traitor as one who is an enemy of the Constitution. Does that mean that if New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, etc. had not ratfified the Constitution, they would have been deemed as traitors and forced into the Union by the some actions of the new nation?

Mark Reitz - 9/30/2008

Lie: to knowingly make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.

I'm just curious, what was Bush's lie about the WMD in Iraq? Did he knowingly make an untrue statement with the intent to deceive? If he did, weren't Clinton and Kerry lying as well when they made similar statement?

And how does that relate to Palin lying? What's the causal connection? Just because Clinton lied about "that woman, Monica Lewinsky," does that mean too that every statement out of Obama's mouth is suspect? I mean, they're both Democrats, right?

Mark Reitz - 9/30/2008

The author himself states that "I'm not saying that Palin has such ties, but it is likely that some AIP members do." In the same way, no one is saying that Obama has or had ties to the Weathermen (though he has ties to Ayers, including through the Annenburg Project). My point is why does the author treat such fictional ties as if they really exist. Why the inconsistency of many scholars and the press in addressing this issue?

Responding to Mr. Powell, wherein did I state there is a “connection between these two men that you think means that Obama is somehow a domestic terrorist?” I never stated or implied the same. My rant is against the inconsistency of treating the two issues.

Responding to Ms. Paul, if “[you] don't really have the patience to enter into a civil discourse with close-minded people like you, but I've done my best,” that speaks more to your close-mindedness than as a censure to any statements I have made. Rather, you have proven yourself to be just another shill for the Democrats, and not a scholar or neutral observer of events.

Ronald Harold Fritze - 9/30/2008

OK, you addressed the Preamble part of the argument but what about the 14th amendment argument in the essay. Since it is also part of the Constitution, the author would argument some of its modifications would impact on your argument.

Javier Ramirez - 9/29/2008

I read with interest this article by a professor of history and was disapointed with his extremely pathetic and sloppy explanation of the Preamble's "We the People..." statemnt. As much as I like to get into the legality of secesssion, I just want to focus on this one bit of historical mythology that the good professor seems to have blind faith in. The idea that this referred to the people as a whole or as Madison called it the "aggregate" was denied by Madison himself in two different places. One in a letter to Patrick Henry who worried that this consolidated the new gov't by a ratification procedure that was by supermajority of the people. Madison wrote that this was not the case but that it was the people of each state in their conventons who were ratifying the constitution, by the aapproval of state legislatures.
In Fed #39 he makes this statement which is worth repeating it in its entirety and ask yourself if this is what the author of the article says, "that the Constitution is to be founded on the assent and ratification of the people of America,[...] , that this assent and ratification is to be given by the people, not as individuals composing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct and independent States to which they respectively belong. It is to be the assent and ratification of the several States, derived from the supreme authority in each State, the authority of the people themselves. The act, therefore, establishing the Constitution, will not be a national, but a federal act"

The states existed legally and historically as succesors to the colonial governaments before the Union, even Jack Rakove at Stanford who is vitriolic to states rights admits in his book, Original Meanings.
Furthermore folks like the author of this article never complete the Preamble, it says "We the People of the United States...". The fact that States is in the plural and not singular is not a trivial matter and has not escaped the notice of poltical historians like Forrest McDonalds (see State's Rights and the Union, p 22)In other words the people of the different states.

Finally, the Preamble wording was a mere stylistic matter that had nothing to do with with the people as a whole. The term was sometimes used synonmously with the people of the states and not always with the body politic. As McDonald and others point out, no states were mentioned because no one knew who would ratify and who wouldn't.

Im not interested in the whole Sarah Palin Alaska Independence Party ruckus, and I truly dont care anything about the McCain/Palin ticket, I hate McCain with a great passion. Obama is equally laughable and so are his supporters. And while I do believe in the legality of secession I agree its a moot point since the national gov't has more of the guns and tanks. I dont advocate it, but I certainly believe that any body of people have the right to political self determination an idea that has been part of Western politcal history. It seems that the author has allowed his political prejudices get in the way of real history. Another reason not to mix history with politcal rantings. This is what happens.

Donald Wolberg - 9/29/2008

One can be amused or horrified by the absurd content of this piece. One can only hope that there must be a rational explanation of the author's bizarre comments. I would urge a thicker aluminum foil for a hat to keep those z-rays out.

Lorraine Paul - 9/29/2008

Mr Reitz, they are not 'fictional ties'. Her husband was a member of this organisation...she has spoken at their meeting/s and has applauded their actions.

Where is the fiction? Or is it merely what you want to think rather than what is fact?

I don't really have the patience to enter into a civil discourse with close-minded people like you, but I've done my best.

Lorraine Paul - 9/29/2008

If the incumbent president and vice-president lied so deeply about WMD's and the present situation in Georgia...why should Palin even hesitate to lie her way into being the VP.

Lying is what this mongrel mob of Repubs do best!!!

Evan Shawn Powell - 9/29/2008

Please cite me ties that in any way show that Obama was involved with Ayers when he was involved in the Weathermen. Did Obama belong to this group? No or Yes? Has he every belong to a group that espouses any of the same beliefs? Has his work with Ayers of later been anything other progressive liberal type programs that just get conservatives' panties all twisted in knot? How extensive has "ties" been? A nod and small talk at social function? Their respective staff exchanging phone calls, emails, letters, or what?

Just what is the connection between these two men that you think means that Obama is somehow a domestic terrorist who hangs with an aging, has been, albeit at one time violent, hippie? What is it that you think Obama has taken from Ayers in any way shape or form that makes him in any way shape or form a violent person?

Nothing? You believe it is true so it must be?

Evan Shawn Powell - 9/29/2008

It seems that any time anyone criticizes a conservative/Republican on this blog it is unprofessional, puerile or divination.

None of the accusers have any thing else to say. No counter arguments to the authors logic or his understanding of the Constitution or history. No cites to media stories, or quotes from the Palin, the McCain Campaign, the AIP that is in oppostion to the posters article. No alternative explanations. Nothing.

Why is that? Is it because what is said about Palin is a fact? Is it because the commenters are locked in their cognitive dissonance and it short circuits their ability to do anything else?

Here let me give a shot.

Consider the following: There is a possibility that these people are in fact a substantial constituency in AK and in her party or one that is at least substantial enough to require pursuing, yes? Perhaps it is a simple matter of insincere sucking up. She meant none of what she said. She in fact lied to all those people in a mercenary attempt to garner their votes.

See how easy that is?

Raul A Garcia - 9/29/2008

I expected a better argument when I saw the title of this article. This is very unprofessional and puerile.

Mark Reitz - 9/29/2008

"I'm not saying that Palin has such ties, but it is likely that some AIP members do."

What about Obama and William Ayers? As opposed to a fictional tie, this one is real. Ayers has famously said that "I don't regret setting bombs" and "I feel we didn't do enough", and, when asked if he would "do it all again" said "I don't want to discount the possibility."

Any thoughts by the author as to how this affects his political views?

Mike Schoenberg - 9/29/2008

Don't forget that Alaska gets alot more out of Washington thanks to Senator Stevens and others than other states. That plus their zero state income tax would be something that would change if they did leave us.

Billy E Karlinsey - 9/29/2008

And here I thought the reading of entrails was and loss art.