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Dodd Defends Constitution -- Where are the Others?

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Ten days ago, I wrote in this space about the American Freedom Campaign's launch of a U.S. citizens' democracy movement that will drive the issue of defending the Constitution to the center of the presidential campaign. It's pretty sad that we Americans even have to ask whether a candidate would protect the Constitution if elected -- sad but necessary: in merely six years, however, the Bush administration has dramatically altered the presidency and its powers.

With our democracy crumbling and our liberties threatened, we cannot sit back and hope that the next president will voluntarily reverse the damage now done to the Constitution and the rule of law: history shows that leaders of any party are corrupted by unchecked power and it is not human nature to yield power once it has been aggregated into one's hands.

This situation is simply too dangerous.

We want commitments. From every candidate. And we want the candidates to know that they will only receive our votes if they make this commitment.

The good news is that we have a frontrunner -- in the call-out to defend the Constitution. Yesterday, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) stepped up to the patriot's task and gave the American Freedom Campaign the following statement:

"It's a sad day when a presidential candidate actually has to talk about restoring the Constitution, but that's where we are after this administration's assault on the rule of law -- an assault, by the way, that actually makes us less secure and more isolated by weakening our standing around the world. I have said repeatedly that if elected, the *FIRST THING* I would do after being sworn in is to reverse as much of the damage done to the Constitution by President Bush as possible. And I would immediately do as much as I legally can by executive order."

Chris Dodd is acting like an American. He should be congratulated. But the rest of the candidates should be ashamed -- at least for now. We know they are aware of our efforts, since they have all received thousands of emails from supporters of the American Freedom Campaign. In some cases, calls to the candidates to defend the Constitution have been even more direct.

John Edwards, where are you? Two weeks ago, his wife Elizabeth wrote on Daily Kos that "under John, the Constitution returns." After I asked him to make good on his wife's words by signing the pledge, one of his own supporters posted a link to my blog on Edwards' own campaign blog. Earlier in August, another Edwards campaign blogger urged the former Senator to sign the pledge.

As promised, a week later I called the campaign and let them know we were hoping for his endorsement of the rule of law. Ten days now? No response from Mr. Edwards.

Here is the text of the American Freedom Pledge:

"We are Americans, and in our America we do not torture, we do not imprison people without charge or legal remedy, we do not tap people's phones and emails without a court order, and above all we do not give any President unchecked power.

"I pledge to fight to protect and defend the Constitution from assault by any president."

Some people have suggested that this pledge is not strong enough, or that candidates are as likely to break their word after signing this pledge as they would be after taking the oath of office, which similarly contains a commitment to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution." These critiques are fair. But if the alternative is silence, this is not good enough for America.

Candidates -- and Congressmen and women -- take some risks by standing up for the Constitution right now. I asked a librarian to distribute copies of the Constitution -- provided for free -- and she said this would be seen as too controversial. A major TV channel declined to renew a long-running series teaching U.S. kids about democracy because they said they didn't want to be seen as rocking the boat. Many leaders on the Hill have told us off the record that the fear is widespread that standing up for liberty means they think they risk being painted as "soft on terror." And I must note that major interests are served financially by an open-ended war and ever-proliferating surveillance technologies.

So, yeah, it says something if a candidate won't publicly commit to restoring the Constitution.

And a pledge also matters psychologically -- to us. We need reminding of what we have while we can still save it. Every time we are reminded of the personal courage of our founders, our appreciation of the Constitution, now dusty, renews itself. And every time we talk about the disrespect the Bush administration has demonstrated for the Constitution our own personal desires to stand up against these abuses intensifies.

So, Senator Edwards -- we're waiting for a call. Or an e-mail. Or even a comment in this blog entry. Is it too controversial to support the Constitution? Or will you sign your name and be counted -- as the founders did? As many of your supporters already have?

And the rest of the candidates -- will you let Dodd outshine you? Show us you deserve our presidency. Help remind the American people how precious -- and fragile -- our democracy is. Sign the American Freedom Pledge or make as strong a statement as possible about your commitment to defending our Constitution.

We're standing by -- in the millions.

If you want to send an email to the candidates encouraging them to sign the American Freedom Pledge, click here.