Vice President Joe Biden privately swore in CIA Director John Brennan today in the Roosevelt Room. The White House notes that Brennan took the oath of office on the Constitution's original draft, a 1787 document that still bears George Washington's penmanship.
According to Yahoo! News, White House representative Josh Earnest emphasized this detail to reporters during today's briefing:
"There's one piece of this that I wanted to note for you," spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters gathered for their daily briefing. "Director Brennan was sworn in with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution that had George Washington's personal handwriting and annotations on it, dating from 1787."
Earnest said Brennan had asked for a document from the National Archives that would demonstrate the U.S. is a nation of laws.
"Director Brennan told the president that he made the request to the archives because he wanted to reaffirm his commitment to the rule of law as he took the oath of office as director of the CIA," Earnest said.
Except for one rather large patriotic problem. This version of the Constitution, however symbolically pure in its origins, is an extremely flawed emblem in one very important way: The canon does not include a little thing called the Bill of Rights.
As blogger Marcy Wheeler points out:
That means, when Brennan vowed to protect and defend the Constitution, he was swearing on one that did not include the First, Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendments - or any of the other Amendments now included in our Constitution. The Bill of Rights did not become part of our Constitution until 1791, 4 years after the Constitution that Brennan took his oath on.
I really don't mean to be an asshole about this. But these vows always carry a great deal of symbolism. And whether he meant to invoke this symbolism or not, the moment at which Brennan took over the CIA happened to exclude (in symbolic form, though presumably not legally) the key limits on governmental power that protect American citizens.
Maybe this was a special top-secret draft that had the Bill of Rights scribbled in invisible ink?
[Empty Wheel; official White House photo by David Lienemann]