Should the Ends Justify the Means?


By: Nancy Salvato

Watching the most recent episode of 24, it was infuriating to watch President Allison Taylor tell Jack Bauer to stand down instead of agreeing to have him question Dana Walsh about the assassination of President Hassan, rationalizing her actions by saying that the peace process she was negotiating between the Russians and the Middle East is for the “greater good.” She essentially told him that the ends justify the means and that those in the employ of CTU are to serve what she believes to be in the nation’s interest, not only ignoring her oath to the Constitution of the United States but demanding his fealty, or allegiance to her.

Anyone serving the country must take an oath of office.

President: “ I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Military enlistees: “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Military Officers: “I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

On Military.com, it is explained that anyone who joins the military will be defending the Constitution – not a person. This is not a new idea. At this country’s inception, it was understood that this was to be a nation of laws, not men.

There is no good government but what is republican. That the only valuable part of the British constitution is so; for the true idea of a republic is “an empire of laws, and not of men.” That, as a republic is the best of governments, so that particular arrangement of the powers of society, or in other words, that form of government which is best contrived to secure an impartial and exact execution of the law, is the best of republics. –John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

Recently, NBC News reported, “The Army may be forced to court-martial a lieutenant colonel who refused to deploy to Afghanistan because he considers orders from President Barack Obama to be illegal.”

This is because Lt. Col. Terry Lakin believes that President Obama is not a natural born citizen. Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution says, “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President.”

Many of those reporting or following this story have dismissed him as a “birther”, a derogatory term assigned to those who believe that the president’s natural born status was not properly vetted before being allowed to run for or hold office. However, because Lt. Col. Terry Lakin has taken an oath to the constitution, he is demanding proof.

Should the president be able to withhold that proof by keeping the record which would verify his eligibility sealed? Before another presidential election is held, it is certainly worth considering a method which would assure that any candidate running for office provides the proper credentials and makes these available to those who would certify the election, at the very least.

Regardless of what anyone believes about the current president, the requirement for holding office is not a small matter.

Malinda Seymore writes in The Presidency and the Meaning of Citizenship,

“The Natural-Born Citizen Clause seems motivated by fear that foreign-born, naturalized citizens’ loyalty could not be assured.”

She explains that Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and George Washington feared that foreigners would be disloyal.

Thomas Jefferson believed, “they will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave,” and transmit “these principles, with their language,” to their children.

Alexander Hamilton desired “every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue and corruption,” from “foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”

John Adams considered foreign influence the “angel of destruction to elective governments.”

George Washington required any sentry be “Native of this Country, or has a Wife, or Family in it, to whom he is known to be attached.” Furthermore, “In his farewell address, President Washington,” warned “history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican Government.”

She concludes, “The Natural-Born Citizen Clause reflects the Founders’ fear that foreigners�even those who became citizens of the United States through naturalization�would not have the unquestionable loyalty to the United States necessary to the office of President.”

Going back to 24, probably the most chilling aspect of this particular episode was a conversation between Charles Logan the former president and President Taylor.

Logan: “The power to make a difference, that’s why we came into politics… Is the situation ideal? No. But you have a real chance to make the world a better place. There is a tide in the affairs of men, / which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”

Taylor: “It means now or never.”

It is this reasoning that compels President Taylor to rely on moral relativism, not allowing Jack Bauer to expose the extent of the Russian involvement in an assassination attempt, fearing it would destroy the “greater good.”

One might wonder at this juncture, does life imitate art more than art imitates life?

The Framers feared that the citizens of this country could not always be counted upon to critically examine the motivation and influences compelling a candidate to seek office before casting a vote. It is for this reason they created checks and balances, on who can hold office and how candidates are elected. It is also for this reason that we are a government of laws and not men.

Those with an unconstrained vision believe the restraints of the constitution prevent them from being able to accomplish their vision for this country or the world. Those with a constrained vision understand the importance of the constitution for preventing the will of those in power to compromise our liberties or freedoms in pursuit of some “greater good”. Constrained or unconstrained visions do not follow party lines.

According to Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development, at Stage 5 people understand the importance rule of law holds for maintaining our society and that these standards, are to be agreed upon by its members.

Is it acceptable to arbitrarily decide that some parts of the constitution are no longer relevant?

At Stage 6, people may follow internalized principles of justice, even if they conflict with laws and rules. In other words, a doctor who believes in the sanctity of life might not perform an abortion even if it is legal.

Should there be any moral dilemmas involved in adhering to the Constitution?

Certainly, instead of disparaging those who believe they are following the law of the land, we should instead entertain their questions and provide some answers.

The Framers fully expected that some of the brightest minds and upstanding citizens would be representing our interests in government. They also expected these people could be easily corrupted so they took great pains to prevent any one person or branch of government from being able to inflict any lasting damage, but none of these measures can prevent death by a thousand cuts if we refuse to ask the tough questions that would yield the answers that some might not want to hear.