November 30th, 2008

The Constitution: Just a Piece of Paper

photo credit: Thorne Enterprises

According to a few sources, President Bush angrily opposed any mention of the Constitution when he and others were gathered together to brainstorm how best to trample the document, calling it just a “piece of paper” (the actual quote containing some more colorful language). When reports of this exchange were published, many were justifiably shocked and appalled at the behavior of a man who has publicly sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution.

But while such behavior is repulsive and tyrannical, Bush was right—the Constitution is just a piece of paper.

The Constitution is a contract that exists between “we the people” and our federal government. In reality, the document itself is nothing more than a collection of much-debated words scrawled on parchment. It is a historical wonder and a great collector’s item, but at the end of the day, it’s just a paper with words on it.

Like any other set of words, the Constitution only has power if the value we apply to the words leads us to honor and fulfill their meaning. A contract between two people that nobody enforces is worth nothing more than the sheet of paper upon which it is written. Likewise, without a group of people who respect and implement the Constitutional contract created by the words found on the document, its only value is that of the price it will fetch at a collector’s auction.

Ignoring the Constitution—an action which happens more often that not in Washington, D.C.—renders null and void any attempt to establish authority and restraint on power. Without a willing and authorized party to enforce its provisions and ensure they are obeyed, the document serves no purpose and transforms itself into historical eye candy.

With leaders like President Bush in power, and a cowardly and complicit Congress and Supreme Court, the checks and balances created by the document fade into oblivion and leave us with a piece of paper. Bush was right: our failure to enforce the contract created by the Constitution has resulted in it being treated as little more than the animal parchment and ink used to create it.

13 Responses to “The Constitution: Just a Piece of Paper”

  1. Kelly W.
    December 1, 2008 at 10:50 am #

    “But while such behavior is repulsive and tyrannical, Bush was right—the Constitution is just a piece of paper.”

    But Connor, the Constitution is a “God-inspired” piece of paper, not a “G__ D_____” piece of paper as Bush called it.

    How Mormons can like a president who uses profanity at the Constitution is beyond me. Utahns gave Bush his largest margins in the 2004 election.

    When the Constitution hangs by a thread, we probably won’t be able to count on the Republican Elders to save it.

  2. Reach Upward
    December 1, 2008 at 12:02 pm #

    Isn’t it odd how, unlike every other legal document, our judiciary considers ‘modern interpretations’ of the words in the document and ‘changing cultural values’ when interpreting what constitutes constitutional.

    “…and they saw that their laws had become corrupted, and that they had become a wicked people….” (Helaman 4:22)

  3. rmwarnick
    December 1, 2008 at 12:47 pm #

    It is the responsibility of Congress to impeach President Bush for violating the Constitution. They could still do it, but probably won’t because, as you say, most members of Congress have no more respect for the Constitution than Bush does.

    It will be interesting to see how much our next President can do or will try to do to restore the rule of law.

  4. Frank Staheli
    December 1, 2008 at 1:25 pm #

    Speaking of respect for “The Piece of Paper”, how about the insult that was added to the injury of Obama likely not being a United States Citizen–apparently Hillary Clinton cannot constitutionally become Secretary of State.

  5. Clumpy
    December 1, 2008 at 1:50 pm #


    Because we’re morons who haven’t really considered what we believe. Bush was too stubborn and loved being the “decider” too much to ever let anything including morality (except professed morality) dictate his behavior, and we let him do it because of the manufactured “culture war” that kept us from moving to the other side or, better yet, forming our own opinions of individual issues and developing a larger philosophy.

    These articles confirm what I knew about Bush for so long. I just never knew he verbalized it. How sad.

  6. Kelly W.
    December 1, 2008 at 3:24 pm #


    It sure does appear Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii. However, this breach of the Constitution pales in comparison with what Cheney and Bush has done the past 8 years.

    We gave McCain a pass, apparently, because it is fact that McCain was born in Panama.

  7. David
    December 1, 2008 at 3:33 pm #


    I think you give Congress too much credit by saying they are “cowardly and complicit.” Our Congress has been as active in shredding the foundation of our government as the president has been.

    Personally I like this quote – “they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.” (Helaman 5:3)

  8. Lili
    December 1, 2008 at 4:09 pm #

    actually, it’s a piece of parchment 😉

  9. Lili
    December 1, 2008 at 4:20 pm #

    (Ok, now I feel a need to back up my statement:

    According to Wiki answers, it was drafted on paper, but the one that was signed was parchment (animal skin–also called vellum)

  10. Dara
    December 4, 2008 at 2:27 pm #

    our failure to enforce the contract created by the Constitution has resulted in it being treated as little more than the animal parchment

    Exactly correct. It’s practically become null and void with the way the past couple administrations have practically ignored the document. It angers me that it’s treated with such contempt and disregard.

  11. The Mike
    December 6, 2008 at 12:01 am #

    Great post – as usual. Just a piece of paper indeed, but the government it forms is definitely more influential to freedom, tangible to individuals and all around principally sound. That’s one thing that cannot be brushed aside like they do the document itself – not for long at least, and oh how I rue that day.

  12. Carborendum
    December 6, 2008 at 8:14 pm #

    It has been disregarded since George Washington’s presidency. People in power applied what they understood, but twisted it to mean whatever they wanted it to mean to serve their aims. Even Washington was no exception. And he was among those to draft the thing.

    The difference today is that we have no power to correct anything from previous administrations. We used to have representation in Congress. The House of Representatives was beholden to the people. Today they are not. The way things have become structured has made it impossible for the average citizen to have a voice at all.

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