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January 12, 1999

Smokey Briggs


By Smokey Briggs

Constitution is easy

to read, understand

Impeachment is a constitutional process, not a constitutional crisis.

I keep hearing the term "constitutional crisis" used in almost any mention of the ongoing impeachment proceedings.

So far, I can't find the crisis.

The procedure has tracked perfectly with the guidelines laid out in Article I of the Constitution.

The House of Representatives has voted to impeach; the Senate has begun the trial; and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is presiding over the trial since it is the President who has been impeached just as the Constitution directs.

A constitutional crisis would come about if some group or person refused to abide by the rules set forth in Article I.

Until that happens there is no constitutional crisis.

The Constitution is a relatively simple document.

It was written in plain English to be read, and understood, and interpreted, by those who support it.

There is a reason that it starts, "We the People..."

The underlying theory behind our way of life is consent on the part of "we the people" to be governed.

In 1787 delegates elected by "we the people" authored the document that is now our Constitution.

Over the next two years, and with the addition of the Bill of Rights, the people of the original states then ratified the Constitution and consented to be governed by it.

Our forefathers did not consent to be governed by a constitution that they did not understand.

They considered themselves capable of knowing what they had consented to.

Americans today are just as capable.

We must be. How can we consent to something that we do not understand?

When there is a question of constitutional law we should not passively wait for our politicians, courts and newspapers to tell us what our Constitution says.

Instead, we should read our Constitution.

It is our consent that gives it meaning and power.

Some of you are probably smiling right now.

You have seen the thick, heavy books on the law of the Constitution. Probably on a dusty shelf in the library.

"Constitutional Law is a subject for scholars, and judges, and lawyers," you say.

And it is. But it is also a subject for citizens.

No matter how the Constitution is twisted and turned by lawyers, the basic ideas cannot be changed.

These are the ideas that are set forth in plain English within the Constitution.

In the long run, it is the interpretation of "we the people" that is the most important.

It is the support of a free people that grants the Constitution power, and in that regard, the votes of the Supreme Court count as nine amongst millions of fellow citizens.

Which brings us to the issue of the actual impeachment trial.

Not long ago, many people were seriously arguing that the Senate should completely forego a trial.

A quick read of the Constitution would have saved everyone some effort on this point.

The language in Article I does not leave room for anything but a trial once the House of Representatives has voted to impeach.

The Senate does not have a constitutional choice there must be a trial of some sort.

If the Senate had failed to hold a trial, then there would have been a constitutional crisis.

Editor's Note:York M. "Smokey" Briggs is Enterprise editor/publisher. His e-mail address is

Your View

Board members should be properly recognized

School board members are ordinary people who have an extraordinary dedication to our public schools. It is time, once again, that we thanked them for their untiring efforts.

Too often we forget about the personal sacrifices school board members routinely make.

Too often we forget about the important role school board members play in assuring local control over our public schools, control that is in the hands of people we know...people who are our neighbors.

Too often we forget that, in the tradition of a representative democracy, school board members are our connection to influencing how our public schools are governed.

Too often we are quick to criticize school board members without really knowing all the details that went into any given decision.

Too often the efforts of school board membes go unrecognized and rewarded.

January is School Board Recognition Month. This is a time to show our appreciation and to begin to better understand how school board members work together to provide leadership for our schools.

The school board works closely with parents, education professionals, and other community members to create the education vision we want for our students.

The school board is accountable to the public. It is responsible for assuring the public that the money allocated to the public schools is providing a good return on the investment. Thus, the board oversees regular assessment of the district's students, staff and programs.

The school board is also a strong advocate for public schools and is responsible for communicating the needs of the school district to the public and the public's expectations to the district.

In January, join with others from throughout our district and state to salute the men and women who provide grassroots governance of public schools. Make a special effort to tell each school board member that his or her hard work has been noticed and is truly appreciated. A special thanks to Reyes Castillo, Javier Lozano, Dora Machuca, Paul Matta, Armando Mondragon, Jr., Braulia Natividad, and Paul Ward, our Board of Trustees in Balmorhea.

Balmorhea ISD

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