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White House Replies to Secession, Death Star Petitions

Posted on Jan 13, 2013
Anthony Alvernaz (CC BY 2.0)

The White House’s responses to several petitions by various states to secede from the rest of the country and another one that sought to build a Death Star by 2016 carried the same answer, but in radically different tones.

First off, the White House formally rejected the pleas in the past few days. That shouldn’t come as a big surprise. But while the Obama administration issued a tongue-in-cheek reply to the Death Star petition, it delivered a more serious message for the secession ones, calling for Americans to unite.

In answering the secession requests, Jon Carson, director of the Office of Public Engagement, acknowledged that “democracy can be noisy and controversial” but stated that “as much as we value a healthy debate, we don’t let that debate tear us apart.”

From the official response:

Our founding fathers established the Constitution of the United States “in order to form a more perfect union” through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. They enshrined in that document the right to change our national government through the power of the ballot—a right that generations of Americans have fought to secure for all. But they did not provide a right to walk away from it. As President Abraham Lincoln explained in his first inaugural address in 1861, “in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual.” In the years that followed, more than 600,000 Americans died in a long and bloody civil war that vindicated the principle that the Constitution establishes a permanent union between the States. And shortly after the Civil War ended, the Supreme Court confirmed that “[t]he Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States.”

Although the founders established a perpetual union, they also provided for a government that is, as President Lincoln would later describe it, “of the people, by the people, and for the people”—all of the people. Participation in, and engagement with, government is the cornerstone of our democracy. And because every American who wants to participate deserves a government that is accessible and responsive, the Obama Administration has created a host of new tools and channels to connect concerned citizens with White House. In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of the We the People platform is a chance to engage directly with our most outspoken critics.

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On the other hand, the White House clearly did not take the Death Star petition seriously, and probably for a good reason: With a price tag estimated at $850,000,000,000,000,000, the debt-plagued U.S. government can’t really afford it (at the moment anyway). But take heart, “Star Wars” fans. The administration had a few other good reasons for not giving you the answer you were seeking.

According to the response, written by Paul Shawcross, chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, a Death Star isn’t on the horizon because “The administration does not support blowing up planets.” OK, fair enough. Shawcross also added, “Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?” Admittedly, he makes an excellent point there. How much did the Empire spend on Death Stars, only to see them both ultimately destroyed?

Shawcross then used the rest of the petition to laud what America’s space program already has achieved:

Even though the United States doesn’t have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we’ve got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we’re building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.

We don’t have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke’s arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.

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In order to elicit a response from the White House’s We the People site, a petition must garner at least 25,000 signatures—something the aforementioned pleas easily achieved.

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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