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June 23, 2011

Time: God Save The Constitution From These Wingnuts Who Wish To Read It

There's an old sophist gambit, older than hell itself. If you want to convince someone that plain words mean something bizarre, you first establish they mean nothing at all -- who can say what this inpenetrable plain English could possibly mean? -- and then, having established that words mean nothing, you then proceed to step two, assigning those words strange meanings.

Because, like, who can say.

Shabby, dumb, low-wattage gambit. About par for the course for the left and the media. (But I repeat myself.)

One Document, Under Siege

By RICHARD STENGEL

He means under siege by you, wingnutz.

Here are a few things the framers did not know about: World War II. DNA. Sexting. Airplanes. The atom. Television. Medicare. Collateralized debt obligations. The germ theory of disease. Miniskirts. The internal combustion engine. Computers. Antibiotics. Lady Gaga.

People on the right and left constantly ask what the framers would say about some event that is happening today. What would the framers say about whether the drones over Libya constitute a violation of Article I, Section 8, which gives Congress the power to declare war? Well, since George Washington didn't even dream that man could fly, much less use a global-positioning satellite to aim a missile, it's hard to say what he would think. What would the framers say about whether a tax on people who did not buy health insurance is an abuse of Congress's authority under the commerce clause? Well, since James Madison did not know what health insurance was and doctors back then still used leeches, it's difficult to know what he would say. And what would Thomas Jefferson, a man who owned slaves and is believed to have fathered children with at least one of them, think about a half-white, half-black American President born in Hawaii (a state that did not exist)? Again, hard to say.

The framers were not gods and were not infallible. Yes, they gave us, and the world, a blueprint for the protection of democratic freedoms — freedom of speech, assembly, religion — but they also gave us the idea that a black person was three-fifths of a human being, that women were not allowed to vote and that South Dakota should have the same number of Senators as California, which is kind of crazy. And I'm not even going to mention the Electoral College. They did not give us income taxes. Or Prohibition. Those came later.

Americans have debated the Constitution since the day it was signed, but seldom have so many disagreed so fiercely about so much. Would it be unconstitutional to default on our debt? Should we have a balanced-budget amendment? Is it constitutional to ask illegal immigrants to carry documents?

This is all absurd sophistry, because the Constitution is not about any of these things. It elaborates, simply, a process for passing laws about any matter, whether it's sexting, DNA, miniskirts, or Lady Gaga.

The Congress passes a bill in both chambers. It then goes to the President for his signature; if he doesn't sign the bill, both houses need pass it with 2/3rds majorities to establish it as positive law.

The Courts, it was asserted by John Marshall, have a role to play in this as well, and can strike down a law as unconstitutional if and only if it violates, clearly, one of the specific provisions of the Constitution (including its amendments).

The Framers did not have to know about sexting, DNA, miniskirts, and Lady Gaga to be fair experts in the procedures of government and passage of laws. They had already been involved in such tasks for decades, and had a few hundred years of English tradition to inform them, too.

And there's another clear meaning in the Constitution: That the charter establishes the powers of the federal government, which are great, but which are specifically limited to those powers enumerated therein, with some wiggle room contained in the necessary and proper clause. But against that lay the amendment no liberal wishes to acknowledge, the Tenth, which states that all powers not granted to the federal government by charter remain in the hands of the People, in the various states.

This is not a complicated scheme. It is merely inconvenient for liberals. What is complicated are the various arguments as to why the plain meanings of the document are not plain and all and should be read with explicitly opposite meanings.

What this jackass is arguing for, of course, is the proposition that because there are a few areas of legitimate dispute in the Constitution, that means the whole document is meaningless, and we can assign it any meaning we like, and of course the meaning he would like to assign it is directly contrary to those words we certain can understand: He would like to replace the basic system of promulgation of laws by the legislature, signed by the President, with a limited role for the Courts as argued by John Marshall, with a system is that is plainly against the clear meaning of the Constitution, that the Courts shall establish all laws, and always with a liberal agenda, or at least all important laws.

We citizens can, say, have input into whether the taxes on cigarettes shall be 90% or 92% or somewhere in between. Anything more fundamental than that is too important to be left to the people and their representatives in the national legislature, and can only be decided by an elite body with the wisdom and crucial technical expertise in one single area of life (legal interpretation) to make such judgments.

This gambit, then, essentially says that the Democratic Republic plainly conceived by the Constitution is in doubt, and therefore the Constitution must call for something else, which is of course, not democracy and not a republican form of government.

If only these wingnutz would understand the central message of the Constitution: People cannot be trusted to govern their own lives and require an appointed super-legislature of Learned Men to make their decisions for them.

Thanks to CuffyP.


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posted by Ace at 12:04 PM

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