• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • For Visitors, a Capitol Scandal

    Capitol Visitors Center (Photo by Tim Sloan/Newscom)

    It’s a scandal what Congress has arranged for the public to be taught inside its Capitol Visitor Center, the $621 million underground gateway and “educational experience” that opens Tuesday.In the Visitor Center’s Exhibition Hall, the theme is “E Pluribus Unum — Out of Many, One.” Initially,  words etched in marble called that stirring phrase the nation’s motto. A bad plaster job now covers the reference, someone having noticed that, well, “E Pluribus Unum” is not our national motto. “In God We Trust” is. But so far that’s notably absent, along with other references to faith.

    But what bothered me the most as I toured the Visitor Center on Tuesday at the request of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)  –  who first sounded the alarm last year on this politically correct outrage — is how the Visitor Center twists and distorts the Constitution.

    I thought the Constitution (because it says so) was about powers delegated to government by the people, who possess individual rights. Article I begins: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.” A written agreement on the extent (and limits) of those powers is critical to a government deriving its “just powers from the consent of the governed,” as the Declaration of Independence prescribes.

    “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare,” James Madison wrote, “the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.”

    Wrong, Mr. Madison. Congress’ new Visitor Center decrees the Constitution isn’t a list of powers but rather of “aspirations” Congress is expected to define and realize. The exhibit specifies six:

    1. Unity (as in “a more perfect Union” in the Preamble, which grants Congress no power).
    2. Freedom (based on the First Amendment, which begins with the words  “Congress shall make no law …”).
    3. Common Defense (from Article I, Section 8).
    4. Knowledge (authority to promote public education, support arts and sciences, fund extensive research).
    5. Exploration (to justify funding “curiosity and boldness” — like 4, this comes from a convoluted reading of the clause granting Congress the power to issue patents).
    6. General Welfare (found in Article I, Section 8’s restriction of the taxing power, but taken here to mean “improving transportation, promoting agriculture and industry, protecting health and the environment, and seeking ways to solve social and economic problems”).

    See for yourself. The Heritage Foundation has put the full text, including the script of  an orientation film, online.

    This exhibit is Congress’ temple to liberals’ “living Constitution,” the eternal font of lawmakers’ evolving mandate to achieve the nation’s ideals. No fixed meanings here, only open-ended “aspirations.” In this distorted view, the Constitution is an empty vessel, to be adapted to the times, as change requires. It means nothing — or anything.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    37 Responses to For Visitors, a Capitol Scandal

    1. Patrick W Brown, Tam says:

      If Congress can't turn something beautiful and meaningful into an abortion, then no one can!

    2. Robert, Maryland USA says:

      These kinds of ridiculous action will continue until Americans grow a spine, refuse to accept it and speak out.

    3. mary kirby says:

      Wow,this is scarier or should I say just as scary as Obama as our liberal president elect! How do we change this? How do we stop the bail outs? How do we stop Obama from starting his own military?

      We are not governed by the government. They are there to serve us and our interests!

    4. joseph f. tegze, NJ says:

      it's down right shamefull that the justice department did not step in to stop this injustice.

      what can I a private citizen do?

    5. Jared Hefti, La Cros says:

      What! This is crazy. I made the mistake of reading this article before work in the am, now I'm in a bad mood…nevertheless, at least James Madison got it right.

    6. James Poulsen-Viera, says:

      Thank you for pointing out the travesty that has taken place in the new Capitol Visitors Center and it's politically correct statements. We should demand this be stopped and corrected at once!

      The media has let us down, the Congress has let us down, the Supreme Court has let us down, every governmental institution has failed us and we sit here doing nothing-IT IS TIME TO TAKE ACTION AND REMOVE THESE INEPT REPRESENTATIVES!

    7. Dale Terry, Tennesse says:

      When I read articals regarding polictical correctness, I have to remind myself how corrupt this world has become. The great thing about being a christian is that I have hope. Not hope in man, but God. I don't want to explain my frustration from a wordly since, but from a christian point of view. God loves everyone wether they are white, black, muslim, jewish, etc. When I was a kid I was told by a preacher that if I believe in God and in the end there is no God, then I have nothering to loose. But, If there is a God and I denied him, then in the end I have everything to loose. I don't force my faith on to anyone. Why then are the rights that we have as God children are so easily question and removed from school and other location to allow the right of people with different believe become more dominent in our government?

    8. rudy campilii, hyde says:

      what has happened to our country, america? without a shot being fired, no invading army, no naval force launched against us and yet….we have handed over our liberty to hard task masters. i predict that in the first four years of the obama reign they will come up with a trumped up "crisis" they will have to simply suspend the constitution and voting rights. until the crisis passes of course this will all be done in national interest and will only be temporary, ha! ha! god help us all

    9. Jennifer Harris Elgi says:

      Why can't the truth simply be the truth? Why do we have to alter what our heritage is? How did so many agree to falsehoods because they want a different America? Why don't these people move to any of the socialist and probably European countries availabe? What can we do?

    10. Don Millar Fort A says:

      We Patriots have no say in such a perverted display and what it means. AND to have the guts to make a public display.

      GOD HELP AMERICA.

    11. Gabriel, Murfreesbor says:

      what can the public do about this?

    12. Ms. Edie Boudreau, P says:

      What can be done about this travesty? If an elected politician and a respected author can do nothing but protest to the populus via a Blog, what is the average citizen supposed to do?

      Who is responsible for the continuing revision of our national heritage on its monuments, in its textbooks, and via the MSM? If our own mediums do not tell us the truth about our politicians anymore, who can we trust? Have you expressed your outrage to the upper echelons of our executive and legislative officials? Have you filed lawsuits in our Supreme Courts–both State and Federal? Our beloved country is losing citizens' rights, historical constitution, and Amendment's freedoms on a daily basis. Do we all have to rise up and revolt against our government en masse? Do we need another Boston Tea Party? Please give us the possibilities!!!

    13. Kay B. Day, Jacksonv says:

      If they paid a writer, they got shorted considerably. Sad that this is the best that could be done with our remarkable history and our even more remarkable constitution. I can't really say this surprises me. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. And I have to add Jim DeMint, if we could clone him, would restore the GOP to a sturdier, more effective party.

      best, Kay B. Day

      The US Report

    14. Paul , Lakeland, FL says:

      Where did this come from? I don't believe that I read or saw anything in the MSM about this. But, like bailouts, RINO politicians, MSM and wolves in sheep's clothing(B. Hussein Obama), what, if anything can be done about it? I suppose the American people will ONCE AGAIN have to pull up their bootstraps and meet this problem head-on, like we always do!

      God Bless Our Soldiers!

    15. Phadras Espinoza, No says:

      Evil men rule when good men do nothing. We have allowed this to happen. The question now is what are we to do about it? This has gone too far to be undone by elections as our fellow citizens education has been dumbed down, politically corrected, and maladjusted to the point they are incapable of making a lucid electoral decision. Revolution is the only recourse we have my countrymen. Fear not as you are not alone. All political movements of substance advance from the bottom up not the top down and your concerns are held by most. Take heart in the words of our beloved Declaration of Independence, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government"…..Tis time to abolish this government.

    16. Dennis Aderholt says:

      America is no longer United. It is a country made up of individuals that want their way only. Divided we fall, United we stand. Look at the way people define themselves, African-American, Mexican American, Chinese_American, Japanese-American, the list goes on. What happened to the idea that we are all Americans, with equal rights under the Constitution? We now have politications that tell us what to think and when to think it. They also tell us what we can say and not say.They have re-written the Constitution to mean what they want it to mean, not what it stands for. What will the next four years with a liberal party in charge bring???? How many of the things do we take for granted now will we no longer have??? How much does the American people have to give up to be politically correct???

    17. Tony Hollick Bristo says:

      Reading the article, and the resulting comments, I am reminded that there is a tension, a difference of worldview, between the Founders and the Framers. George H. Nash's fine book "The Conservative Intellectual Tradition in America" reminds me of this.

      The American Revolution was intellectually inspired primarily by John Locke, Tom Paine, Thomas Jefferson and Montesquieu. It is difficult for Conservatives to look back to a Revolutionary origin.

      It is my considered view, which I invite others to think about, that the Founders would have written a different Constitution to the one that the Framers came up with.

      Anyone with a grasp of the fundamentals of a free society can see that a coach-and-four can be driven through the Constitution (and has been). There is no provision for a Fourth Branch which would stand between Legislators and the Statute book, to ensure that all new legislation meets all the requisite Constitutional criteria.

      Whilst the Common Law can (by and large) keep itself in order, and can be grasped by any adult of reasonable intelligence from First Principles, Statute Law is impossibly arbitrary and complex.

      The pernicious prectice of plea-bargaining ensures that only around five per cent of prosecutions even go before a Jury. A Fully Informed Jury has the power to find "Not Guilty" and void the Statute in question in the particular case before them.

      http://www.FIJA.org

      The Appellate path is long, arduous and extremely expensive. Increasingly, Judges are drawn from those of a prosecutorial mindset.

      This is disastrous for Justice and for Liberty.

      Tony Hollick

    18. Alex, Coral Springs, says:

      This is just the begining of what's to come. According to the last elections, I come to my own conclusion the thinkers of this great nation are dwindling. I see a bunch of zombies walking the streets. A good example; just watch MTV VH1 for a few moments and you'll see what I'm talking about.

      These politicians are just going to get away with things like this. This generation we have now are too far gone. No common sense whatsoever.

      I SOOOO wish that I was wrong, but I have a feeling I'm not. Anyway, I'm sure that we have a lot of God fearing folks that visit this wonderful web-site. So I'm sure you all know this is all written on the good book. God is the only one we should be focusing on.

      And for Phadras Espinoza; You're right. However, we're getting far outnumbered. Now they are starting to "dumb down" our kids in the schools. This is the point i'm trying to make. That's why I teach my daughter to be a thinker and not a follower. It needs to start at home if we are to have a fighting chance.

    19. amy roth, west new y says:

      Just one of the horrors of the new American era of representation without taxation. Not to mention representation without education! Ignorant people many of whom pay no taxes, and all of whom have been brainwashed since preschool by leftist teachers, who in turn were brainwashed by THEIR teachers and college professors, are now deciding elections. Their minions are planning and executing things like this new Capitol visitors' center. I guess the Bush administration must have appointed the woman who's running this new center, but the appointment was surely sop to the leftists who've been nipping at the administration's heels for eight years.

      What CAN we do other than blog and vote? It's senseless to talk to other people; their minds are snapped closed like steel vaults. Anything they hear that suggests their over-liberal cant is based on illusion and even outright lies, rather than facts and history, is met with scorn and dismissed with a sneer. I feel frustrated and impotent.

    20. Paul, Woodbury MN says:

      Every day we seem to be getting closer to what Tocqueville wrote in the 1830's in Democracy in America

      "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money"

      In my opinion, way too many people looking for a government solution to every problem life hands them.

      Paul

    21. Davis, Kansas says:

      The country belongs to those in control of public opinion: the media. As long as political correctness reigns supreme in a liberal media, history will continue to be forsaken in favor of liberal fraud. This is a problem not with liberals, however, but with conservatives and activism. Conservative viewpoints in the media are shrugged of as biased opinions, rather than fact. We okay this. We chide ourselves. We "know" that Rush, Bill and Ann are a little over the edge and move on. We need to instead correct the media when it is wrong, without prefacing our statements as from a conservative. Simply, our statements are the truth. We need to continue to educate children and young adults to be responsible citizen, ones that will eventually uphold what's left of the constitution.

      What's built is built. What's been said has been said. The future resides in those who take the time and make the effort to control public opinion. And for too long, that has not be conservatives.

    22. Gene Laabs McDonough says:

      Mr. Espinoza, Norman, OK has it right. Ultimately a revolution may be the only way to turn back the distruction of the constitution by our "representatives"! To begin start asking your elected congress why this is happening and let them know your vote is dependent upon their response. Then make it stick when voting. Second; numbers matter to politicians so the more people making their concerns known the more attention received. Study the actions taken by MLK and those who started the american revolution.

      Turning this country around will be long, hard work. Much damage has been done, but it can be accomplished. Let me know when we will have our first meeting at the site of "our" 621 mil $$$$$ Vistor Center Exhibition. I'll meet you there to help you "continue" the american revolution.

    23. Stuart, Pennsylvania says:

      Evil men rule when good men do nothing. Well put, Phadras and very fitting for this situation. My son asked me, what can one person do? I wonder…where do I start? I figure we must get educated and educate. I am not an expert on our nations history or the constitution. There in lies part of the problem, nationally. We (meaning me and others like me…) need to get the right information as soon as possible and then get the word out. It starts at home, with family and friends then into our communities. We must band together to protect what those before us fought so hard to get – FREEDOM. It's time to wake the neighbors… any suggestions on a next step?

    24. Gregory, Washington, says:

      I am confused. The original motto of the United States was "E Pluribus, Unum". The Framers were quite intentional on that idea. This is a country very specifically founded around the ideal that God is pre-eminent but not incorporated into our government.

      "In God We Trust" wasn't coined until almost a century later.

      What is the concern here? Our Constituion is a set of goals, or "aspirations" for all of us. There should never be a day when we do not believe that the incredible ideals laid out in this document have been fully realized. They never will be. We constantly have to work to improve the lives of every citizen and non-citizen of this country.

      I fundamentally disagree with anyone that takes a narrow and static view of the Constitution. It never was intended to be a snapshot of the 18th century. It is a manifest of the greatness of this country and the hope of what we can achieve.

      As far as the Visitor Center goes, it's an egregious waste of money. But, shockingly as someone who lives in this city, Members are by no means the most humble group of men and women. I see this as a monument to them, not to the country and the Constitution.

    25. Barry Schumann, Ft. says:

      What constitution? We have disassembled this great document for the last 20 years until it is no longer even discussed or defended. What about "homeland security" and its abuses, how about the bail-outs and their blatant abuse…and last but not least, Obama's citizenship? Where are the suits when they are real and needed? Words and speaking out is useless, we are looking at a revolution…again.

    26. ImNotaWitch, Alexand says:

      Gregory,

      "We constantly have to work to improve the lives of every citizen and non-citizen of this country."

      Uh, non-citizens are just that; non-citizens. How do we improve their lives? By ensuring they become citizens first.

      Don't forget that.

      ImNotaWitch

    27. Ann, Minnesota says:

      Wow. I feel absolutely NO obligation to improve the lives of NON-citizens. We really need to get our mental feet back on solid reality-based ground and stop accepting responsibility for stuff we are not responsible for; and, if possible, resume responsibility for things we should be responsibility (like protecting our Constitution–especially since our elected representatives don't seem to be too concerned)

    28. Pingback: Today’s Outrages

    29. Pingback: Snowflakes in Hell » Blog Archive » Congress Gets it Wrong

    30. Cheri Meulendyk, Pho says:

      This is a real heartbreaker. Thanks for the heads up at least-I will go emotionally braced. This, by the way, can not be allowed to stand. CM

    31. Steve from Arizona says:

      I actually looked at the transcript linked in this post. I encourage others to do so too, rather than letting Mr. Spalding do their reading for them. I find myself wondering what he is so worked up about. The transcript contains no argument that the Constitution equals this list of aspirations given. Where did that come from? There is just a heading, "National Aspirations," followed by the list indicated, with examples. That makes for a "scandal"?

    32. shirley says:

      and I thought I was the only one who noticed the erosion of our rights. Now I know I am not suffering from paranoia. Someone is trying to destroy our country, and just like fruit I believe from the inside out. We need to be frighten to death.

    33. Thomas Jefferson, Mo says:

      Gregory, I'm very old and this will take some considerable effort, but I would like to speak:

      "On every question of construction [of the Constitution] let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed."

      –Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823

      And here's a word from my colleague James Madison:

      "Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government."

      – James Madison

      All right Mr. Washington, you may speak too:

      "If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates, but let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed."

      – George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

      Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to rolling over in my grave…

    34. G Jiggy says:

      This is a absolute crime on every level. But this is also a reflection of where we now are as a country. We have let our elected representatives become a ruling class of elites marching to their own leftist agenda regardless of what you or I think.

      I think that Harry Reid expressed it fully about this project:

      "My staff tells me not to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway," said Reid in his remarks. "In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol."

      He knew what he was saying and he said it anyway without fear of retribution. Well folks, he's just voicing what he thinks of the American voter in general. Very little other than a smell.

      Welcome to the New United States.

    35. R. Harris says:

      I suggest that, 'Steve from Arizona' take some remedial reading and then go read the actual U.S. Constitution

    36. Kate TN says:

      I want my money back!

    37. Pingback: Capitol History Lesson, Revisited « Conservative Thoughts and Profundity

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×