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  • Constitutional Know-Nothings

    The 112th Congress has an unprecedented plan. They are going to read the Constitution-the document that each member will swear to uphold-aloud on their first day. When asked on MSNBC to comment, Washington Post writer Ezra Klein replied “It’s a gimmick. I mean, you can say two things about it. One, is that it has no binding power on anything. And two, the issue of the Constitution is not that people don’t read the text and think they’re following. The issue of the Constitution is that the text is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago and what people believe it says differs from person to person and differs depending on what they want to get done.”

    Take that, foolish members of Congress! According to Klein, the Constitution is unknowable, and is only a tool for people to push through idiosyncratic policy proposals. So much for that oath.

    But our Constitution’s history and origin is known. In his famous speech to the Federalist Society Annual Lawyers Convention in 1985, Former Attorney General Edwin Meese reminds us that the Constitution is not “buried in the midst of time.” It was not haphazardly written. The Constitution is a carefully drafted document: the Founders “proposed, they substituted, they edited, and they carefully revised.” The Constitutional Conventions’ discussions, disputes, and compromises carefully recorded. The Father of the Constitution, James Madison, wrote comprehensive accounts of the convention. “Others, Federalists and Anti-Federalists alike, committed their arguments for and against ratification, as well as their understandings of the constitution, to paper, so that their ideas and conclusions could be widely circulated, read, and understood.” Thus, thanks to the pamphlets, letters, and well-documented debates and drafting records from the founding, the meaning of the Constitution is, in fact, knowable.

    The Heritage Guide to the Constitution (published in 2005, recent enough that Klein may be able to understand it) offers a clause-by-clause explanation and analysis of the Constitution. In his opening essay, David Forte argues that “Written constitutionalism implies that those who make, interpret, and enforce the law ought to be guided by the meaning of the United States Constitution–the supreme law of the land–as it was originally written.” An originalist approach to the Constitution is not for the intellectually lethargic. The Constitution is a well-crafted document meriting a particular interpretive approach: “where the language of the Constitution is specific, it must be obeyed. Where there is demonstrable consensus among the Founders and ratifiers as to a principle stated or implied in the Constitution, it should be followed. Where there is ambiguity as to the precise meaning or reach of a constitutional provision, it should be interpreted and applied in a manner so as to at least not contradict the text of the Constitution itself.” The most interesting debates then, focus on the application of constitutional principles-not on whether these principles exist. This approach does not “remove controversy, or disagreement, but it does cabin it within a principled constitutional tradition that makes real the Rule of Law.”

    Contrary to Klein’s suggestion, when the members of 112th Congress swear to uphold the Constitution, they are taking on a great and noble task. Those who seek to use the Constitution to supply definitive policy proposals will search the text in vain. The Constitution does not purport to answer every policy question, but answers the question about how problems should be approached and solved in a democratic republic.

    Members of Congress must deliberate on tough issues and are obliged to consider how proposals before them accord with the Constitution. That document is not a legislative code inextricably bound to the eighteenth century, nor is it a mirror simply reflecting the thoughts and ideas of those who stand before it. It is “the supreme Law of the Land” which they are bound by oath to support and defend.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    34 Responses to Constitutional Know-Nothings

    1. Bobbie says:

      This person is proof of the dummying down of Americans. The American Constitution fits in all times. It needs strong leadership that understands and respects it's magnificence and has the respect to adhere to it.

    2. West Texan says:

      I've got one word, Brutus. Read it! It's for this one AF that brings meaning and foundational premise to our current constitution. Respectfully, West Texan

    3. West Texan says:

      The U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights was added to block such federal overreach into the domestic affairs of individual citizens and their respective states as has been witnessed since the turn of the last century. For this reason, all interpretations of the constitution should be supported by these first ten amendments which forms the keystone for the entire document. Contradictory follow-on amendments and administrative statutes must be targeted by congress for removal. When elected officials swear to uphold and defend the constitution, knowingly or not, their greatest custodial duty is to those ten basic rights.

    4. Anne Crickenberger, says:

      A lot this man Ezra Klein knows. Next to the BIBLE, and The Magna Charta; the Constitution is one of the most important and best written documents. It is still as viable and useful as it was 230 years ago. This is a "Freedom" document that has never be duplicated anywhere in the world. It was written to protect citizens of this country from a tyrant and a government like the one Obama has established in Washington. Watch and see how we bring this outlaw regime down, Mr. Klein. You will see how the workings of our Constitution really is for "We the People" not the liars and cheats that is now in our government!

    5. Ryan Colpaart, Austi says:

      I've decide to utilize my marginal bully pulpit in defense of what Ezra Klein was implying. He obviously was not clear enough, perhaps an analogy would do the trick :

      http://www.doubledutchpolitics.com/2010/12/ezra-k

    6. Lloyd Scallan (New O says:

      Haven forbid I should ever agree with ANYTHING said on MSNBC and in particually by Irza Klein, but in this case I agree this is more of the same old

      same old. This time by NEW Republican Congressmen.This is nothing more that pandering. The entire Constitution could be printed on each person's forehead, it would make little difference. For decades the true meaning of out Constitution has been lost in a maze of various court opinions, including the Surpreme Court. As an example just look at the second amendment. How many "opinions" have come out of the court rooms? This is exactly why it is so important that we stop Obama's appointments to any court of our land. He is delibertly appointing only those that have the same ideology as his to interpret the Constitution to fit his socialist agenda.

    7. 3rd Texas District, says:

      Your assertion, "Contrary to Klein’s suggestion, when the members of 112th Congress swear to uphold the Constitution, they are taking on a great and noble task." is true. It requires that the individual members who so swear embody the character and integrity to be worthy to be so bound by such a mandate. Sadly, for so many of the members in the past, this is not the case. They entered the legislative chamber with their own agenda, filled with self-importance and drunk on power. To compound those factors, the accepted level of corruption in the Congress and how it conducts business pulled each member further and further from their inherent foundation of integrity. I have great hopes for the 112th Congress. Realistically though, until we elect more members worthy to take on the sober legislative responsibilities and change the culture of corruption in both Houses, the people will continue to be the losers and lack for true representation.

    8. Blaine Price says:

      Exactly right west texan…One of the biggest chuck that was chipped off the constitution was the 17th amendment…how senators acquire office. the first step at chipping away states authority

    9. Alexander, Kings Mou says:

      A person who can read English should have no trouble understanding the Constitution. In fact, within the Bill of Rights( the first 10 amendments ) , a number of them start with : Thou shalt not…" Any legislation that is proposed that is contarary to one of those is clearly unConstitutional. For example, the First Amendment and the Second Amendment begins that way… so attempts to limit or abrogate free speech is unConstitutional. As for theSecond Amendment, it's a personal choice whether a person owns a gun or not… not a government fiat.

      By the way, the Constitution does not allow the government to promote a " state religion," but it does not set up a " wall " between church and state.

    10. Tours Martel, Castro says:

      Poor Ezra! Mistaken in life, and probably in death as well. Just as a point of order, the Constitution was ratified in 1789, making it over 200 years old. I strongly recommend that Mr. Klein take a class at the Hillsdale College Kirby Center in Washington, D.C. Ignorance is a curable affliction, even among liberal journalists. Honesty however may be more difficult to come by.

    11. Harald Weyrich, Cady says:

      "The issue of the Constitution is that the text is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago and what people believe it says differs from person to person and differs depending on what they want to get done.”

      Most people say the same about the Bible.

    12. Robert, Edmonton Alb says:

      Always remember for the left history began this morning then they never have to answer for their past failures.

      The funny thing Klein was described as a "wonk" by the host, meaning policy genius in today's usage. So this is what passes for a policy genius on the left. Oh wait I forgot conservatives are the dumb ones.

    13. Gwendolyn, North Car says:

      Where do these poor, dumb fools get their. so called, education/? Evidently, not in any School or Institution of higher learning that teaches anything about the History of the Unuted States of America. So, according to the talking head, our elected officials are taking an OATH on an outdated piece of parchment that DOESN'T MEAN A THING.. Nice to know! Ande we wonder what the world is coming to!

    14. Peter Demitraszek says:

      People who claim that the Constitution is not clear in its meaning are the same groups that are trying to destroy the very principals this Country was founded upon. I am only 51 years old and when I read the Constitution it is perfectly clear to me.

    15. erick, ny says:

      Good article. The one world government promoters do not want to be tied to the Constitution. Our children have been mis-educated in the publc sewer system. II Chronicles 7:14 is our only hope.

    16. Mike S. Southeast Pe says:

      I think a more updated English version should be created and that read aloud in the halls of Congress as well.

    17. Ed Funston, Mason Ci says:

      The article says that the Constitution was carefully written,

      and so it was, but not carefully enough, because it left the purse strings in the hands of Congress; thus, given the nature of the beast, virtually guaranteeing deficit spending and serial massive public debts. We need a Constitutional Amendment to fix it. Something like this would be a start–Congress shall not have power to pledge the full faith and credit of the United States to any note, bill or bond which matures and comes do and payable longer than 20 years after its date of issue. massive debt what we now face.

    18. Bob Diaz, L.A., Cali says:

      The Constitution and Bill Of Rights must be horrible to liberals, it keeps getting in the way of their new world order.

    19. Bill, Charleston WV says:

      The problem that I see is that there is no penalty for any politician or rule making bureaucrat for violating the Constitution. All that happens is that eventually, the legislation or rule may end up in the Supreme court, if the court determines that one has standing to bring the case, to determine its constitutionality (which is not in the Constitution). If overturned, the politicians or bureaucrats are not even chastised. There should be an amendment or law that establishes personal penalties for these violations and states that no part of the Constitution can be suspended or violated except in time of war or civil insurrection and then only if this is voted on by both houses of Congress and signed by the President.

    20. Jack Ryan, Eugene, O says:

      In keeping with American Heritage's high-standards of scholarship, this riposte to this latest eruption of liberalism's insufferable inanities is spot on!

      (Just one small aside: I'm guessing that most likely Atty. Gen. Meese said the Constitution is not "buried in the MIST(s) of time.")

    21. Russell Thayer says:

      I find your lack of insight regarding this issue to be profoundly disturbing.

      While I recognize the brilliance of the Constitution within the context of the time period in which it was written, I refuse to lend relevance to that which has none. Our so called 'unalienable rights' should be designed into a scientifically driven social system, not alluded to ambiguously on paper.

      While government bureaucrats argue about the dubious nature of a document written two-hundred and thirty years ago , thirty-thousand children are starving to death everyday. While supposedly responsible American Citizens blindly participate in an ostensible con game dubbed Democracy, Corporations and their subsidiaries are trampling the very rights that the Constitution supposedly established.

      Did any of you on this forum vote for the Patriot Act or the placement of a power plant? Did any of you democratically elect the cabinet of a new president? The answer, of course, is no. The only thing that you did was walk into a voting booth and pick from names that were preselected for you. After one of the said individuals was put into power you had no further role in the decision making process. Pardon me for saying so, but I believe you have all been duped.

      It is the corporations of America that have the final say on the affairs of our country. It is the corporations that own the politicians and clog the judicial system. If you truly have not realized this by now, I suggest you rub the sleep from your eyes and start taking the evidence into consideration.

    22. sky says:

      friendsofliberty.ning.com the home of modern american patriots click on the 13th amendment. WE THE PEOPLE ARE THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND

    23. Spiritof76, NH says:

      But this guy, Erza Klein, I am sure, understands communism well because Carl Marx wrote it very clearly 150 years ago- individual is the pawn and the state is the omnipotent and supersedes God. Useful idiots like him are preparing the way for a totalitarian governmental tyranny in America.

    24. Bob Ulmer Kentucky says:

      This young man making commentary is reflective of the attitude in Washington,DC about our Constitution and the lack of respect thereof? And you wonder why we (America) are in the situation we are in today! No respect,lack of honor,morality, ethics, and truth has gone by the wayside!

    25. Bill in Arkansas says:

      Ignorance is a curable condition, even among the liberal left. Honesty, however, is harder to reconcile themselves to face.

    26. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Free lunch and pie in the sky aren't new. What is new is the People believing in pie in the sky! That is a gut wrenching disappointment! These are Americans? Deeper than the Constitution, we are Citizen Sovereigns united under God! (Declaration Of Independance) Under God (and no one else!) The Progressive nightmare is the guarantee of never ending conflict because we actually are spiritual beings at liberty under God. We cannot be micro managed by government!

      The Progressive Agenda doesn't work, will never work. What we are going to get after Obama is done with his Dictatorship (shadow government) is gangsterism. The House must knock this out this year or else nobody will be able to stop it! So, sure as Hell do not be bipartisan and cooperate with Demo Crats (demoliton plutocrats). They are Constitutional criminals! The only cooperation Demo Crats give is for the completion of their Agenda. Prepare Republicans, the only thing they will give you is the Blame!

    27. Alan, Carthage NC says:

      I'm SO thankful that I can get my news and information from more than just the lame stream media. These "useful idiots" are not the least bit useful to a people that want America to flourish. Don't give up the fight for Liberty and Freedom, my Fellow Americans! Christians also should do as Christ commanded and "Occupy until I come." Don't give a single inch to the people who would have our nation to be just another third world country. We have been Blessed and if We turn our hearts to Him, He will restore America.

    28. Ken Moyes, Tucson, A says:

      Mr. Klein must be a progressive. They continually marginalize, abuse, and ignore our Constitution, because it stands in their way. However, they are winning. The Constitution is a document that places the supremacy of humanity over government. Progressives do the opposite.

      I have written a book-blog that can be read in under an hour – I make no money on it. I wrote it to help educate all Americans on what the constitution is and how it is under siege. http://www.republicof1789.com. I hope that those who moderate comments on this site will read my book-blog before deciding whether to dump my blog web address.

      Perhaps they will help me get this message to as many Americans as possible.

    29. Pingback: Congress acknowledges the Constitution | Cranach: The Blog of Veith

    30. Lynn Bryant DeSpain says:

      In order to understand the meaning of our Constitution, one must have the books available to the creators of this Document, that were written at the time of its creation, descibing the words used there in.

      Words have changed in their meaning over the past two hundred plus years, and many have failed to truly uphold our Contitution's meaning by not referring to the resources available to our founding fathers.

      Only by doing it thus wise, can anyone truly endevor to find just meaning. Our Constitution is not meant to adapt to our times, or any times after its creation, but to remain as if written in stone, never to be altered by the thoughts of men that come later. To do so would make the very creation of the Constitution meaningless, and worthless to all of this Republic's Citizenry.

    31. Jimmy7, Rockville MD says:

      This guy works for the Washington Post. 'Enough said?

    32. Erik, Utah says:

      This is an outrage! It pains me and this countries patriots deeply. Mr. Ezra Klein, in my opinon you are and you represent the most damaging seeds this country has bore. We The People must right our wrongs and raise our children in the most desccent and trustworthy ways we know. To ignore or discard The Constitution of The United States of America is treason! Denounce your citizenship Mr. Klein. You are the exact entity that our forefathers escaped and abolished from the lives of freedom and liberty. With all due respect to all free minds in this great country your words and opinions are welcome in any form, though you should count your blessings, and remember that if it wasn't for the Constitution, your opinion and treasonous tongue would yeild your head to the foot of the throne of the tyrant minds of slavery and dictatorship that The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of The United States of America has, w/ divine intervention, given you opportunity to speak. I wash my hands of you Sir. sincerely, Erik John Bettis… active constitutionalist in The Great United States of America. You won't Tread On Me.

    33. and2therepublic, ill says:

      "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." – Benjamin Franklin

      "Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong." – Thomas Jefferson

    34. Joe, US says:

      If the Constitution were a fixed object, there would be no need for a Supreme Court.

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