By Gary Starr for the Neville Awards June 24, 2011
The attack on the Constitution has begun in earnest. With Obama's poll numbers in free fall, progressives see their golden opportunity to unfasten our republic from its constitutional moorings. For the last 100 years the law of the land has been under increasing assault by Progressives because of the restrictions that it puts on those in government.
The following numbers tell the tale:
Unemployment is at 9.1%
The debt is at 14.4 trillion.
Gas prices are hovering at $4.00 and Obama is desperately releasing 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Reserve.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke admitted that he doesn't know why the economy isn't bouncing back.
The misery index (9.1 percent for unemployment plus 3.6 percent for annualized inflation) is currently at 12.1%....the highest in 28 years.
Time is indeed running out on the socialist utopia. The only thing left to do is attack the Founders and the founding documents.
Progressives would like to see a "living and breathing" Constitution that can be shaped and molded to whatever happens to be in vogue politically (depending on which leftist dictator of choice is being courted by which Hollywood celeb) vs. our founding documents whose record of creating freedom, opportunity and prosperity is unparalled in human history.
Ronald Reagan reminds us:
"Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words: 'We the people.' 'We the people' tell the government what to do, it doesn't tell us. 'We the people' are the driver, the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. Almost all the world's constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which 'We the people' tell the government what it is allowed to do. 'We the people' are free. This belief has been the underlying basis for everything I've tried to do these past eight years."
Consider these remarks from these constitutional geniuses during the Obamacare debate:
House Speaker Nanci Pelosi (D) "CNSNews.com: Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate? Pelosi: Are you serious? Are you serious?
Ex-Congressman Phil Hare (D) "Congressman Phil Hare: I don't worry about the Constitution because I've studied the Commerce Clause and I'm confident we'll win in court. When pressed, he flatly says he doesn't know which part of the Constitution justifies the law, which is his way of saying he doesn't care and hasn't thought about it. In fact, the best he can do by way of legal authority is to cite life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - which of course comes from the Declaration of Independence. His response, when corrected? Congressman Phil Hare: Doesn't matter to me. Either one. Questioner: [regarding Obamacare] Where in the Constitution? Congressman Phil Hare: I don't worry about the Constitution to be honest with you. Questioner: Jackpot brother! Congressman Phil Hare: Oh, you know what I care more about, I care more about the people who are dying everyday who don't have healthcare. Questioner: You care more about that than the US Constitution? Congressman Phil Hare: I believe it says we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Audience Member: That's the Declaration of Independence. Congressman Phil Hare: That doesn't matter to me! Either one....
Congressman Pete Stark (D) "I think that there are very few constitutional limits that would prevent the federal government from rules that could affect your private life. The basis for that would be how would it affect other people. After the questioner asks what possible constitutional limits there are, then, if Obamacare can pass constitutional muster, Stark replies: The federal government yes, can do most anything in this country.
Congressman James Clyburn (D) "There's nothing in the Constitution that says that the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do. How about [you] show me where in the Constitution it prohibits the federal government from doing this.
And our personal favorite from The Fraudinator-in-Chief on WBEZ in 2002:
Obama: "If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court. I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order as long as I could pay for it I'd be o.k. But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the Federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn't shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendancy to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that."
But never fear...Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time Magazine, is here to weigh in on how pathetic the Tea Party and its obsession with the Constitution is.
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. (See the top 10 American political prodigies.)
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? The past decade, beginning with the disputed election of 2000, has been a long national civics class about what the Constitution means - and how much it still matters. For eight years under George W. Bush, the nation wrestled with the balance between privacy and security (an issue the framers contended with) while the left portrayed the country as moving toward tyranny. For the past three years under President Obama, we have weighed issues of individual freedom vs. government control while the right has portrayed the country as moving toward a socialist welfare state.
So according to Stengel the Constitution doesn't limit government and ObamaCare is constitutional.
Regular readers of Time magazine this week found in their mailbox yet another pile of leftist tripe in the vein of "the Constitution is a living document." This week's cover article by managing editor Richard Stengel is a freak show of anti-Constitutional babble including an assertion that the Constitution was not intended to limit government: "If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government, it sure doesn't say so...The truth is, the Constitution massively strengthened the central government of the U.S. for the simple reason that it established one where none had existed before."
One would have to go through the trouble of taking the Constitution seriously in order to demonstrate that, yes, the Constitution is supposed to limit government. Stengel writes "Article I, Section 8, the longest section of the longest article of the Constitution, is a drumroll of congressional power. And it ends with the "necessary and proper" clause." Stengel, who as former President and CEO of the National Constitution Center ought to know better, conveniently ignores that the enumeration of powers is itself a limitation on government. The need to list powers in the first place acknowledges that there are certain powers government does not have. Stengel demonstrates that he is well aware that the Framers were opposed to unlimited government, but his belief that limits on government were not a major concern is unfounded.
Stengel also gives scarce recognition to the 10th Amendment, which reserves powers all other powers the states and the people. If the Constitution were really designed to empower the federal government to do everything that liberals want to do, neither the enumerated powers nor the 10th Amendment would have been necessary, and the Framers need only have written the necessary and proper clause, and left it with that. NRO's John Pitney demolishes Stengel on this point rather concisely here.
Stengel at times also descends into sheer idiocy. "[The Framers] also gave us the idea that a black person was three-fifths of a human being." Nowhere does the Constitution say that black people are three-fifths of a person. The provision Stengel references was included to appease slave-holders, who actually wanted slaves counted the same as free whites so as to advantage their numbers in the House of Representatives. Contemporary opponents of slavery actually wanted this number to be zero rather than three-fifths.
Stengel even reaches to defend ObamaCare using the now strained car insurance defense, but he goes even further. "Supporters of ObamaCare note that it's not a mandate but, in effect, a tax, imposed on people who do not buy health insurance." Hilariously, this is an argument even liberal judges have thrown to the curb when the federal government defends ObamaCare under Congressional tax authority.
If there were any doubt that today's political and media class do not know enough about the Constitution, let that doubt now be absolved. Before the mainstream media next report on the American people's ignorance of American civics and history, they should do a bit of soul searching of their own.
And then there is the new darling of the Left, George Soros-buddy, CNN commentator and Obama advisor Fareed Zakaria. This America-hating clown has built his career with a silver tongue that spouts endless elitist Constitution-bashing.
His latest idea is that we should follow Iceland's lead and scrap the law of the land and replace it with a document built on "suggestions" from Twitter and Facebook users.
"The nation decided it needed a new Constitution and it's soliciting ideas from all of Iceland's 320,000 citizens with the help of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube," Zakaria says and writes. "This social media method has worked. Ideas have been flowing in. Many have asked for guaranteed, good health care. Others want campaign finance systems that make corporate donations illegal. And some just want the country to make shark finning illegal."
Fareed on CNN:Is it time to update the U.S. Constitution?
We all know how Americans revere the Constitution, so I was struck by the news that tiny, little Iceland is actually junking its own Constitution and starting anew using an unusual - some would say innovative - mechanism.
The nation decided it needed a new Constitution and it's soliciting ideas from all of Iceland's 320,000 citizens with the help of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. This social media method has worked. Ideas have been flowing in. Many have asked for guaranteed, good health care. Others want campaign finance systems that make corporate donations illegal. And some just want the country to make shark finning illegal.
There is a Constitutional Council. It incorporates some of these ideas, rejects others, but everything is done in plain sight on the web. As one member of the Constitutional Council said, the document is basically being drafted on the Internet.
Now, why do they need a new Constitution anyway? Well, after Iceland was crippled in recent years by the economic crisis, they all wanted a fresh start. And, anyway, they felt the document was old and outdated, drafted all the way back in 1944.
You might be tempted to say that Iceland doesn't have any reasons to be proud of its political traditions in the manner that the United States does. Well, think again.
Iceland is home to the world's oldest parliament still in existence, the Althing, set up in 930 A.D. The rocky ledge on which they gathered represents the beginnings of representative government in the world. So Iceland has reasons to cherish its history, and yet it was willing to revise it.
By contrast, any talk of revising or revisiting the U.S. Constitution is, of course, seen as heresy. The United States Constitution was, as you know, drafted in a cramped room in Philadelphia in 1787 with shades drawn over the windows. It was signed by 39 people.
America at the time consisted of 13 states. Congress had 26 senators and 65 representatives. The entire population was about one percent of today's number - four million people.
America was an agricultural society, with no industry - not even cotton gins. The flush toilet had just been invented.
These were the circumstances under which this document was written.
Let me be very clear here, the U.S. Constitution is an extraordinary work - one of the greatest expressions of liberty and law in human history.
One amazing testament to it is the mere fact that it has survived as the law of the land for 222 years.
But our Constitution has been revised 27 times. Some of these revisions have been enormous and important, such as the abolition of slavery. Then there are areas that have evolved. For example, the power of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, is barely mentioned in the document. This grew as a fact over history.
But there are surely some issues that still need to be debated and fixed.
The electoral college, for example, is highly undemocratic, allowing for the possibility that someone could get elected as president even if he or she had a smaller share of the total national vote than his opponent.
The structure of the Senate is even more undemocratic, with Wisconsin's six million inhabitants getting the same representation in the Senate as California's 36 million people. That's not exactly one man, one vote.
And we are surely the only modern nation that could be paralyzed as we were in 2000 over an election dispute because we lack a simple national electoral system.
So we could use the ideas of social media that were actually invented in this country to suggest a set of amendments to modernize the Constitution for the 21st Century.
Such a plan is not unheard of in American history.
After all, the delegates in Philadelphia in 1787 initially meant not to create the Constitution as we now know it, but instead to revise the existing document, the Articles of Confederation. But the delegates saw a disconnect between the document that currently governed them and the needs of the nation, so their solution was to start anew.
I'm just suggesting we talk about a few revisions.
Anyway, what do you think? Should we do this? And if we were to revise the U.S. Constitution, what would be the three amendments you would put in?
Let us know in the comment thread and we'll post the best ones on the Global Public Square.
Fareed on Charlie Rose, May 31, 2011:
Zakaria later denied that he suggested starting "anew." But by calling for amendment suggestions via social media and then portraying the Constitution as old and dusty, it seems the damage is already done.
Fortunately, amending or rewriting the constitution via social media is, in itself, unconstitutional as the document has a very specific process for adding amendments. If young Fareed would take the time to actually read the Constitution he might find that the document holds up quite substantially, even in these hyper-ideological times.
The bottom line is this...these progressives hate the Constitution because it stands in their way of achieving the people's utopia that they have been pining for since the time the Fabian Socialists, the Wilsonian progressives, the New Deal, the Great Society, and through to the Clinton and Obama nightmares.
This is probably the last chance for them. But Obama appears to be blowing it because of the endless spending, the debt and deficit, and the unemployment numbers.
Two of the Republican contenders are polling ahead of Obama. And this economy doesn't turn around on a dime, even if you do the things required to turn an economy around, which they are not.
Cutting spending and taxes is simply not in Obama's ideological DNA. We will lurch from calamity to calamity until November 2012 when, hopefully, sanity takes hold, and the progressives are, once and for all, consigned to the ash-heap of history.