American Elephants

Oh, Those Annoying Founding Fathers! by The Elephant's Child

The Left is often annoyed by the Constitution because it places limits on the things they want to do. Remember how vexed they were when Speaker John Boehner began the first session of the new House of Representatives with a reading of the United States Constitution? Back in January last year, Seth Lipsky wrote a piece for the New York Post: “Why the Constitution Vexes the Left

At Salon, Michael Lind gives us a piece headlined, “Let’s stop pretending the Constitution is sacred.” Ezra Klein, a Washington Post blogger, told a TV interviewer that the reading was a “gimmick” and suggested the Constitution isn’t binding (though he later backpedaled).

And David Corn, under the title “The House GOP Weaponizes the Constitution,” argues that the Founding Fathers “wouldn’t cotton to lawmakers exploiting their well-crafted document and turning it into hollow political ammo.”

The reason for all this alarm is that taking the Constitution seriously threatens the whole liberal project. Liberals, with the Obama administration in the vanguard, want a vast expansion of federal power. Yet the Constitution grants the federal government only limited powers, and it enumerates them carefully, one by one.

Steven Hayward wrote today that “Liberals typically erupt in outrage if you suggest they don’t respect or understand the Constitution, let alone defend it. But then they let slip that in fact they really don’t respect or understand the Constitution.” Obama announced this weekend that “it turns out our Founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes.”  Yes, that is exactly what the Founders intended. Obama has been credited for teaching a class in Constitutional law at the University of Chicago, but I have also read that it was a class in civil rights law in which he largely taught Alinsky tactics. Steven Hayward said “Apparently he skipped over that whole ‘separation of powers’ stuff.”

It is clear that Obama has no respect for the separation of powers. What has brought much of the conversation about the Constitution is his decision to declare the Senate in recess and then make a “recess appointment” of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau authorized by the Dodd-Frank bill.  Trouble is, the Senate  was not in recess, and the appointment is unconstitutional. The Senate was careful to remain in session because they were unsatisfied with the lack of any legal restraint on this new bureau, nor on its head. He could, legally, do just about anything he wanted.  At the same time Obama made a recess appointment of three new members to the National Labor Relations Board. These three people had not even appeared before the Senate in contraindication to the law.

The Washington Post left-wing columnist E.J. Dionne explained today that people with whom he disagrees should not be able to buy ad space to explain their political views and candidate preferences to the public. He is, of course fulminating against the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, but it is not hard to find examples of the Left attempting to keep their opposition from voicing their opinions. That ancient bit about “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech” is really annoying.

Then Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told an Egyptian television audience that “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” Instead “I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights…” Leftists are always enthusiastic about human rights which are expanded to cover all sorts of things that governments cannot guarantee like housing, food, education, health care, transportation, dental care, all very nice to be sure. Egypt, for example, is about to run out of money. Their economy has been dependent on tourism, and they have scared any tourists away. A very large percentage of the population is dependent on the government for bread, the most basic foodstuff. What happens when the government runs out of money? Ginsburg went on:

When interpreting the Bill of Rights, a court, tribunal or forum must promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom; must consider international law; and may consider foreign law.

You would think that a Supreme Court justice would grasp that no one can guarantee equality.

Then, of course, Obama has ignored the First Amendment freedom of religion clause with his order that Catholic hospitals and schools must offer birth control, sterilization and the abortifacient morning-after pill to all of their employees or students, for free, in their health care policies.  A lot of Catholics may use birth control, but forcing them to pay for things that are against their  religious convictions is something else again. Other religious faiths are joining in, for they recognize the assault on the Constitution.  Obama has united Catholics and Protestants as never before.

And not to be outdone in trumpeting its leftist bona-fides, the New York Times chimed in yesterday:

The Constitution has seen better days.

Sure, it is the nation’s founding document and sacred text. And it is the oldest written national constitution still in force anywhere in the world.  But its influence is waning. …These days, the overlap between the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and those most popular around the world is spotty.

Americans recognize rights not widely protected, including ones to a speedy and public trial, and are outliers in prohibiting government establishment of religion. But the Constitution is out of step with the rest of the world in failing to protect, at least in so many words, a right to travel, the presumption of innocence and entitlement to food, education and health care.

They just don’t get the essential differences. I rather like this bit from John Steele Gordon’s Empire of Wealth:

Masterpieces created by a committee are notably few in number, but the United States Constitution is certainly one of them.  Amended only twenty-seven times in 215 years, it came into being just as the world was about to undergo the most profound—and continuing—period of economic change the human race has known.  The locus of power in the American economy has shifted from sector to sector as that economy has developed.  Whole sections of the country have risen and fallen in economic importance.  New methods of doing business and economic institutions undreamed of by the Founding Fathers have come into existence in that time, while others have vanished. Fortunes beyond the imagination of anyone living in the preindustrial world have been built and destroyed.  And yet the Constitution endures, and the country continues to flourish under it.

And all those constitutions around the world that are so popular…


%d bloggers like this: