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Posted at 3:57 PM ET, 12/30/2010

Yes, the Constitution is binding

By Ezra Klein

This morning, I gave a quick interview to MSNBC where I made, I thought, some fairly banal points on the GOP's plan to honor the Constitution by having it read aloud on the House floor. Asked if it was a gimmick, I replied that it was, because, well, it is. It's our founding document, not a spell that makes the traitors among us glow green. It's also, I noted, a completely nonbinding act: It doesn't impose a particular interpretation of the Constitution on legislators, and will have no practical impact on how they legislate.

The rather toxic implication of this proposal is that one side respects the Constitution and the other doesn't. That's bunk, of course: It’s arguments over how the Constitution should be understood, not arguments over whether it should be followed, that cleave American politics. The Constitution was written more than 223 years ago, and despite the confidence various people have in their interpretation of the text, smart scholars of good faith continue to disagree about it. And they tend to disagree about it in ways that support their political ideology. I rarely meet a gun-lover who laments the Second Amendment's clear limits on bearing firearms, or someone who believes in universal health care but thinks the proper interpretation of the Commerce Clause doesn't leave room for such a policy.

But my inbox suggests that my comments weren't taken that way: The initial interpretation was that I'd said the Constitution is too complicated to understand because it was written a long time ago, and then, as the day went on, that I'd said the document itself is nonbinding. I went back and watched the clip -- or at least the part someone clipped and sent me, which is above -- and thought I was clear enough. But when a lot of people misunderstand you at once, the fault is usually yours. So if I was unclear: Yes, the Constitution is binding. No, it’s not clear which interpretation of the Constitution the Supreme Court will declare binding at any given moment. And no, reading the document on the floor of the House will not make the country more like you want it to be, unless your problem with the country is that you thought the Constitution should be read aloud on the floor of the House more frequently. In which case, well, you're in luck!

By Ezra Klein  | December 30, 2010; 3:57 PM ET
 
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Comments

by definition, aren't the insights of professional bloggers banal?

Posted by: cdosquared5 | December 30, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Somewhere, Dave Weigel is smiling and Matt Yglesias opened a second bag of Doritos.

Posted by: cdosquared5 | December 30, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

In sports, it never hurts to stop and read the rule book before the season starts does it?

Posted by: CarlosHawes | December 30, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Your remarks DID seem pretty clear. You find the constitution confusing because it's more than 100 years old. Here are a few other documents that are more than 100 years old: Moby Dick, The Song of Hiawatha, Frankenstein, The House of the Seven Gables, and A Christmas Carol. Do you find all of these confusing, too? If you do, college must have gotten easier since I graduated.

What part of "Congress shall make no law ..." don't you understand?

Posted by: AnEngineer1 | December 30, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Your remarks DID seem pretty clear. You find the constitution confusing because it's more than 100 years old. Here are a few other documents that are more than 100 years old: Moby Dick, The Song of Hiawatha, Frankenstein, The House of the Seven Gables, and A Christmas Carol. Do you find all of these confusing, too? If you do, college must have gotten easier since I graduated.

What part of "Congress shall make no law ..." don't you understand?

Posted by: AnEngineer1 | December 30, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Ezra..no, not buying your excuse.. You just exposed your total immaturity, ignorance of the history of your nation and your true beliefs of what the Constitution means to you. You, my friend, are a young punk, who benefits from the Constitution but would not know what it truly means even if it slapped you in the face. The really sad thing is that sheeple progressive young people actually take you seriously.. I invite, no I beg of you, that you contact me at shortpastor@gmail.com. You are not too far gone. Rev. Joe Reynolds, Biloxi, Ms

Posted by: shortpastor1 | December 30, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

"I thought I was clear enough." I agree, and agree that it's a gimmick that will look silly very soon (except perhaps to those for whose benefit the gimmick is being used) but clarity hardly matters in these matters. You've opened yourself to several days of vigorous weasel wrestling, and probably a couple of years of occasional singling out as a leftist Constitution hater. Try to enjoy it.

Posted by: bdballard | December 30, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I have a far better and more productive idea. I think they should go ahead and read the Constitution as promised and THEN read the full text of Stone and Seidman's wonderful textbook, "Constitutional Law, 6th Edition." That should keep them out of trouble for a couple of months!!!

Posted by: agoldhammer | December 30, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

It's probably a good idea to read it out loud as I suspect quite a few members of the House never have read it before (I am serious here).

The danger is that when some parts of it are read (particularly that 10th amendment thing), some heads on the left side of the aisle may suffer mental breakdowns. Better have counsellors standing by just in case.

Posted by: CarlosHawes | December 30, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps you should put a little more thought into what you want to say.

Posted by: retired_max | December 30, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, it is mostly a poor word choice with "confusing." It sounds like you think the language is archaic. Whereas people not only understand the language but also attempt to claim 100% certainty on a array of topics from a few words in the Constitution.

A better phrase would've been "somewhat ambiguous" or "open to interpretation." Maybe "Talmudic."

The point is moot since the conservative twitter storm could've just read the blog.

@Chris_Gaun
chrisgaun@gmail.com

Posted by: chrisgaun | December 30, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, do you remember your history classes? The Magna Carta had its beginnings back in 1215, and is still part of British law. It was also an inspiration for our own United States Constitution.

How is it then that our Founding Fathers could correctly interpret a document over 500 years old, but we today cannot fathom the meaning of a document that is only 223 years old? Has the English language changed that much? Does freedom today mean something totally different than it did when the Magna Carta was written?

The Constitution of the United States is NOT confusing...unless you are a lawerly type who would wrangle over the meaning of the word *is*.

Posted by: Enola1 | December 30, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I see the wingnut bloggers have their panties all up in a twist. Don't assume you are dealing with rational human beings and bother trying to explain your position, it won't make any difference. They are receiving your views as interpreted by the geniuses at Malkin and Breitbart's asylums, logic and facts do not apply.

This is yet another example of why you shouldn't feed the trolls.

Posted by: wirro | December 30, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

You were perfectly clear, but those who wish to interpret your statement otherwise will do so.

Posted by: AuthorEditor | December 30, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Nice try with the back-peddling Ezra. The document is confusing? Only a mindless liberal would say that about the document our great nation was founded upon. If it's so difficult for you to understand, I suggest you read it s.l.o.w.l.y. with a dictionary, thesaurus and any other tools to help you understand this very confusing document.

They should open every Congress with its reading. Maybe the libs who would dismantle our country and infringe upon our freedoms might get a clue.

Posted by: ladycatnip | December 30, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad people are bringing up Frankenstein and the Magna Carta so we can keep focused on the issue of Ezra being perhaps less than clear on live television. But he'll face a much bigger problem when the Republicans read the Constitution and realize the word "blog" isn't in it.

Posted by: crosspalms | December 30, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse


Hey, I bet Ezra fully understands the two hundred year old writings by that fella named Karl Marx.

Look, let's put the cards on the table. What Ezra finds confusing is the clear language of the constitution that which he disagrees. Note his example of the 2nd amendment in the original article. It's only confusing because he believes in firearm prohibition.

At least Barrack Obama was honest while on a Chicago talk radio show (before he was a even a senator) when he explained the US constitution is a document which expresses negative rights, while he is an advocate of positive rights. His philosophical thoughts on the intent of the constitution, respectively explains his legislative and executive law-making and governing.

Posted by: JoeBjr | December 30, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

This Ezra Klein sounds no different than a typical Beltway politician, they sign off on legislation they do not (or cannot) read as well.

Posted by: HerbertDaringDashwood | December 30, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Ezra is being a Constitutional scholar today? Look, the Constitution is a simple document meant to be modified. Those changes were not meant to come from judiciary or the whims of congress based on what is practical at the time. If, as Ezra says, we should alter the Second Amendment based on expediency, then why not establish an official religion because it would be a good thing to do? There is a process and we should follow it.

Posted by: bobsteph1234 | December 30, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Ezra is being a Constitutional scholar today? Look, the Constitution is a simple document meant to be modified. Those changes were not meant to come from judiciary or the whims of congress based on what is practical at the time. If, as Ezra says, we should alter the Second Amendment based on expediency, then why not establish an official religion because it would be a good thing to do? There is a process and we should follow it.

Posted by: bobsteph1234 | December 30, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Pretty poor choice of words on Ezra's part, although to be honest if someone asked me, "is this a stunt?" it would have taken me a minute for my brain to accept that fact that they were actually asking in seriousness.

It's great that this gaggle of WaPo commenters have solved the whole issue of constitutional interpretation. I'm sure legal scholars across the nation are eagerly awaiting their report.

Ezra, I have a link that I'd suggest all commenter read before posting:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect

Posted by: bjrubble | December 30, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Interesting comments from the conservatives here.
I think they either have not read the Constitution recently, or interpret it the way they want, and will not consider any other interpretation.

But, then, conservatives tend to distain facts and reality.

Posted by: grat_is | December 30, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Man, the world is filled with idiots, and so, it seems, is this comments section.

Posted by: MosBen | December 30, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

The people who wrote our Constitution were plain and simple folk who wrote what they meant and felt that logical people would have no trouble understanding what it meant.
The trouble is that liberals and Democrats want it to mean something that it does NOT say.... So they appoint advocates to be justices and to devine that the Constitution says something that it does NOT say.

The Constitution says what it says and means what it says. Only those who want to mis-interpret what it says need someone to interpret it in the first place.

Liberals are forever monkeying around with the document "trying" to mistake what the document says.

People such as Ezra Klein and assorted propagandists, Socialists and Marxists actually serve no purpose at all in a civilized society and as such should not be tolerated by citizens who do not wish to loose their Constitution, and therefore their country, to this politically correct bunch.

Unfortunately for America, Barack Obama proved, once in office, to be a member of this very same mindset who is out to destroy the Constitution. Any man who says, and Obama did say, that America is the greatest country on earth and must be fundamentally changed not only serves NO useful purpose but is dangerous in the extreme to every other freedom loving American and should be removed from where he can do harm to where he is harmless.... And the same goes for Ezra Klein too.

Posted by: ronbet523 | December 30, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

The people who wrote our Constitution were plain and simple folk who wrote what they meant and felt that logical people would have no trouble understanding what it meant.

The trouble is that liberals and Democrats want it to mean something that it does NOT say.... So they appoint advocates to be justices and to divine that the Constitution says something that it does NOT say and means something it does NOT mean.

The Constitution says what it says and means what it says. Only those who want to mis-interpret what it says need someone to interpret it in the first place.

Liberals are forever monkeying around with the document "trying" to mistake what the document says.

People such as Ezra Klein and assorted propagandists, Socialists and Marxists actually serve no purpose at all in a civilized society and as such should not be tolerated by citizens who do not wish to loose their Constitution, and therefore their country, to this politically correct bunch.

Unfortunately for America, Barack Obama proved, once in office, to be a member of this very same mindset who is out to destroy the Constitution. Any man who says, and Obama did say, that America is the greatest country on earth and must be fundamentally changed not only serves NO useful purpose but is dangerous in the extreme to every other freedom loving American and should be removed from where he can do harm to where he is harmless.... And the same goes for Ezra Klein too.

Give the Constitution to a smart fifth grader if you truly want to know what the Constitution says and means!!

Posted by: ronbet523 | December 30, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

The Preamble includes: "...establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..."

I understand this to mean a Socialist State.
Because it means the government is supposed to help ALL the people.

Pretty Clear to me.

Posted by: grat_is | December 30, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

The fact that someone would say that the word "blog" is not in the Constitution merely proves that they are ignorant of the facts. Article 1 of the Bill of Rights specifically prohibits the Congress from making any law that prohibits the free expression of people through the freedom of speech provision. A blog is nothing more than one type of expression that is covered by the Bill. The distortion Ezra continues in regard to the second Amendment is nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of every card carrying liberal. But you can argue with the Supreme Court if that thought bothers you so much. Even in the darkest days of liberal control, they have never argued in a successful manner to undo that Amendment.

Posted by: OldNavyChief | December 30, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Excrement Klein, you inferred the constitution was impossible to understand, because it was more than 100 years old, I've not met one person who has a hard time understanding it, it's patently clear what it states and what it means. Perhaps you don't care for the rights, freedoms and protections it provides, but that's your problem, just as it was Hitler, Marx, Stalin, Lenin, Mao and other tinpot dictator's problem. When you think about it, Saul Alinksy's insane rants that you become masturbatory over, if he were still alive, he'd be more than 100 years old, and he was a fascist.

Posted by: jenn3 | December 30, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse


Interesting comments by the progressive liberals.

Tell you folks this, I have a contract for us to sign. BTW, it's a "living contract" and I can reinterpret it as I please or an agent of my choice can do it for me. You interested in signing it? Yet I, as a free man (indeed acknowledge by the framers of the constitution) am expected by you to agree to a social document that can be reinterpreted via political expediency or convenience (notice I didn't say amended, a different process altogether) which then puts my freedom at risk? Ummmm, I don't think so.

It's quite interesting how liberal progressives clamored on and on about constitutionality under G. W. Bush (you would have thought they were suddenly strict constructionist), but now that their tribe holds the reins of power, we're back to the "living document" thesis. Obviously....

Posted by: JoeBjr | December 30, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

reading the constitution in congress is a capitulation to the tea party movement.
it is all smoke and mirrors.
this is a staged gesture, and disingenuous at that.
perhaps it is a good thing, since boehner was reciting from the declaration of independence, by mistake. what a sadness for all americans who heard him, especially people in fifth grade.
i suppose if you read the constitution in congress, it signifies you are a more patriotic american, just as if you put a "not of this world" sign on the back of your car, it signifies you are a better christian....even though you just cut someone off.
with many of the people we have now, as elected officials, reading the constitution will just confuse them further.

Posted by: jkaren | December 30, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Meh, I wouldn't have phrased it the way you did there, but seeing all the willful, gleeful misinterpretation of this in the comments here is pretty annoying. Find something more productive to do, people.

Posted by: Chris_O | December 30, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Yes, it's a gimmick and non-binding. But who knows, maybe it's the start of a quaint, new tradition. They all gotta start somewhere. Still, can't wait to see if they hold their nose at places they don't like.

At any rate, it's a slow news week (as evinced most recently with the Michael Vick kerfuffle.) I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

Posted by: Hieronymous | December 30, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

The thing that the Right will not say is that Constitution is a vote in favor of government. It was a recognition that the Articles had failed. It was time to organize and protect the country under a Federal Government, with laws and obligations that we would all share. It was not a throwing off of a foreign oppressive government as the Declaration was. This document says we can gather, debate and write laws, enforce them to our benefit . . . through an organized, STRENGTHENED Federal government. And that we would have the patience and sense to fine tune the democracy. Ben Franklin, for one wasn't sure we could do it. And he never dreamed of a thing called Drudge.
SteveBrodner
Brodnersbicycle.com

Posted by: stevebrodner | December 30, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Ok, conservatives, if the constitution is so very simple, what does this mean:

"To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;"

What constitutes interstate commerce? Are there any limits to the regulations that can be imposed?

How about that little bit about Congress' power to provide for the "general Welfare" of the United States. What does that mean?

Riddle me this, if it was so very simple, why are there still huge debates about the meaning of any number of clauses within it?

Posted by: Scientician | December 30, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I will say it's better than opening sessions of a legislative body with a prayer.

Posted by: Scientician | December 30, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Those dusty Gutenberg books aren't worth much either and that Ming vase is certainly only good for an ashtray. That's the problem, if it's "old" it can't be worth much these days. Maybe if we instilled some pride in tradition and appreciation of history, we wouldn't be in the state we're in now. For starters, this "hundred-year-old" document should be required reading in school in all 57 states. Well, I got to go...the euthanasia squad is at my door. Seems I'm too old to be useful any more.

Posted by: druid9855 | December 30, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

"And they tend to disagree about it in ways that support their political ideology."

Yes, exactly. The trouble is, there is no way to express in the written word an idea that cannot be misconstrued deliberately by people intent on doing so, in order that they may twist the meaning - arriving instead at a meaning diametrically opposed to the author's intent - to suit their agenda. Therefore, the responsibility for keeping the meaning and intent of the Constitution intact falls to the people, not the legislators or judges.

Consider Madison's words (they're over 100 years old, so email me if you need help understanding them):

“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

"Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”

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

One might suppose, as the Father of the Constitution, he knew what he was talking about. To deliberately interpret the Constitution in a fashion contrary to its intended meaning in order to prop up an agenda is sophistry. The people are growing mighty sick and tired of this game.

So, whence cometh federal entitlement and welfare programs? These are relatively recent developments...less than 100 years old.

Posted by: BrianT1 | December 30, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

I grow tired of seeing and hearing Mr. Klein's incessant pontifications. While he may well be reasonably intelligent, IQ is no substitute for experience when it comes to having some semblance of rational perspective.

To me, this person--who is in his early 20's--is little more than a pretentious, precocious, child, who has not lived on this Earth nearly long enough to justify the public nature of his adolescent ramblings. Come back when your at least 40, Ezra, then we'll talk...

Posted by: bfpaine09 | December 30, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I grow tired of seeing and hearing Mr. Klein's incessant pontifications. While he may well be reasonably intelligent, IQ is no substitute for experience when it comes to having some semblance of rational perspective.

To me, this person--who is in his early 20's--is little more than a pretentious, precocious, child, who has not lived on this Earth nearly long enough to justify the public nature of his adolescent ramblings. Come back when your at least 40, Ezra, then we'll talk...

Posted by: bfpaine09 | December 30, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, watch your use of pronouns if you want to reduce misunderstandings. Beyond the interview, just count the "its" in the first para of your posting--you ask the reader to know when "it" is the GOP plan and when "it" is the Constitution--I track you, but you're just asking for "it!"

Your comments were, in fact, banal as you said! I think it's interesting how people have no problem whatsoever in understanding precisely what the Constitution says, but disagree with each other and claim there's no ambiguity. Just the little "militia" clause causes everyone on all sides problems--Ezra Klein reads the words as obviously imposing a severe limitation on a right (i.e., reads words into the clause). Others pretend the clause doesn't even exist, often divining their own limitations (the amendment says no tanks or bazookas?) or the Founding Father's real reasoning (the amendment says handguns for home protection?). In fact, the words are ambiguous and reasonable people reach different conclusions. "It" happens.

Posted by: pjro | December 30, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

@BrianT1 quoted Madison as saying: "Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”

Quick Googling reveals this quote had nothing to do with "charity" per se, but using tax money to assist with Haiti and Haitian refugees. Apparently, the money was eventually expended.

Anyway, interesting exercise in taking quotes out of context. I especially love it when folks use Jefferson, who never said half the things folks attribute to him.

Posted by: Hieronymous | December 30, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

You can't get any more stupid than this idiot.

This moron doesn't even know when the Constitution was written and yet he has the audacity to criticize it? Typical liberal progressive idiot dirtbag.

Posted by: tedrush | December 30, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Gaffetastic performance Ezra. We all know your disdain for the founding principles of this country; this just confirms it.

Congressional member have sworn to uphold the Constitution, so why is reading it out loud such a problem for you?

Is this about empiricism or ideology? Just call them racist, it doesn't matter if it's true or not!

Posted by: soma_king | December 30, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

As a progressive*, I see conservatives as having a reading comprehension deficit when it comes to anything at all and especially to the Constitution.

*(http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1061.html)

Posted by: denim39 | December 30, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

The Constitution is very important:

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2010/12/the-constitution-is-very-important.html

Posted by: radioone1 | December 30, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Ezra

You are full of it


You like the Constitution when it supports the bogus liberal agenda


However you DISRESPECT the 2nd Amendment, the 10th Amendment and the Interstate Commerce clause


Your attitude is a joke and if the Washington Post had any integrity they would fire you.


Case closed.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 30, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

"How about that little bit about Congress' power to provide for the "general Welfare" of the United States. What does that mean?"

Scientician -- you are an idiot. The Constitution does not give Congress the power to provide for the general welfare. Rather it is a part of the preamble. You should get your facts straight before lecturing others.

Posted by: grabowcp | December 30, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, not GREEN ~ it's RED. You guys grow RED in the shadow of the Constitution!

Posted by: muawiyah | December 30, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, not GREEN ~ it's RED. You guys glow RED in the shadow of the Constitution!

Posted by: muawiyah | December 30, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, permit me to help you out sir.

The really important features of our Constitution are much more than 200 years old . . . in fact, they have roots in an idea that was codified in the Magna Carta in 1215. The idea was that folks could sit down with their government and define a relationship between the government and the governed . . . on a silly piece of paper. But of course, only honorable individuals could be expected to craft such a document and then act on the ideas contained therein . . .

The second (and most important) point was codified in our constitution and explained to us by MANY astute observers. Suggest you check out "The Law" by Frederic Bastiat. It's free on the internet.

Our constitution sets forth the simple-idea that nobody has the right to attack the property or person of any honorable individual by either force or fraud. This is called LIBERTY. The idea that has been around for thousands of years. The framers of our Constitution were very late bloomers for incorporating it into our own national purpose.

So Ezra, check out article 1, section 8 of the Constitution and favor us an analysis of what's hard to understand. I'd also be interested in hearing your analysis on the purpose of law as a tool for the protection of liberty . . . as opposed to a tool for its destruction.

Any assertions about these two ideas being somehow confusing or inappropriate to modern times is astounding . . .

Posted by: nuckollsr | December 30, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Grabowcp:

"Scientician -- you are an idiot. The Constitution does not give Congress the power to provide for the general welfare. Rather it is a part of the preamble. You should get your facts straight before lecturing others."

Is Article 1, Section 8 part of the preamble now?

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States;"

It sounds like this reading the constitution thing is worth doing. All these literalists don't even know what's in it.

Posted by: Scientician | December 30, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

@Hieronymous: Quick Googling reveals this quote had nothing to do with "charity" per se, but using tax money to assist with Haiti and Haitian refugees. Apparently, the money was eventually expended.


Sorry but a through "Googling" shows it to originate from a speech given by Madison on the floor of the House of Representatives, during the debate "On the Memorial of the Relief Committee of Baltimore, for the Relief of St. Domingo Refugees"

Try paying attention and try to understand constitutional history. Madison is considered the "father of the constitution" and for good reason. If he thought that the constitution did not grant the government the right to use the people's money for such purposes, why should I conclude that you and other progressive liberals (some 200 plus years later) knows better than he?

Posted by: JoeBjr | December 30, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

@Hieronymous
The quote isn't out of context. Where is the power to expend taxpayer dollars on behalf of anyone in a charitable context -- constituents or foreigners -- listed in Article I Section 8? It isn't there. A quick refresher of 10A:

"The powers not delegated to the United States [federal government] by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Whether the money was raised or not is moot. The issue is whether or not it was in Congress' legal authority to do it, and it was -- and is -- not.

Care to try picking apart the other two quotes?

Posted by: BrianT1 | December 30, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Klein, you a buffoon! One of the purposes of an education is to be able to read documents written before, like yesterday, and not be confused by them. Perhaps the Constitution would make more sense to you if you had actually read some of the authors whose works informed the Founders: John Locke, Montesquieu, Machiavelli, Hume, Hobbes, Smith, the ancient historians and philosophers, and so on. Of course, they're over 100 years old as well, so perhaps not suitable for a current mindlet like yours....

Posted by: catorenasci | December 30, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

"The rather toxic implication of this proposal is that one side respects the Constitution and the other doesn't."

Yes, I think Nancy Pelosi has shown she does not respect the Constitution and cannot be bothered to consider it. I think she is not alone in that attitude.

Posted by: InDurham | December 30, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Actually the quote of Madison just goes to prove what idiots the conservatives posting here are. Even in the days of the founders, they didn't all agree what the document meant, and debated seriously over it.

It should go without saying that Madison's intentions and beliefs about it are not actually the final word. He wasn't King and many others had hands in the writing and ratification of the document. Everyone who voted to ratify it had an understanding of what it meant, and their interpretations matter just as much as his.

Posted by: Scientician | December 30, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

@Scientician,

All one needs to do is understand the phrase "general welfare" as it was commonly used then, not as it is used now.

From the 1828 edition of Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language. Here is how the word "welfare" was defined 40 years after it was written in the Constitution:

WEL´FARE, n. [well and fare, a good going; G. wohlfahrt; D. welvaard; Sw. valfart; Dan. velfærd.]

1. Exemption from misfortune, sickness, calamity or evil; the enjoyment of health and the common blessings of life; prosperity; happiness; applied to persons.

2. Exemption from any unusual evil or calamity; the enjoyment of peace and prosperity, or the ordinary blessings of society and civil government; applies to states.


So as I read this in the definitions of the time and the context of which it is declared (the architecture of the government), this had to do with the welfare of the several states (the union), not the welfare of individuals. The preamble only confirms this when using the same term. One objective of this constitution is to promote the general welfare (well-being) of these united states.

Posted by: JoeBjr | December 30, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

@Scientician,

I'd go with Madison's understanding than some anon poster on the W. Post website who obviously desires an activist government or a sitting president who made it clear that his political desires are the diametric opposite of the founders.

Posted by: JoeBjr | December 30, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Ezra klein is just another idiot with a job at WaPo

Posted by: Oriana2 | December 30, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

@Scientician
"Is Article 1, Section 8 part of the preamble now?

'The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States;'"

If it were the intent of the Framers to permit legislators to decide what constituted "general welfare" and that they might do anything they wanted, then the preamble to A1S8 would have ended with a period and it would have been considerably shorter than it is. Instead, it ends with a semicolon and 17 specific powers follow. Any rational person interprets this to mean that the term "general welfare" (as well as "necessary and proper" later on) is used ONLY in the context of those powers. (See my Madison quotes above for sage council.)

The Framers were not idiots. They understood history and the nature of politics very well, and they understood that people who crave power use the money of some to buy the support of others to obtain office and remain there. 'Twas ever thus -- this has been going on for millennia. After having fought a protracted war for individual liberty and freedom, why would they immediately draft a constitution designed to thwart those things they fought for? They wouldn't.

Of course, you're free to interpret it however you want. But if you ever pay me a visit, I'll be sure not to say "make yourself at home" for fear you'll interpret that to mean you may sell all my stuff, kick me out of my home, and raid my bank account.

Posted by: BrianT1 | December 30, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

JoeBjr:

Not like it isn't hard to find any number of words today that meant different things 40 years ago.

It's almost like this is something that reasonable people could disgree about no? That maybe it takes learned scholars of law and language who study these things to interpret what the document really means?

That I believe is the point that conservatives are bizarrely contesting for some reason, which I can only guess is because they simply cannot imagine anyone disagrees about what the document means.

Posted by: Scientician | December 30, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

@Scientician
"Actually the quote of Madison just goes to prove what idiots the conservatives posting here are. Even in the days of the founders, they didn't all agree what the document meant, and debated seriously over it."

True enough! Hamilton was a colossal idiot (in the context of his advocating a large, powerful central government and completely against the autonomy and liberty of states and the individual), for example. The Constitution was not written quickly or easily and there was much debate. And I will agree there are deliberate ambiguities inserted into the document, no doubt to appease one side or the other.

I bring up Madison only because he is the de facto author, though many others provided input.

FWIW, I am an advocate of individual liberty. That means I chafe severely at the prospect of being threatened with violent force if I don't surrender wealth I have legitimately earned in order that said wealth can be turned over to those who didn't earn it. Where I come from, that's called "theft".

Posted by: BrianT1 | December 30, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein, I tutor school kids in mathematics, helped a few high school and college students study for exams, and helped a few people study for their U.S. Citizenship. I'm a well read adult, and have even managed to earn a couple college degrees.

If you find the Constitution of the United States confusing because of it's simplicity, contact me, I'll do a refresher session with you.

It is much easier than solving a quadratic equation.

Posted by: sdent60 | December 30, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

BrianT1:

1) The point I was challenged on claimed "general welfare" only appears in the preamble. This is false and I proved it, general welfare is most definitely in the enumerated specific powers of Congress.

2) Your argument rests on interpretation of semi-colons and order/placement in a way that means the subject is debatable. It isn't "clear" that the founders only meant what you claim, why even include "general welfare" if the intent was to explicitly spell out a very limited set of powers? Why have section 9 which sets limits on legislative power? I don't see titles of nobility as an enumerated power, yet the founders thought it necessary to say "congress can't give out titles" in S9.

3. Once again, all this proves is that there is legitimate real debate about the meaning of the thing, and I even bet that conservatives don't all agree on what every part of the constitution means.

Posted by: Scientician | December 30, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

@Scientician
"Not like it isn't hard to find any number of words today that meant different things 40 years ago."

Does that mean that when you hear the word "gay" in a movie made in the 1930's or 1940's, you assume they're talking about sexual preference? Wow, those movies must be confusing for you. Much like the Constitution is confusing to Mr. Klein....

I would hope, since you obviously have a brain, that you would instead interpret the word "gay" in the context in which it was intended when it was used in old movies. Do you do that? Or don't you?

If you do, why would you not also interpret the Constitution in the context in which it was written?

If you don't, then...you're clearly a nut. G'day, then.

----------

Incidentally (to those who've posted earlier), the word "regulate" in the Constitution does not mean to control or oversee. It means to ensure constituent components work well together. Interstate commerce regulation or a "well-regulated militia" refer to smooth operation, not oversight.

When one wishes to have a mechanical clock or watch tuned such that it tells accurate time, one asks for it to be "regulated" by ensuring the gear train, pivots, springs, case, etc. are clean, unbroken, and properly lubricated.

Posted by: BrianT1 | December 30, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Clearly the Washington Post is suffering from a lack of qualified personnel. Klein, you are an idiot. No need to go further.

Posted by: LoneWolf1 | December 30, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

@Scientician
"1) The point I was challenged on claimed "general welfare" only appears in the preamble. This is false and I proved it, general welfare is most definitely in the enumerated specific powers of Congress."

Oh, you're absolutely right. "General Welfare" appears in the Preamble and A1S8.

That those words appear in two places doesn't mean the federal government has the authority to arbitrarily decide what is in the best interests of all Americans, however.

"2) Your argument rests on interpretation of semi-colons and order/placement in a way that means the subject is debatable. It isn't "clear" that the founders only meant what you claim, why even include "general welfare" if the intent was to explicitly spell out a very limited set of powers?"

It's clear because a specific list of can-do's follows.

"Why have section 9 which sets limits on legislative power? I don't see titles of nobility as an enumerated power, yet the founders thought it necessary to say "congress can't give out titles" in S9."
Yes, exactly. It was common in the day for governments to award titles of nobility. Remember, the nascent American Experiment was launched at a time very different from that which we live in today.

"3. Once again, all this proves is that there is legitimate real debate about the meaning of the thing, and I even bet that conservatives don't all agree on what every part of the constitution means."
No, not at all. All it proves is that some people will go do any lengths to obfuscate obvious meaning for the purpose of foisting an unintended agenda on everyone else. Screw that.

Posted by: BrianT1 | December 30, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

In the Preamble, if the Founding Fathers wanted the Federal Government to "provide for the general Welfare" of the citizen's they would have said that, but instead it reads "provide for the common defence", and "promote the general Welfare"

The Nanny State is socialism. Long live the Republic.

Posted by: NV912er | December 30, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Can't wait until they get to the part that refers to GITMO!

LOL

Posted by: 54465446 | December 30, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

From the book "AN AUTISTIC WORLD (1)"
On September 17, 1787 the Constitution of the United States of America was completed, determining the framework for the US Government which at the time was made up of thirteen states. In big letters, at the beginning of the text, are the words “We The People.” By themselves, those three words represent one of the most important achievements in human history. They personify the independence of conscience by the Americans; first stating that they have morals because they recognize themselves as “We”, as a group of human beings, capable of distinguishing between right and wrong, and also susceptible to making mistakes in their communal judgment. Second, “The” represents the bridge of knowledge, the realization by those individuals that they are willing to travel the distance to their destiny; that by their experience they can see a reason on the other side of the bridge. Third, “People” is their reason, clearly stating the definition of who they are; that they have already crossed the bridge, and that they have experienced as a community the feeling of independence which distinguishes them from other forms of government.

Posted by: kanino | December 30, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

LOL. Klein's handlers must be on extended holiday.

@Mosben - how about giving some examples and your reasoning as to why.

Posted by: msoja | December 30, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Damn, there goes the Louisiana Purchase.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 30, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Conservatives know what the Constitution says--it says exactly what they want it to say! (It is rather discouraging what happens to the quality of comments when people are lured here from the front page of Drudge.)

Posted by: AuthorEditor | December 30, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Ezra's problem is that he has never met a real American before.

Posted by: mges123 | December 30, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Roberts and Alito don't think the US constitution is binding (they are both making things up as they go along), so why should anyone else?

Posted by: lauren2010 | December 30, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

As you says,

I rarely meet a gun-lover who laments the Second Amendment's clear limits on bearing firearms, or someone who believes in universal health care but thinks the proper interpretation of the Commerce Clause doesn't leave room for such a policy.

For reference, this is the Second Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." If there are any limits on bearing firearms in this amendment, then they certainly aren't clear. We can debate whether a "well regulated" militia's existence or efficacy is a necessary condition for the right to bear arms (The Supreme Court doesn't think so - see District of Columbia v. Heller), and we can argue over the definition of "arms", but there are certainly no clear limits placed on firearm ownership.

Now consider the Commerce Clause: "[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes." I fail to see its relevance to universal healthcare, unless Klein is referring to Obamacare, which is anything but universal. The Commerce Clause wouldn't prevent the implementation of single-payer healthcare, anyway. Indeed the United States already has Medicare and Medicaid, which are single-payer institutions.

Mr. Klein, you're wrong!

Posted by: corneliu | December 30, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

It's funny. The criticism of Ezra on the right seems to prove the point he was making all along. Ezra basically said that reading the constitution will have no bearing on the things that legislator's legislate, and he's immediately accused of saying that the constitution is not binding.

Which just goes to show that even words spoken today can have different meanings depending on the worldview of the person that hears them.

Posted by: ChrisNBama | December 30, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, dear, if the US Constitution is too complicated, how will you ever deal with ZeroCare?

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_bBlNFyLU7Ik/TFlY_PphIjI/AAAAAAAABAw/Nd0-uYlghOI/s1600/obamacare_chart_LG.jpg

Posted by: getjiggly2 | December 30, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

@BrianT1:
"Any rational person interprets this to mean that the term "general welfare" (as well as "necessary and proper" later on) is used ONLY in the context of those powers."

I can only assume that those same 'rational people' are united in their adamant belief that the CIA, NSA, Air Force, etc. are flagrant constitutional violations.

I can justify the mandate as a tax, as regulation of interstate commerce, or perhaps another clause or two. Where is the CIA? Perhaps "Necessary and proper" for punishing pirates? Please. No one's ever brought up a constitutional argument that wasn't a hypocrite.

All that being said, Ezra's word choice was pretty poor.

Posted by: eggnogfool | December 30, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

"For reference, this is the Second Amendment: 'A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.' If there are any limits on bearing firearms in this amendment, then they certainly aren't clear. We can debate whether a "well regulated" militia's existence or efficacy is a necessary condition for the right to bear arms (The Supreme Court doesn't think so - see District of Columbia v. Heller), and we can argue over the definition of "arms", but there are certainly no clear limits placed on firearm ownership."

Very well reasoned. But I do think the court was wrong in the Heller verdict. When the Second Amendment was drafted, there wasn't a National Guard or a Standing Army. As a consequence, it was imperative that citizens have Arms so that if a civil emergency arose, a militia could readily be formed to meet the threat.

This amendment is, frankly, a relic. We now have State National Guard units, as well as a Standing Army to mount a robust defense of our nation. The need for a well armed citizenry no longer exists.

If the drafters of the constitution simply believed in each citizens unfettered right to own a firearm, then why not leave the language as: "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." That would settle the question, wouldn't it?

It seems the limit Ezra was speaking of is the necessary condition of maintaining a well-regulated militia. Since that requirement is met, then it leaves all sorts of room to regulate the use of firearms. At least if you were a strict-constructionist of the constitution, which the conservative wing of the court clearly isn't.

Posted by: ChrisNBama | December 30, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Banal remarks by Ezra Klein?

Can't argue with that.


Why the Washington Post would pay for your self-admitted banality, I have no idea.

Posted by: mitchflorida | December 30, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Ah, the arrogant and pompous Klein is exposed! What, no graphs to back up your claim that the Constitution is confusing because it's more than 100 years old? You're the gimmick, you pretentious fool.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | December 30, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

What is sad is that someone that does not know our history will see Ezra's b***s**t that goes unchallenged by the brain dumb anchor and come away with as little respect for our way of government that Ezra has.

Our Constitution is what governs us and there are ways to change it. If people like Ezra don't like it they should change it properly, not by fiat which is what the progressives have been doing for the last 60+ years.

And for the record the second amendment does allow citizens to bear arms, it was written that way so people could defned themselves from government. The colonist's were prohibited from owning guns which made the initial fighting with the British rather difficult.

Ezra I am also sure that you think prayer in public school is specifically prohibited by the Constitution, you know the argument..... "separation of church and state....". Well you would be wrong again, the prohibition in the Constitution prohibits the government from specifically designating a specific religion that people must participate in. Here again the colonist's having come to this new land from England wanted to be able to practice the religion of their choice, not the governments which was the case in England.

Do us all a favor and go to the style section of the paper.

Posted by: dahauss | December 30, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

What is sad is that someone that does not know our history will see Ezra's b***s**t that goes unchallenged by the brain dumb anchor and come away with as little respect for our way of government that Ezra has.

Our Constitution is what governs us and there are ways to change it. If people like Ezra don't like it they should change it properly, not by fiat which is what the progressives have been doing for the last 60+ years.

And for the record the second amendment does allow citizens to bear arms, it was written that way so people could defned themselves from government. The colonist's were prohibited from owning guns which made the initial fighting with the British rather difficult.

Ezra I am also sure that you think prayer in public school is specifically prohibited by the Constitution, you know the argument..... "separation of church and state....". Well you would be wrong again, the prohibition in the Constitution prohibits the government from specifically designating a specific religion that people must participate in. Here again the colonist's having come to this new land from England wanted to be able to practice the religion of their choice, not the governments which was the case in England.

Do us all a favor and go to the style section of the paper.

Posted by: dahauss | December 30, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

The one thing Ezra Klein can't backtrack on is that he seems to more of an idiot than I had previously thought.

Posted by: sfnooner | December 30, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

The constitution has utterly failed the USA.

It worked pretty good until about 1960 but with Vietnam and JFK's death we have lost our soul and God no longer blesses this land of idiocracy, a nation of fools that feel they must deny science and logic and history in order to make them feel better about the kind of nihilists and saboteurs they are AFRAID not to heed.

The fact so many feel the need to lie about Ezra's comments is predictable behavior from people who get upset when truth speaks to power.

In the meantime foreign billionaires and shieks and communist dictators are laughing their butts off as they drain our country of wealth.

BushJr ALONE created $5.9 TRILLION in new debt, yet somehow that socialist Obama caused it according to many tea baggers.

In 1980 the US could assemble missiles and warplanes from parts wholly manufactured in the USA. Today we cant even build a toaster by ourselves.

In 1980 we had 300 oil refineries. Eight years later we had about 150 and oil CEOs continually go on TV yelling about damned environmentalists although what really happened was that Reagan let them close them because they wanted to increase profit margins. This stuff is easy to research, but instead greedy or fearful lap dogs just soak in the talking points and blame liberals for everything.

Well, if Ronald Reagan was such a damn good president, why in hell is the USA bankrupt just 30 years later though every president and congressional session since him has adopted his free trade and taxation policies? The last 3 GOP presidents have created 82% of the entire debt and that debt is the reason we are increasingly unable to combat this recession.

Most of you who listen to talking points to form your opinions ought not debate what "general welfare" means because frankly you are incapable of understanding it. All you care about is putting certain kinds of people in their place and reducing your taxes. You don't care about the USA or the Constitution, and Robert's recent decision to grant foreign corporations the status of personhood and to allow them to influence US elections proves you all are unthinking lap dogs.

Posted by: lauren2010 | December 30, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

If Ezra believes the English language is too difficult to comprehend and previously defined words are now open to various interpretations, that would certainly explain his columns.

Perhaps he interprets "idiot" to mean exceptionally insightful and brilliant?

Posted by: wave41 | December 30, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

What a schm_ck Klein is.

Would he also would think that the Torah, Hebrew Bible, and Shakespeare are also too difficult to understand and interpret because they too were written over 100 years ago?

Progressives are very scary. I think the National Socialists of the Weimar Republic also thought along the same lines as Klein.

Posted by: gogogirl1966 | December 30, 2010 11:02 PM | Report abuse

Mr Klein, while it's valid to say that "when a lot of people misunderstand you at once, the fault is usually yours", in this case that's not the case. Because it's not a matter of people misunderstanding you. It's a matter of them deliberately distorting what you said. Rather similar to what Republicans do to the Constitution itself, really. And the distortion continues in the response to this very blog entry.

Posted by: RedXIV | December 30, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Ok, conservatives, if the constitution is so very simple, what does this mean:

"To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;"

What constitutes interstate commerce? Are there any limits to the regulations that can be imposed?

How about that little bit about Congress' power to provide for the "general Welfare" of the United States. What does that mean?

Riddle me this, if it was so very simple, why are there still huge debates about the meaning of any number of clauses within it?

Posted by: Scientician | December 30, 2010
=============================================
There are debates because there are many people who don't like being restricted by the Constitution. They don't have enough people on their side to honestly amend the Constitution. So they claim that the Constitution means something other than what it clearly means. Then those of us who support and defend the Constitution debate them.

Posted by: d_kosloff | December 30, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

"This amendment is, frankly, a relic. We now have State National Guard units, as well as a Standing Army to mount a robust defense of our nation. The need for a well armed citizenry no longer exists."

If you believe this to be the case, then work to have the amendment repealed. Don't just declare unilaterally that the Constitution does not mean what it says. If you want the second amendment removed because it's an outdated relic, that's what the amendment process is for.

That's the very reason the amendment process is so long and difficult; the drafters -wanted- the Constitution to be difficult to change so that the relationship between the state and the people would not be subject to the fads of the day.

Posted by: Yun648 | December 30, 2010 11:55 PM | Report abuse

"Would he also would think that the Torah, Hebrew Bible, and Shakespeare are also too difficult to understand and interpret because they too were written over 100 years ago?"

Actually, many scholars have devoted their entire careers to studying and interpreting these documents; just as the study of the constitution is a major component of legal training.

But please, don't pass on the opportunity to bring the Nazis into the conversation.

Posted by: ErinSiobhan | December 31, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

It's not Ezra Klein who is scary, it is the Washington Post, which sponsors him. Ezra Klein is a zero . . but why does the Washington Post insist on carrying his "banal points"?

Posted by: mitchflorida | December 31, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, no amount of spin can hide the fact that Ezra Klein is an idiot representing a new low standard at the Washington Post.

I've always liked the Washington Post even if I didn't agree with the views. But seriously, this is too much. First, to employ the biased founder of Journo-List, then to hear so clearly from his own mouth just how stupid he is: The Constitution "has no binding power on anything" and "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."

Washington Post, is this reflective and acceptable on your behalf?!

Posted by: MatthewWeaver | December 31, 2010 12:31 AM | Report abuse

Of course Klein's comments were clear. The interviewer asked him what he thought of the resolution and he responded that "it" was non-binding. You have to be either malicious or stupid to misinterpret that comment. Considering who's got their panties in a twist over what he said, the answer closest to the truth is probably "both".

Posted by: doggril | December 31, 2010 12:38 AM | Report abuse

bjrubble - If not for Dunning-Kruger, the Republican party would be much, much smaller; and the Tea Party would likely not exist.

Posted by: doggril | December 31, 2010 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Ezra... you are a tool..

So reading the Constitution is irrelevant because the text is confusing as it was written over 100 years ago. Imagine if Ezra made a similar remark referencing the Torah . . . . . .


THANKS SAM!

Posted by: rexydg7 | December 31, 2010 1:02 AM | Report abuse

Klein, every time, EVERY TIME, I read someting you write or listen to you speak I always have the same thought...you're too young to ACTUALLY know what you're talking about. You read what you think in some magazine somewhere and then wordsmith the crap out of it and repeat it as your own thoughts. You made some 'banal' remarks? Whe are you going to wake up and realize that 'banal' defines your life. You're in way over your head. Go DO something first...then write about it. You might sound more credible.

Posted by: PanhandleWilly | December 31, 2010 1:09 AM | Report abuse

Ezra

You must be doing something right. It looks like Beck or someone has ordered their lap dogs here to harass you.

The reason Scalia needs to give a Constitution class to the GOP newbies is that they don't have a clue what it says or means. Of course, they still won't have a clue after Scalia does his thing because he just sort of makes things up as he goes along. Sort of like how he and the other neocons decided foreign corporations have the status of personhood in the USA and can influence US elections. You gotta wonder about the sanity of people who support those kinds of decisions, yet, here they are en mass.

Posted by: lauren2010 | December 31, 2010 1:48 AM | Report abuse

If you currently have pre-existing conditions like me that have prevented you from being able to qualify for health insurance for at least six months you will have coverage options under new health care. Check "Wise Health Insurance" to find how to get quality insurance for dollars.

Posted by: markandersone | December 31, 2010 3:29 AM | Report abuse

Young Ezra made a fool of himself on TV. Instead of apologizing for his buffoonery, he decides to lecture us on the Constitution.

Posted by: Roark_ | December 31, 2010 5:35 AM | Report abuse

Hi. I'm Ezra Klein, and I'd like to explain the Constitution to you, because it's so old and no one really understands it. Here goes.

"We, the People of the United States": Even though I'm still going through puberty, I'm convinced that I'm soooooo much smarter and better than you are.

"In order to form a more perfect union": my parents will forever be possessed wondering what motivated them to reproduce....

Posted by: hofbrauhausde | December 31, 2010 5:50 AM | Report abuse

Your remarks DID seem pretty clear. You find the constitution confusing because it's more than 100 years old. Here are a few other documents that are more than 100 years old: Moby Dick, The Song of Hiawatha, Frankenstein, The House of the Seven Gables, and A Christmas Carol. Do you find all of these confusing, too? If you do, college must have gotten easier since I graduated.

What part of "Congress shall make no law ..." don't you understand?

Posted by: AnEngineer1
==========

Cut him some slack. He went to UCLA, meaning that he thinks we're all sub-intelligent scum. Considering that everyone there graduates with minors in surfing and suntans, what would you expect?

Posted by: hofbrauhausde | December 31, 2010 5:54 AM | Report abuse

Why is this Ezra kid still employed and being paid as a journalist?

Didn't he start the group of JournoList that sought to tip the public persona towards Obama by telling lies and refusing to vet Obama?

It got worse: Klein's group decided to make it appear that Obama is good, and they planned to attack those who ran against Obama...Hillary and Palin, in particular.

So why does this man/child still have a job.

I don't ever want to see his name on a byline again.

Posted by: letscheck | December 31, 2010 6:21 AM | Report abuse

We should listen to Ezra Klein. He is after all much smarter than a bunch of old, useless Founding Fathers who launched a nation. Their time has come and gone. We should all now lay prostrate before the genius of Ezra Klein; ignore his words at your peril.

Posted by: ihatethepost1 | December 31, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Jersey Shore's Snooki and the Situation both agree with Klein. The constitution is non-binding...though they inexplicably added "a little fibercon should clear that right up"

Posted by: ihatethepost1 | December 31, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

It doesn't get any better than this.

Posted by: underhi2p | December 31, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Idiot! Child of liberal education.

Posted by: jpalm32 | December 31, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I would suggest that everyone who feels the American Constitution is “unbinding” and only “100 years old” finds a new country to live in because the Constitutional Americans are taking back our Constitutional country. Maybe you should look for a new career. You seem quite incompetent and un-American to be feeding any American news to Americans. It’s time the people of this country realize that it’s people like you who have hurt this country with your un-American comments. Please leave this country. We don’t need people who are void of the American spirit opening their ignorant mouths.

Posted by: znuff56 | December 31, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Maybe somewhere you'll catch on and S.T.O.P T.A.L.K.I.N.G!! Throw away the shovel -- the hole is way too deep already.

Posted by: Citizen_mike | December 31, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Ezra apparently thinks that interpretation and understanding are the same thing. Like an earlier poster said, stop digging Ezra, the hole is just getting deeper. Ezra = moron

Posted by: penitentiary_steel | December 31, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I'll give him this much; it is refreshing to see a blatant Liberal actually saying what they think out loud. So much of it is obfuscation and spin ~ this is straightforward telling it like he sees it. His message is, "I don't understand it, and furthermore, I don't agree with it". My, one shudders at the thought of what Mr. Ezra might pen for us in it's absence?

Posted by: PaulDF | December 31, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Ezra. The truth IS toxic, if you're in agreement with anything the "progressive" wing of the liberal Democrat party and their sorry excuse of a President has perpetrated against the taxpaying citizens of this country. And the TRUTH is that they HAVE NO RESPECT for the rights of the individual or the U.S. Constitution ! You're a typical "tool" of these UN-AMERICAN, power hungry despots, and will be swept into the dustbin of history when the citizens wake up in sufficient numbers to throw the REST of your ilk from elected office.

Posted by: privatetaxpayer | December 31, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I'd be willing to bet money that the commenters here who claim the Constitution is simple to understand have never read it themselves. No one, including Ezra, has said the Constitution is _impossible_ to understand, but understanding it requires some scholarship.

For example, often the particular phrase the authors chose was understood to mean a specific thing in the legal language of their time -- much of it taken from English common law -- but most 21st century readers unversed in 18th century English common law would interpret the same phrase entirely differently from what the Founders meant by it.

And, as Ezra said, the constitutional citations conservatives are proposing would not be binding, because to make them binding would give the House sole discretion on deciding the constitutionality of its own laws. That would be a violation of separation of powers and clearly unconstitutional.

Posted by: maha1 | December 31, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I hope they do it to music! The Schoolhouse Rock Preamble is a classic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30OyU4O80i4

Posted by: timothysean | December 31, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

What a crock. There's a clear, straightforward, honest interpretation of the words of the constitution on the one hand, and on the other hand there's the perverted interpretation that's been going on for the past 100-150 years.

The perverted interpretation has been done to justify unconstitutional legislation encated by prior Congresses who did not respect the limits on power placed on it by the States who created the federal government by ratifying the Constitution. These Congresses have wanted to centralize more and more power in the federal government, some of it for laudable reasons. But just because legislation has a positive outcome, doesn't mean it is constitutional.

Because prior Congresses have not taken their oath seriously, the leaders of the 112th Congress is going to make all of them listen to every word of it. Make them take the oath AFTER they've heard it read. This should be the protocal for every Congress going forward. The Congress is the first line of defense against unconstitutional legislation. We can't rely on courts to overturn it. As I've noted, we've seen the courts pervert and twist the words of the Constitutuion to justify unconstitutional legislation enacted by Congress for over 100 years.

We can't have an intelligent national conversation until we are willing to admit we've allowed our prior presidents, Congresses and courts to ignore the constitution in their never-ending zeal to concentrate power in the federal government in Washington.

Your side will likely win the argument as it's been going on for over a century without the people throwing the offenders out in elections. Just be honest about what's been going on. Stop pretending they've been acting within the limits of the Constitution. It's offensive to make such a suggestion.

Posted by: Groty1 | December 31, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Wow!

Good CYA response. When is the Washington Post going to hire some real thinkers and get rid of a few regurgitating Liberal College Grads.

When I read Washington Post commentators I usually think,

"Whale! Oil, Beef, Hooked!

Repeat that several times, and you will get my drift!

Posted by: Friedrich1 | December 31, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Ezra,

You say, "The rather toxic implication of this proposal is that one side respects the Constitution and the other doesn't."

Is that the implication, or is the implication that we should keep in mind that the document has led to an exceptionally fine system of governance in a republic where: the Federal Govt was meant to be limited in its scope, the States have many areas of responsibility and authority, and Individuals have inherent rights that, above all else except in unusual circumstances, are to be protected with a vengeance.

If we can get legislators to think a bit more about the overarching principles that are so important to many of us, that is worth the time it takes to go over the Constitution word-by-word in session.

You talk about "sides". Just what do you mean by "sides", anyway? The only side that matters is the people's side; and when I vote it is not by party designation (if that is what you mean by "side") it is according to which candidates appear to have the general public interest more front of mind.

Posted by: TerryOtt | December 31, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I've taken to my bully pulpit to defend Ezra in his debate. He was clear but needed an analogy to drive the point home :

http://www.doubledutchpolitics.com/2010/12/ezra-klein-in-the-cross-hairs-of-right-wing-outrage/

Posted by: RyanC1384 | December 31, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

What exactly are the 2nd amendment's 'clear limitations' on bearing firearm? Ezra, you state as fact that there are such, and honest people can disagree. I don't see it.

Posted by: neosexist | December 31, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

*****What exactly are the 2nd amendment's 'clear limitations' on bearing firearm? Ezra, you state as fact that there are such, and honest people can disagree.*****

neosexist: I think you (unwittingly, no doubt) illustrate Ezra's point. YOU believe there are no "clear limitations" to gun ownership embodied in the Second Amendment. But there are constitutional scholars with impeccable credentials who DO believe the amendment allows for such limitations. See? Get the point? The US constitution -- most of which was written a in the 18th century -- is an eminently DISPUTABLE document. I think had Ezra used "disputable" or "debatable" rather than "confusing" none of this brouhaha would have ensued.

But at the end of the day, Ezra's point is entirely correct. Even banal. And yes, it also provided a "gotcha" moment for Tea Partiers. Big whoop. Life goes on.

Posted by: Jasper999 | December 31, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

watching liberals backpedal is always amusing to say the least

Posted by: pakurilecz | December 31, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I saw this on MSNBC and first was shocked. Then I realized this kid Ezra looks like he is all of 14 years old and is obviously speaking from ignorance. So, here Ezra, let me E D U C A T E you a little bit. The US Constitution needs no "interpretation"; it says what it says and it MEANS what it says. It is quite explicit and actually quite easy to read. There is no mystery to it, no deciphering required. The Framers knew exactly what they wanted it to say and that is what it says. No "interpretation" necessary!

Posted by: zigfried | December 31, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Hell it is well known Ezra is a biased Marxist who grouped together other biased Marxist "Journalists" to help the Demorats and Obama. So his not caring what the Constitution says is no surprise to me. Not a hard document to understand. I guess you can have an IQ of 50 to graduate Journalism indoctrination in College now as long as you Sieg Heil to the Marxist way.

Posted by: harley2002 | December 31, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein, your "clarifying" actually lessened you in my view. One wonders if you had the pleasure of a full public school education? Surely, you realize that the Constitution was NOT written in 1910? There were NOT only 13 states in 1910? How on earth could opening up the next congress by reading a SIX PAGE document that they all are SWORN TO UPHOLD be called a gimmick? These are some of the same people who regularly confuse the words of the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution and also mistakenly confuse a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to be also part of the constitution- and having the actual words read to them is silly? I really have to laugh, at them and also at you. I thought you and them were the so called "elite educated?" Good God , as a child I had to learn and recite the Declaration in front of the class in order to move onto the next grade. You are clearly not very old, or very wise and ,unfortunately, do not realize the limits of your intelligence. I'll tell you one thing, I will personally GUARANTEE that my grandchildren will know our constitution AND each and every line in the bill of rights backwards and forwards before they reach ten years of age. Knowledge is power- a fact you are apparently unaware of- and sadly,pass your nonsensical views off to other vacuous fools who have can't spare the time to research in their busy life of clubbing,texting, and putting their hands out for "free" money. Pathetic, and it brings to mind the adage" If you sacrifice respect from your children for being liked by your children you will have neither and will fail yourself and them by raising weak minded,irresponsible,selfish,me first adults"

Posted by: sayoung809132001 | December 31, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

But there are constitutional scholars with impeccable credentials

Really? What are their impeccable credentials? That they are college leftist professors? The document is clear in what it says no gray areas. Want to change it? Amend it not find some leftist professor to read into it what does not exist. There are amendments to give blacks the right to vote and give women the vote. Why? Because it was not in the Constitution. Today some Marxist professor would just have these to rights given by stating some other part of the Constitution such as the equal protection clause or make up some other bull excuse. This slippery slope is why we now have some Racist President thinking he has the right to tell us what to buy eat or grow in our own back yards. The second amendment is the ONLY thing that keeps Otraitor from becoming another Chavez type dictator.

Posted by: harley2002 | December 31, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't matter how old the constitution is. Human rights are never obsolete. You can't get ride of the constitution with an edict. Our Government should follow this document better but that would limit their power and they would be forced to protect peoples rights instead of violating them. Horrible journalism these days to. Disgrace to America...

Posted by: No-GMO | December 31, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Ezra Thanks God you do what you do!
Have you been a...
doctor... patients will die right and left
Architect...buildings will collapse even on CAD
Musician... would be the author of random noise
Baker... bread will be inspected by ATF

You got the message (I hope) Please never ever attempt to do anything else. Real jobs carry consequences. You will always be to young for that.

Posted by: leonreview | December 31, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The mere fact that this adolescent is still employed in journalism after founding a sick, left wing media conspiracy to distort facts and propagate lies illustrates perfectly the depths of depravity reached by the MSM in general and the Washington Post in particular.

This immature fool is incapable of understanding the true history of this country. Even if he did know the truth, he has shown that he will lie and revise history in order to push a sick, left wing agenda.

http://bigjournalism.com/jsexton/2010/07/20/journolist-ezra-kleins-secretive-conspiracy/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BigJournalism+(Big+Journalism)&utm_content=Twitter

Posted by: bill7021 | December 31, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse


Ezra Klein is the product of a failed educational system. He is a total embarrassment to this country on many levels.

Why is this corrupt Journolista still employed?

Posted by: bill7021 | December 31, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, I saw the clip and My Perception of Your view of the Constitution is that it is not binding, now you write to "explain" yourself.

In the future: slow down and think before you speak ... right now, I believe that you are being a chameleon, if not decieving!!!

Posted by: genehutchins | December 31, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Hi Ezra,
You suck so badly that you compete with the tides in Nova Scotia.

Posted by: pabarge | December 31, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

It is pretty funny how many left-wingers here think that the Preamble is, in itself, a Constitutional amendment. No wonder you guys are confused! Please do allow me to clarify one thing: It's "PROMOTE the general Welfare," kids, not "provide." Guess what that means in practical terms today? It means that the Democratic cannonballs through the hull of the ship known as "American Economic Prosperity" need to cease and desist and we need to get busy patching the gaping holes.

This Ezra Klein character was messing his diapers when the Constitution celebrated its bicentennial. (Yes, that's right, Ezra: It's WELL "over 100 years old." But nice ballpark estimate.) But somehow he thinks HIS word is gospel and the Constitution is "nonbinding."
Oh, okay, so he only meant that the READING of it was "nonbinding." What is that comment supposed to convey? Nobody thought that it (the reading) WAS a "binding" act. MOST of us understand that the Constitution is written and in effect already, so we already understand that reading it aloud neither adds to nor detracts from its significance. But thanks for clarifying...

So is the reading a "gimmick"? Probably. Mostly because the Democrats will be ignoring it anyway. "Oh, it's just TOO difficult to understand," they will tell themselves. "Too subject to interpretation."

Bull. It's written in plain English. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
This means that the Government has NO business telling preachers what they can and cannot say from the pulpit, or telling someone that they may not quote a verse from Leviticus because it's "hate speech," or determining what is and is not a "legitimate news source."

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
A "militia" is not a standing national military, and "the people" does not mean "G.I.'s" The Government has NO right to take away personal arms, according to the U.S Constitution. Period.

Now I could go on, but there's enough there to start with. Only a twisting of the wording and stated intent of the above two amendments would result in a contradictory "interpretation." In which case it's not really an "interpretation" at all, but a bastardization. Of course, that won't change anyone's mind. The Conservatives will still whole-heartedly agree with the above analysis and the Liberals will still be wrong.

So this reading may be a gimmick, but let's face it: If the Democrats could claim to understand a 2700 page health care bill they should be able to comprehend a 6 page Constitution. So it's not too much to ask for them to sit down, shut up, and listen to it.

Posted by: right_turn_only | December 31, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to give kudos to Mr. Klein for yet another out-of-touch reading of the real world.

As a centrist/independant voter, this kind of pseudointellectualism on behalf of liberal wingnuts has pretty much settled most of my concerns about which side has a real handle on the problems facing this country - as well as who has real-world solutions.

To summarize, the real intellectuals are those who study science and math, whereas the field of journalism has turned into a power play for the performing arts. It's like a bad rerun of Jerry Springer meets Stephen Hawking, and Ezra and his cronies lose.

Is it any wonder the print and television news has become the laughing stock of information? We'll take our chances without the JournoLister's "help," thank you.

Regards,

Cheryl France

Posted by: ChickyintheMatrix | December 31, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Ezra Klein speaks and the collective IQ of the planet decreases. His incoherent screeds are not unlike the ramblings of a 3rd stage syphillitic. I would call him a moronic turd...but that would be an insult to moronic turds.

Perhaps once he reaches puberty, Klein will have a better grasp of the Constitution - a document that is continually cited as a masterpiece of clarity and brevity. Until then, I suggest he sue whatever craphole college he attended for educational malpractice and use the settlement/judgment to enroll at Hillsdale College. Miraculously, the students there actually learn the Constitution.

Finally, here is proof that 4 year-olds are smarter than turd-boy Klein -- 4 year- old kids understand "The Night Before Christmas," a poem written in the early 1800's. Yet, Klein is apparently incapable of understanding any document over "100 years old."

As an aside, most 4 year-olds have also learned to use the potty...you might want to look into that, E-boy.

Posted by: credentials1 | December 31, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

On the subject of all the balderdash regarding the 2nd Amendment and the legitimacy of "gun control" I submit the following quotes from a few of our Founding Fathers:

"No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms (within his own lands or tenements)."
--Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution with (his note added), 1776. Papers, 1:353

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
--Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and Punishment (1764).

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." --Thomas Jefferson

[The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation...(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
---James Madison,The Federalist Papers, No. 46.

Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.
---Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (Philadelphia 1787)

Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American...[T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.
---Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788

Does that clear up some of that darned ambiguity for you left-wingers? Wait 'til you get a load of what the Founding Fathers had to say about what you call "Welfare." Until then, when you find yourselves all "confused" over the Constitution, try Googling up some pertinent quotes by the Founders yourselves! It's fast and easy and loads of fun! (At least those of us on the right think so. ;)

Posted by: right_turn_only | December 31, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I think we have plenty of documentation that describes in very clear terms, what the Constitution means, and how our republic is supposed to work. One side wants to follow that vision, and the other side doesn't. One side wants to insist that we follow the Constitution as ratified and subsequently amended by due process, and the other side doesn't. One side wants to fix obsolescent parts of the Constitution through due process (amendments) and the other side wants to deconstruct it. That is what cleaves American politics, Ezra.

It is human nature to seek power over others, and having obtained power, to expand power. The Constitution is anything but complicated. It is simply designed to limit power. What is complicated is trying to figure out how to twist it into a vehicle to expand power. Progressives have been doing that for 100 years, changing the meaning of "general welfare", necessary and proper, the commerce clause, into virtual power grabs. But when you become familiar with the original intent -- the thing We the People ratified -- the problem is obvious, and not at all confusing. We are fighting tyranny, pure and simple.

Posted by: Karl_Uppiano | December 31, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

How in the world does a newspaper like the Washington Post hire such uninformed and undereducated reporters like this guy? It was bad enough when he actually founded an organization whose purpose was to cover and support a partisan presidential candidate and then after he was elected get his newly founded group to prop this president up when he was criticized by others in the press or the opposition party. But the Post kept him on staff anyway. Now this, an ignorant subversion of the Constitution of the United States and his country. The Washington Post readers simply deserve better. How indeed can this continue to happen? What a smug little punk this guy is.

Posted by: lavistabb | December 31, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of political affiliation or motive Mr. Klein's remarks indicate a basic lack of understanding of the Constitution and its continued relevance. His initial comments reflect poorly on his judgement and professionalism and that of his employer. If he really believes what he said and represents the sentiments of the majority of his coworkers, the media elite is in a real bind. There will be no censure and it is likely that the American Journalism Association will herald Mr Klein as the next Edward Murrow but alas, that honor was recently bestowed on John Stewart, a comedian. The media elite has lost touch with the American people.

Posted by: rowca | December 31, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

After a year of struggling with his limitations (which "a man's gotta know" but a boy like Ezra does not), Klein -- by displaying his ignorance and contempt for the Constitution in post after post -- has finally nailed down the annual award for being the biggest turd in the Wapo punchbowl. Bottoms up, EK.

Posted by: gvanderleun | December 31, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Why not make it a homework assignment..Read the Constitution before you show up for the first day of work. If you have any questions write them down and we will go over them.

Posted by: ront247 | December 31, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Why do liberal columnist think history started the day they were born?

Posted by: gcruz17 | December 31, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Very confusing to me. Ambiguous as hell.
"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties,Imposts, and Excises,to pay the Debts and Provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts, and Excises shal be uniform throughout the United States"
Seems pretty clear to me re:tax on those who don't buy health insurance, buy others find it ambiguous.

Posted by: ront247 | December 31, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Let me help you out with some confusing language in some specific text, Ezra.

Article I

Section 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

I know it's confusing to a Univ. of California grad, but in your language that means, "Dude, like the rules, you know, like are made by these people, you know, like in Congress, whatever that is."

Amendment 4
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and
no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the
persons or things to be seized.


Translation: Like, TSA and Napolitano are way out of line, dude!

Amendment 10
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor
prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to
the people.

Translation: Like, you know, Congress ain't the boss of me in everything everywhere all the time, even if.

Glad to help you out. Or whatever.

Posted by: spamagnet987 | December 31, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Ezra-I'm typing this slowly so that it will be easier for you to understand. Neither the Constitution, nor the Declaration of Independence are very hard to grasp, intellectually, if you are well-grounded in history and the writings that influenced our founders. Try reading Cato's Letters, St George Tucker's "A View of the Constitution of the United States," Algernon Sidney, John Locke and The Federalist Papers. These writing will tell you all you need to know regarding freedom and the Constitution of these great United States. Hope I didn't go too fast for you.

Posted by: pugilist66 | December 31, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Ezra-I'm typing this slowly so that it will be easier for you to understand. Neither the Constitution, nor the Declaration of Independence are very hard to grasp, intellectually, if you are well-grounded in history and the writings that influenced our founders. Try reading Cato's Letters, St George Tucker's "A View of the Constitution of the United States," Algernon Sidney, John Locke and The Federalist Papers. These writing will tell you all you need to know regarding the concepts relative to individual freedom, limited government and the Constitution of these great United States. Hope I didn't go too fast for you.

Posted by: pugilist66 | December 31, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

bill7021: The "conspiracy to distort facts and propagate lies" doesn't come from the mythical left wing media, but from the very real right wing media. Fox "News", talk radio hosts like Limbaugh, Savage, and Boortz, the Washington Times, etc. Naturally they're the sources you rely on for your "facts".

Posted by: RedXIV | December 31, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Anonymity breeds contempt.

Posted by: jimnorman1 | December 31, 2010 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, your bio says your true calling is the food section of the post. If your ability to read a recipe is anything like your ability to read the Constitution you've got problems.

Posted by: archie521 | January 1, 2011 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Brilliant rhetorical device -- repeat something twice and then it's true (it's a gimmick 'cause it's a gimmick). Gee, you're a moron because, well, you're a moron, Ezra. How does that work?

Here's another example:

When you're young and dumb, you're young and dumb.

Posted by: spamagnet987 | January 1, 2011 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Seems the only 'argument' is if the Constitution is 'living' or 'dead' ~ metaphorically, I prefer 'living'... 'dead-set' = a fanatic. oh....wait....

Posted by: mommadona | January 1, 2011 4:19 AM | Report abuse

"And they tend to disagree about it in ways that support their political ideology. I rarely meet a gun-lover who laments the Second Amendment's clear limits on bearing firearms, or someone who believes in universal health care but thinks the proper interpretation of the Commerce Clause doesn't leave room for such a policy."

Ezra, it is obvious that YOU have never really read the second amendment. The preamble, which is the supporting documentation stating the reason for the amendment, is NOT a limit on the right. Rather, it is a clear presentation on why it is in the state's best interest for the people's right to be protected by the government.

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State," This is the preamble, giving the reason for the necessity of the state protecting the right of the people.

"...the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." I notice that this is the ONLY amendment where liberals such as yourself ignore the phrase 'the right of the people'. In EVERY other amendment 'the people' means just that, THE PEOPLE, NOT the state. The reason you find the constitution confusing is not because it is too archaic to be understood. Rather, it is because you have a political position which finds private ownership of firearms to be repugnant. You, like many liberals, want to hold an inanimate object accountable for the actions of people with evil intent, or people who make bad decisions. Sorry, but you are the one who is indecipherable, not the constitution.

Posted by: arizony_ames | January 1, 2011 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Hey, look on the bright side, Ezra, now a whole lot more people know who you are and are waiting for your next brilliant pronouncement, you wonkish blogger you!

Posted by: woodypfister | January 1, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Poor Ezra. He puts his ignorance and ideology on display daily but really puts his feet in his mouth when he opines that "we the people" cannot understand the Constitution and there isn't anything binding in there anyway. Now he cries "misunderstood" which is the code word for uberlefty progressives for "I lied but don't hold it against me"....Ezra, since you were taught to read in an uberleft progressive method, it is surely the case that you are unable to understand the Constitution of the United States of America...you guys have ignored it and twisted what you could into pretzels...but, we the people, do understand...MSNBC I can understand because it is a hate site for uberleftys like yourself and has so few viewers, no one with any intelligence takes it seriously at all, but you of the washpo? Please Ezra get another job and save us all.

Posted by: sharinlite | January 1, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I think that it is clear that you and may other Lib's find the constitution confusing. I hope that it becomes clearer after they read it because I'm sure it will be the first for many of them and yourself for that matter. These Democrats have passes over 6000 pages of legislation that I am sure they never read either. May be apart from reading the constitution that can start reading these bills they wanna pass before they vote on them and that goes for the President Obama also before he signs these bills into law. Look at this omnibus bill this lame duck congress wanted to cram down our throats. Thank god for common sense.

Posted by: eddy652 | January 1, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Good thing it was the leaast heard and least watched " NNET " WURK, or I would have been concerned about the statement being taken seriously. MSNBVC (Very Comunistick)living up to their marvelous standards of TRUE bipartisan ship. Bipartisanship and compromise HAVE MOSTLY BEEN a hard pull TO THE " PROGRESSIVE SOCIALIST LEFT "

Posted by: MNGilbt | January 1, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Fellow commenters, They will turn a Very DEAF ear to what they refuse to hear anyway. John 8:32 (King James Version)
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." This book of documents IS more than 100 years old too. I bet it is very confusing to "UN-uNIVERSITY " PROGRESSIVE SOCIALIST LEFT "
Who drink the " PROGRESSIVE SOCIALIST LEFT " Kool Aid of the Marxist professors in any State UN-unIVERSITY.

Posted by: MNGilbt | January 1, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Well, now I'm confused. Liberals, by their own admission, are the most intelligent, brightest, smartest, most erudite people to ever emerge from the primordial soup. They're also--by their own admission--the most "nuanced", and most able to appreciate "nuance". How can they not understand so simple and primitive a document? It has to be simple and primitive because it was crafted by bigoted, sexist, homophobic white Christian troglodytes, wasn't it?

Hey Ezra--I'm only a poor tea bagger hick, and I just finished Anna Karenina on my Kindle for Android. It was written over a hundred years ago (in another language no less!) and I understood it just fine.

We (Americans) know full well who and what liberals are. I just wish they'd stop insulting our intelligence by thinking we don't.

Posted by: kbarker302 | January 1, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Ezra Klein is no stooge or ignorant fool.!! He is a rewriter of history for the "JournalList," renamed after Glenn Beck exposed it. Now as the "Daily Caller." They, like, the "? Constitutional professor ?" with 38 MARXIST, COMMUNIST, anti-USA, CZARS,( pRECEDENT oBAMA ) http://www.libertynewsonline.com/article_301_28316.php , are trying to accomplish the LATEST attempt at a perfect " MARXIST, COMMUNIST, anti-USA " REGIME.

Posted by: MNGilbt | January 1, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I love how he talks about the 2nd amendment... I have never quite understood liberals on this point. Firstly, if you can find the right constitutional right to an abortion in the penumbra of the bill of rights (as I am sure Mr Klein sees it), why is it so hard to see the individuals right to bear arms in the 2nd amendment?

I really do not see how Klein has a job after this clearly ignorant statement and the JournoList fiasco.

Posted by: dab2d | January 1, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Just to set matters straight: If we had stayed loyal to the Constitution we would not have an IRS, we would not have a Federal Reserve, we would not have Fiat Currency, we would not have an ever expanding Federal Government, we would not have a Welfare State, we would not have Wars without end, and we would not have Trillions of dollars of debt.
The Constitution is the most sacred document ever written! It more sacred than the Bible, the Torah, the Talmud, the Koran, the Bagavagita or the Tao Te Ching, because FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HUMAN HISTORY A GOVERNMENT WAS FOUND ON THE PRINCIPLE THAT THE RIGHTS AND POWERS OF THE INDIVIDUAL PRECEEDE AND EXCEED THE RIGHTS AND POWERS OF GOVERNMENT ITSELF! Never before, and most likely never again will such a government exist. It therefore our duty and responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies, including people like yourself!
You just don't seem to get it! Please re-read the Constitution, and tell me where it grants anyone or any `body' the right to interpret the Constitution. It is not the job of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution! Their job is to interpret laws and legislation proposed by Congress to ensure that those laws and legislation comply with the terms, restrictions and limitations imposed by the Constitution.
The Constitution was written in simple plan English. It does not need to be interpreted, it needs to be followed. The Supreme Court of 1803 ruled in Marbury vs. Madison, `that any law which is repugnant to the Constitution is void of law and is not law.'
Yes, the Constitution was written over 200 years ago and the words may sound strange and the prose odd to the ear, the words still mean today what they meant then. For example; the word `infringed' dates back to about 1535 and means to weaken. Therefore, we can logically say that `The right of the People to keep and bear arm shall not be weakened.'
This is not interpreting the Constitution, it is merely the defining of terms. Today, the word infringed is seldomly used, but, for the most part, we all understand the term `to weaken'. If one has difficulty understanding the language of that time, one should look for the meaning of difficult words by looking for their origin, which most dictionaries supply.
One might also try read the other writings of the Founding Fathers to give one insight in to the principles from which the Constitution was born.

Posted by: tommyj1 | January 2, 2011 2:10 AM | Report abuse

The Magna Carta is 800 yrs old. Are the British better educated?

Posted by: DavidBre | January 2, 2011 8:21 AM | Report abuse

I have a question for you Ezra:

First of all, thanks for clarifying your position. I found the video of your interview on a different website, and from what I heard my immediate understanding was that you were saying that the Constitution wasn't binding. However, after finding your blog post here about the interview, I understand that my liberal leftist radar was on overdrive, and I jumped to conclusions. However, I'd like to know in your understanding, where you see limits, even clear limits, in the writing of the 2nd Amendment on our right to keep and bear arms. My understanding of the 2nd Amendment, is that you have to take the circumstances of the time it was written into account. Considering that the 13 colonies had just won a war against an oppressive and tyrannical overseas government, you have to think about that, and read the text of the 2nd Amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Now, I read this, and I see that its plain and to the point. First of all, notice how it says "necessary." If you read all of the Constitution, you will find out that this is the ONLY place you will find the word necessary being directed towards a right.

Second, it mentions militia's. Militia's were an important part of the victory against England, and the Constitution protects our rights to form militia's. However, because of the demonizing of militia's and the de-educating of the masses, over the past 40 years or so, few people know how important militias are and their purpose. Militia's nowadays are targeted by people as radical organizations, and have even been labeled as potential terrorists because of the actions of a handful of former militia members in our nations history.

Third, it says "shall not be infringed." Now, I read that and understand it as "shall not be limited." Infringement implies limitations, limitations which are so evidently seen in federal and state gun laws. So, that means that the federal government and state governments are violating the 2nd Amendment in having gun laws. After all, the states and federal government essentially signed on the dotted line when they adopted the Constitution and validated it as the Law of the Land. Yet, we find that the states, nor the federal government haven't moved to amend the Constitution in regards to the rights given by the 2nd Amendment. So, what does this mean? It means that the States and Federal governments have violated the Law of the Land since the first gun control laws were established. This essentially means that the Compact (Constitution) is null and void, and that we've been living in a country with a government that is not reflected in what the Constitution says. And the 2nd Amendment is just one part of the Constitution. There are many, many others that the State and Federal governments have been violating for years.

Posted by: djstormx1981 | January 2, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

This is why you don't give boys who should be working in the mailroom a column. Hey Ezra, leave that hard to understand Constitution to the adults, OK?

Posted by: TheLastBrainLeft | January 2, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

While I couldn't rightly tell you the source, I heard about this whole thing second-hand and decided to go directly to the source. Very glad I did.

Posted by: LibertarianFromLiberty | January 3, 2011 6:56 AM | Report abuse

Ezra:

Nice walk back -- will you be appearing on MSNBC and explain that everything you said was merely pandering to the left ?

Posted by: mike78042138 | January 3, 2011 8:00 AM | Report abuse

I don't know, boy. Your words were these: "The Constitution isn't binding on anything." I don't know how anyone is supposed to take you seriously. That was a grotesque thing to say.

Posted by: Tommo1 | January 3, 2011 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Ezra - people wearing dunce caps sit in corners quietly. Be quiet now, please. Forevermore.

Posted by: Tommo1 | January 3, 2011 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Everyone missed the point. Those are the comments of someone who is simply young, foolish, brash, and arrogant.

Posted by: hydroron | January 3, 2011 9:46 AM | Report abuse

This whole thing illustrates the problem of soundbite culture.
When moving from the journalism to TV guest position, a form of defensive speech is required, as context will be mutilated by the repitition of partial quotes delivered with zero context to an audience that doesn't bother reading anything more than 140 characters long.

You're going to have to learn to speak concisely and defensively, Ezra.
Either that or avoid going on TV.

Posted by: RCBII | January 3, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

EK:

Sue your professors for malpractice because they taught no history nor philosophy, but only polemic. And not worthwhile polemic, at that.

The Constitution is not binding on anything?
What is its purpose if not to bind the government and protect us from them? Oh, yes, and what of the First Amendment and freedom of the press?

I suppose that the First Amendment freedom of the press is not binding either?

Your intemperate comments (and I did look a the MSNBC interview) should embarrass you. They merely outrage me.

Posted by: velvelindecatur | January 3, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

It's well-accepted on the hipster left that free speech is old hat. Those rigorously defending the right are dismissed as free-speech fanatics, esp. by keepers and promoters of campus speech codes. This is Kid Klein's default mentality and explains his tendency for casual dismissal of the Constitution, the annoying speed bump on the road to Utopia, the outdated barrier to total war against the class enemy including confiscation of their property as punishment for "greed." The Kid and the hipsters think goverment can find what's in your heart, weigh how much is enough for you, declare the excess sinful and give you a penance -- today's plundering priesthood of the Left.

Posted by: kelpius | January 3, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I think that half of the stuff the Federal government does and in my opinion should do is unconstitutional.

It's just too difficult to amend the constitution though, so if you want to make a meaningful law that changes things you have to ignore it and make a BS interpretation to cover your backside and hope the Supreme Court is political sympathetic to the issue.

Posted by: timortiz | January 3, 2011 11:21 PM | Report abuse

I arrived at your article via a link on the Iowahawk blog.

It is a strange thing that some people are ashamed of the American flag, the pledge of allegiance, the Constitution of the United States of America, military figures,and anything that smacks of patriotism. Why would anyone criticize the reading of the Constitution in Congress?

There is no shame in reading the Constitution in the House of Representatives, or any other venue for that matter. The constitution is not magic, and the wording is very clear. It doesn't take an army of scholars to interpret.

Reading the Constitution is no more of a gimmick than ABC News reading the names of the slain American soldiers during the Iraq War. There was a reason, and it is good it got your attention.

If you believe there was some sort of evil intent or breach of etiquette behind this special reading, you are not thinking. It was a good idea.

Why don't you join with intelligent, patriotic, law abiding people and work with a local Tea Party group to protect our constitutional rights, and to limit the interference of our out of control government in our lives?


Posted by: ganetman | January 5, 2011 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Ezra does it again. In walking back his statement, he still says the Constitution doesn't matter. I do see his point though, the Supreme Court can at any time, change course on what the Constitution means.

The reason for this? Democrats since FDR have politicized supreme court nominations, instead of deciding on whether or not the justice has a keen legal and Constitutional mind. Unfortunately, the Republicans now do this as well just for the sake of getting their nominees passed. Think could have been Justice Bork and Ginsburg (the Reagan Ginsburg, not the Clinton Ginsburg).

However, Ezra, it is not futile....we need and must have a refocus on it. Republics in world history have 200 years of life. We're over that...we are about to fall apart from our own greed (entitlements, etc.) The refocus on the Constitution is useful - it reminds me of Jefferson's "the tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time."

Even if it does not come to much, having the House focus on it will do what our High School's and colleges should have done, educate our leaders on what it means to live in the United States, and why our Constitution is the way it is.

Posted by: baldwinboy20011 | January 6, 2011 1:54 AM | Report abuse

"The reason for this? Democrats since FDR have politicized supreme court nominations, instead of deciding on whether or not the justice has a keen legal and Constitutional mind."

What a joke. It's been Republicans who have politicized the Supreme Court, and started doing so before FDR even thought about running for office.

Posted by: RedXIV | January 6, 2011 7:07 AM | Report abuse

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