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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 01/ 6/2011

Huck Finning the Constitution

By Adam Serwer

Earlier this week, there was an uproar over a publisher's plans to release an edition of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that would replace the N-word with the word "slave" in order to make the book more "appropriate" for schoolchildren. This kind of political correctness offers no justice to the descendants of slaves -- it merely papers over a terrible ugliness that is an essential part of American history.

Republicans, intending to make a big symbolic show of their reading of the Constitution, have now taken a similarly sanitized approach to our founding document. Yesterday they announced that they will be leaving out the superceded text in their reading of the Constitution on the House floor this morning, avoiding the awkwardness of having to read aloud the "three fifths compromise," which counted slaves as only three-fifths of a person for the purposes of taxation and apportionment.

The reason to include the superceded text is to remind us that the Constitution, while a remarkable document, was not carved out of stone tablets by a finger of light at the summit of Mount Sinai. It was written by men, and despite its promise, it possessed flaws at the moment of its creation that still reverberate today. Republicans could use the history lesson -- last year they attacked Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan during her nomination process because one of her mentors, Justice Thurgood Marshall, had the audacity to suggest that the Constitution was flawed since it didn't consider black people to be full human beings.

As Jamelle Bouie wrote about the Huck Finn controversy, "If there's anything great about this country, it's in our ability to account for and overcome our mistakes." We shouldn't pretend we didn't make them.

By Adam Serwer  | January 6, 2011; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  House Dems, House GOPers  
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Comments

As I kind of suspected, the Republicans are wasting no time in disappointing me. Yay, politicians!

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 6, 2011 10:52 AM | Report abuse

For once Adam, I completely agree with you. The Constitution should be read as is, not as some sort of sanitized, politically correct, historically inaccurate version.

I found this quote interesting:

"West Virginia Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall said that his mentor, the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who famously carried a pocket version of the Constitution, would be proud of the House for the historic undertaking.

Rahall said, “There was no man that knew the Constitution in this body, like he did. And he will be smiling down upon this body during the reading of the Constitution.”"

My expectation is that Senator Byrd would actually have been appalled at any rewriting of the Constitution in this manner.

If the Republican House members don't have the political fortitude to "to recite politically uncomfortable portions", then they should dispense with the reading all together.

Posted by: jnc4p | January 6, 2011 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I'll bet I could produce a better (more PC) version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Faulkner definitely needs to be sanitized, not to mention most of Joseph Conrad.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Kevin, they are supposed to be reading Amendments too, so of course you don't have to read parts that are no longer in the Constitution. That seems kinda basic to me. Why the disappointment?

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Have you heard, there are now PC productions of The Merchant of Venice? Shylock turns into a hale fellow well met.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

@jnc4p: "For once Adam, I completely agree with you. The Constitution should be read as is, not as some sort of sanitized, politically correct, historically inaccurate version."

I agree. And imagine most conservatives, libertarians, liberals and others would agree. If you're going to do a thing, then really do it, just don't fiddle at the margins.

The only people who would disagree (I suspect) are politicians, pr people, lobbyists, and spin doctors.

There were reasons the 3/5ths clause came about, and it's worth discussing. It demonstrates the power of the slave states at the time, and was (potentially) risking giving all the power of the new federal government over to slave states and could, effectively (even with the 3/5ths clause) buy their way into greater representation in the house. Of course, without the 3/5ths clause, there would have been no apportionment of representation based on slaves, and slavery might have been ended earlier. Such political compromises have real consequences, and it doesn't hurt to reflect on that, either.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 6, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

This is not a "discussion" but rather a reading of the Constitution as it is, not as it wad.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Spot-on-perfect, Adam. Wouldn't change a letter.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

was

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Are they doing this for every amendment? or just this provision? If it's all I have less of a problem with it. If they're making an exception just the 3/5 issue, that's lame.

Rep. Jackson is talking about this now.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 6, 2011 11:04 AM | Report abuse

@claw: "Kevin, they are supposed to be reading Amendments too, so of course you don't have to read parts that are no longer in the Constitution. That seems kinda basic to me."

Because it's part of the original document, reflects the issues and outcomes of the wrangling of our founding fathers, reflects parts of the text that are often misunderstood, and a linear reading of the full text (plus amendment) allows for a broader view of the full constitution in context.

While both the use of the N-word in Huck Finn and the 3/5ths clause are generally misunderstood (the N-word was not, in Twain's time, what it is today; the 3/5ths was a clause to reduce the power of the slaveholding south, not diminish the humanity of African-Americans, etc), I think there's a good reason to go the source and reflect upon it in it's entirety.

Of course, I prefer the original Star Wars trilogy, and am disappointed that all the SE junk from 1997 was edited into the original negative. So, everybody is different.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 6, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Jesse Jackson Jr. making a big stink.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

@clawrence: "This is not a "discussion" but rather a reading of the Constitution as it is, not as it wad."

Meh. I don't subscribe to the "living, breathing" document thing. The constitution is what it is, including amendments, repeals, and whatnot.

I think they should read the whole thing. My opinion. Yours may vary.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 6, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

So basically, Republicans are ceding that the Constitution is actually a "living document" that is open to interpretation per the social norms of the day.

Good.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | January 6, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

"SE junk from 1997 was edited into the original negative."

I had my VHS of the originals dumped onto a DVDs. Those copies have since been converted to MKV files. The original lives on, whether Lucas wants it or not.

We can disagree on a lot, but I think it's safe to say that we all know that Han shot first.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 6, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

NoVAHockey, great now you have Jesse Jackson Jr. preserving the record on this issue. As for other superseded portions, they didn't read the part about the Senate replaced by the 17th Amendment. It is the Constitution as it exists TODAY.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 11:15 AM | Report abuse

OT-

Well, I'm glad I don't live in AZ for a variety of reasons.

"Death Panels" Az-style:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_transplant_coverage_death

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 6, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

In other words, they are just leaving out the parts they don't like. Wonder if they will choke on this one, which is still in there:

: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

Dahlia Lithwick:

"The problem with the Tea Party's new Constitution fetish is that it's hopelessly selective. As Robert Parry notes, the folks who will be reading the Constitution aloud this week can't read the parts permitting slavery or prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment using only their inside voices, while shouting their support for the 10th Amendment.

They don't get to support Madison and renounce Jefferson, then claim to be restoring the vision of "the Framers." Either the Founders got it right the first time they calibrated the balance of power between the federal government and the states, or they got it so wrong that we need to pass a "Repeal Amendment" to fix it.

And unless Tea Party Republicans are willing to stand proud and announce that they adore and revere the whole Constitution as written, except for the First, 14, 16th, and 17th amendments, which totally blow, they should admit right now that they are in the same conundrum as everyone else: This document no more commands the specific policies they espouse than it commands the specific policies their opponents support."

Posted by: fiona5 | January 6, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

So, the Republicans aren't reading us the Constitution, but instead reading the ABRIDGED Constitution?

Or is this the Cliff Notes version?

Unbelievable. Their campaign promises are so vapid and disconnected from reality that even their publicity stunts make them break their word! Unreal!

Posted by: theorajones1 | January 6, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

The House Republicans' sensitivity toward black Americans is touching. Pity that their first deed was to diminish the already minimal voting power of the DC House Delegate, representing one of the most heavily African American portions of the country.

If they weren't denying black people the vote, they wouldn't be Republicans.

Posted by: Scientician | January 6, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

No, TheBBQChickenMadness, not just any old social norms. What is being read today is the Constitution as amended. Plain and simple. Kevin and I simply disagree on whether the original, but now legally superseded parts, should be read as well. If the Democrats had been smart, they would have mucked this whole thing up by trying to reading into the record every treaty, Supreme Court case, Executive Order, regulation, etc., which purportedly changed the Constitution too.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Are we sure they are reading the Constitution? Boehner was confusing it the other day with the Declaration of Independence......

Posted by: LAB2 | January 6, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

How hard is it for the 'critters and the public to understand what the amendments amended? Oy.

I guess they should leave out the 18th becasue it was repealed by the 21st?

Read the damb thing as it *was* and *is* written.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 6, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

The history is certainly relevant, but the law-writers should perhaps be most familiar with the Constitution that is in place today, rather than the one that no longer applies.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 6, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Anyone else have this on? I think we know know why this has never been done before.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 6, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Scientician-

Good catch.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 6, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

"As amended" is neither "abridged" nor "Cliff Notes." It's not hard to follow along at all. Thank you, bsimon1, for providing a reasoned post.

theorajones1, the 8th and 14th Amendments will be read in their entirety.

ChuckinDenton, I honestly don't know how they are handling the 18th and 21st Amendments. Probably just skip the 18th.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

looks like a birther got a seat in the gallery this morning.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 6, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Also, if you edit out the stuff about the right to vote being restricted to people who were "male, free over 21," then the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, and 27th Amendments make no sense! Are they even going to read them?

This isn't the Constitution. It's not the document we're governed by. They are reading a fake Constitution. A FRAUDSTITUTION!

The problem for Conservatives is if you read the Constitution as it's written, it's inescapable that this document has CHANGED over time. And that not all these changes happened because of Amendments--in fact, they happen because its interpretation adjusts as our country becomes better and more just.

So, their solution is to read a FAKE, ABRIDGED CONSTITUTION!

The crime here isn't they're pretending slavery or the 3/5 compromise never happened, but it's that these so-called super-patriots swear they will be restrained by the Constitution, and then they read a FAKE, ABRIDGED CONSTITUTION.

It's a FRAUDSTITUTION! If you're going to read the Constitution, READ THE CONSTITUTION!

Posted by: theorajones1 | January 6, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I can't believe that they're omitting portions from the reading. They can't even read the constitution correctly. At first I thought this would be a neat idea to read it but now I wish they hadn't done it because this makes a mockery of the whole thing.

Posted by: Truthteller12 | January 6, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Before forming a firm opinion on the edited version of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I suggest reading some of Twain's work to a child first.

After reading the Adventures of Tom Sawyer to my 10-year-old daughter, I might get the new edition of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The use of the N-word literally causes me to cringe (even this column won't explicitly mention the offending word!) and makes reading difficult. It occurs in Tom Sawyer maybe a tenth as much as in Huck Finn.

We talked about slavery, racism, the N-word, and the attitude of the country in the mid-1800s and today in reading the book. My daughter has been exposed to the Civil Rights struggle in school since 1st grade. I don't see the educational value in keeping every instance of the N-word in Mark Twain's books as contributing much more in terms of positive value. If anything, the frequent use desensitizes the antagonism of the word.

It is possible to accommodate the presentation of the historical information with a version of the book that doesn't cause you to choke on the text as it is read aloud.

Posted by: JacobRoberts | January 6, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

This IS the Constitution, as amended and in effect today. Maybe this exercise will really produce some good results if even some black American kids out there finally learn the 3/5ths provision is no longer operative. Who knows, maybe one of them will grow up to be President someday.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

This is not a "discussion" but rather a reading of the Constitution as it is, not as it wad.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 11:01 AM
............................

Well Claw,

There goes your Tea Party's "Original Intent" argument.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 6, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I'm so happy that fiona keep quoting that dopey column from the Lithwick nitwit. We demolished this nonsense yesterday, fiona.

More hard questions for liberals:

How exactly is the claim that the Constitution was "flawed" when written relevant to how Congress should perform its duties?

Is it supposed to not follow the parts it considers flawed?

How are the flaws supposed to be treated by the Supreme Court?

What exactly do you mean when you mock conservatives for making a "fetish" out of the Constitution or treating it as "sacred"? Does that mean something different from saying that it contains ambiguities that require interpretation? If not, why are liberals any less guilty of making it a "fetish" of it by all of your gyrations toward "interpreting" it to require x, y, or z? If so, how is the "fetish" argument different from just openly saying, as some like the Colonel Kurtz of Plumline say, that we shouldn't be bound by parts we don't like today?

Good luck getting your thoughts together.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 6, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

"It is possible to accommodate the presentation of the historical information with a version of the book that doesn't cause you to choke on the text as it is read aloud."

The value of the novel, referring to Finn, not Sawyer, is in the growth of the character, Huckleberry Finn. The growth of that character is absolutely reliant on his relationship with Jim, and their relative places in the society of that time. Changing the adjective preceding Jim's name changes the meaning of the novel, and mislabels him for large swaths of the story. For one thing, he's not a slave for the entire story. In the opening he's a slave, becoming shortly thereafter a runaway slave and eventually (spoiler alert!) a freed man, though we don't learn that until the concluding chapter. A status of Jim that doesn't change over that time is his skin color, and how that determines his place in society. To edit the novel in the name of political correctness is to turn it into something other than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 6, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

schmuck: "It is the Constitution as it exists TODAY. [...] This IS the Constitution, as amended and in effect today."

Bwaaahahaha!

So much for ideological consistency!

Hilarious.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Why do you guys go to so much trouble to make hay? You're just mad they're reading it at all. admit it.

Posted by: rhysz | January 6, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse


Its absurd to me that a singe letter would be left out of the reading. The power of original document and the subsequent amendments Are. Of. A. Single. Piece.

You don't go the National Archives and see parts of the original document redacted.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 6, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

So, the Republicans aren't reading us the Constitution, but instead reading the ABRIDGED Constitution?

Or is this the Cliff Notes version?

Unbelievable. Their campaign promises are so vapid and disconnected from reality that even their publicity stunts make them break their word! Unreal!

Posted by: theorajones1 | January 6, 2011 11:22 AM

...........................

Keep in mind who they are staging this stunt for: The Tea Party. Hence their decision to publish:

Constitution For Dummies.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 6, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

No, Liam-still, it doesn't. For instance, repealing the 17th Amendment would start getting us back to "Original Intent."

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

"the 3/5ths was a clause to reduce the power of the slaveholding south, not diminish the humanity of African-Americans"

Wow. First today a good friend of mine turns out to be racist and now this.

They didn't count them as whole persons because they were considered property at the time.

This country has serious serious issues and has clearly not dealt with the issue of racism.

"There goes your Tea Party's "Original Intent" argument."

Yup. An entire judicial view shot down in flames by posturing Republicans.

Posted by: Alex3 | January 6, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

How can they read the entire 14th amendment when the 26th lowers the voting age to 18? The 14th amendment says the voting age is 21. If you are omitting superseded portions then you can't read the entire 14th amendment. This is a joke.

Posted by: Truthteller12 | January 6, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Back for more QB? You are truly a masochist, among other things.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Confirmed: it is Daley for the chief of staff.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40948053

Posted by: michiganmaine | January 6, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

@Truthteller: "now I wish they hadn't done it because this makes a mockery of the whole thing."

Wasn't that their point?

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Well, the GOP is off to a blazing start:

Reduce the voting power of the one DC delegate, remove transparency in the budget process and muck up the reading of the Constitution.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 6, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Bwaahaha! Comment of the day (so far) over at TPM:

I anticipate their reading of Article I, Section 8 will go something like this, too: "The Congress... uh... [hurble burble mumble mumble] thereof. Now, onto Section 9. AWW YEAH!!!"

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/house-reading-amended-slavery-free-constitution.php?ref=fpblg#comment-125039745

This is priceless.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

@Kevin_Willis "Of course, I prefer the original Star Wars trilogy, and am disappointed that all the SE junk from 1997 was edited into the original negative. So, everybody is different."

This is a perfect analogy. I still have my laserdisc player and the original trilogy on laserdisc for precisely this reason.

More fundamentally, as the linked article points out, this is being done to avoid "having to recite politically uncomfortable portions" of the Constitution. If the House Republicans don't have the guts to to recite the Constitution of the United States, as written, then there is little hope that they will have the guts to make the tough decisions on spending and taxes to address the deficit.

Posted by: jnc4p | January 6, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Alex3, please see my post to Liam-still.

Truthteller12, good catch on the 14th Amendment. I had not read ahead that far yet. The word "male" therein was also stricken by the 19th Amendment.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p, it is the Constitution as written and in effect today. Did you see bsimon1's first post above?

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"the 3/5ths was a clause to reduce the power of the slaveholding south, not diminish the humanity of African-Americans"

Wrong and wrong.

It was to increase the power of the slaveholding south by pretending slaves were part human though only for the purpose of increasing the power of their owners' vote. It would be as if horses were considered part human if ranchers were to be empowered.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

A modest proposal:

A governing motto for Speaker Boehner.

Sob Softly, And Compensate With A Huge Gavel.

Have a good day folks.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 6, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

You can all follow along with the CURRENT version right here:

http://topics.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articlei

This whole fuss shows exactly what a strawman argument it was to claim the RIGHT views the Constitution as a sacred document, written in stone.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Ironies do abound. Liberals have their panties in a wad because, even though they think the Constitution is unimportant, its inoperative parts aren't being read as part of the reminder to Congress of their duties and limitations.

Oh no! Someone will not know about the election of Senators by state legislatures! The sky if falling! FRAUD! It's just an old confusing document that isn't important, but you have to read the inoperative parts, too!

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 6, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Give it up Claw, you crazy old Birther.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 6, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Poor Clowrence, he's getting whiplash today

"This is not a "discussion" but rather a reading of the Constitution as it is, not as it wad.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 11:01 AM
............................

Well Claw,

There goes your Tea Party's "Original Intent" argument."

Sorry, can't have it both ways. You either read the original, or you admit that it is a living document that changes over time to accomodate societal changes.

"More fundamentally, as the linked article points out, this is being done to avoid "having to recite politically uncomfortable portions" of the Constitution. If the House Republicans don't have the guts to to recite the Constitution of the United States, as written, then there is little hope that they will have the guts to make the tough decisions on spending and taxes to address the deficit.'

Don't worry, they don't. Y'all got fooled again.

Posted by: fiona5 | January 6, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

"Back for more QB? You are truly a masochist, among other things."

Beating you down and running rings around you causes me no pain. But then, you had nothing to contribute to begin with, since you didn't even understand the issues and so had to stand on the sidelines sticking out your tongue, as usual.

But feel free to try to answer any of the questions. We await your wisdom. What is fetishizing the Constitution, and how is it relevant to how Congress does its job? Start there. Begin.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 6, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

clawrence12 "jnc4p, it is the Constitution as written and in effect today. Did you see bsimon1's first post above?"

This one?

@bsimon1"The history is certainly relevant, but the law-writers should perhaps be most familiar with the Constitution that is in place today, rather than the one that no longer applies. "

I did, but I don't agree with it. This change is being done because of fear of the optics, not out of some sort of principle. In politics, fear of the optics communicates one thing: weakness of your position.

In doing so, they are undermining the message they wanted to communicate by doing this, namely that the Constitution has a fixed, knowable meaning (the originalist position) and the only proper way to change it is through the amendment process. Instead the story is going to be how the Democrats wanted to read the "real" Constitution (which matches what's printed in every text book and everywhere on the Internet) and the Republicans wanted to read "their version" of the Constitution. Anyone who does any of their own research will quickly conclude that the Democrats are right on this one.

The other idea I take from this screwup is that these clauses are coming as somewhat of a surprise to these legislators which implies that they may be reading these for the first time.

Posted by: jnc4p | January 6, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I love how the Right is now arguing that the Constitution is a mutable document, complete with "inoperative parts".

Why was the Constitution changed, QB?

Could it be that it was modified to accommodate present-day interpretations of law?

Start there. Begin.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I am with Bsimon. I think the reading of the Constitution is valuable and would have value read either as it is in effect, or totally. I think the more they read it, the more they may get it. For those who fear the readers will editorialize, the actual document is readily available, and it is readily available with commentary and with annotations. They should get to have the fun we did in ConLaw 100. We used to believe that none of them even knew we had a Constitution, because we were uppity first years.

Either way it is read, the stirring of controversy about it has to be better than apathy.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 6, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

clawrence12, why do you support omitting portions of the constitution from the reading? I double checked and my copy doesn't have any missing language. Apparently the House GOP has a special copy of their own with missing language.

Posted by: Truthteller12 | January 6, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

What the amendment process shows is how more Progressive America has become over the years: female suffrage, ending of slavery, 18 year old suffrage, ending Prohibition, etc.

Maybe the GOP should dispense with reading the Amendments!

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 6, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

OT:

A Congressional Budget Office estimate suggests that the Republican plan to repeal the new health care law would increase the deficit by $230 billion by 2021. The analysis also finds that fewer Americans would have health insurance and those who purchase in the individual market would pay more.

http://politicalwire.com/archives/2011/01/06/repeal_of_health_care_bill_would_cost_230_billion.html

Why does anyone take these jokers seriously? Republican voters are either uninformed or plain ol' idjits.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how the movement to repeal the 17th Amendment is going? They can omit that one should that ever happen, when they read it next time.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 6, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Uh oh...

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Police roughed up an American diplomat in Vietnam and repeatedly slammed a car door on his legs when he went to visit a prominent dissident, an official in Washington said Thursday, detailing an encounter that prompted a strong U.S. protest.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Ethan-

The GOP doesn't show the CBO any love. From one of Greg's links in the Morning Plum:
"As I wrote, the GOP dismissed the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimate that the PPACA would slash the deficit by $143 billion through 2019, and the repeal legislation identifies no counterweight to that sum. "That kind of flim-flam," Van Hollen said, "is the kind of thing the American people came to expect the last time they were in charge."

Read more: http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2011/01/05/the-new-republican-rules/#ixzz1AHJof92Z

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 6, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

OT:

-Scientist proves conservatism and belief in climate change aren't incompatible-

Emanuel has concluded that the scientific data show a powerful link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

"There was never a light-bulb moment but a gradual realization based on the evidence," Emanuel said. "I became convinced by the basic physics and by the better and better observation of the climate that it was changing and it was a risk that had to be considered."

[...]

"The people who call themselves conservative these days aren't conservative by my definition. I think they're quite radical."

[...]

"I am a rare example of a Republican scientist, but I am seriously thinking about changing affiliation owing to the Republicans' increasingly anti-science stance,"

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-scientist-climate-20110105,0,6481221.story

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Sargent's statement that, "the Constitution was flawed since it didn't consider black people to be full human beings" suggests that he doesn't understand the historical significance of the Three-Fifts Compromise.

It was the supporters of slavery who were against the Three-Fifths compromise, not those supportive of freedom. The Three-Fifths compromise limited the power of slaveholding states and effectively gave the northern free states disproportionate representational power over the South by not giving the Southern slaveholding states increased representation at the same time the South was denying slaves the right to vote.

As evidenced by the fact that Mr. Sargent clearly misunderstands the Three-Fifths compromise, it is reasonable to conclude that many Americans are also unclear about its meaning. So, while the Republican decision to stage a public reading of the Constitution is a very political manipulation of nationalism. I disagree that their decision to leave out the superceded text is necessarily politically motivated.

Posted by: Auslander1 | January 6, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

@shrink2"the 3/5ths was a clause to reduce the power of the slaveholding south, not diminish the humanity of African-Americans"

Wrong and wrong.

It was to increase the power of the slaveholding south by pretending slaves were part human though only for the purpose of increasing the power of their owners' vote. It would be as if horses were considered part human if ranchers were to be empowered."

I think you are mistaken:

"The Three-Fifths compromise was a compromise between Southern and Northern states reached during the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in which three-fifths of the population of slaves would be counted for enumeration purposes regarding both the distribution of taxes and the apportionment of the members of the United States House of Representatives. It was proposed by delegates James Wilson and Roger Sherman.

Delegates opposed to slavery generally wished to count only the free inhabitants of each state. Delegates supportive of slavery, on the other hand, generally wanted to count slaves in their actual numbers. Since slaves could not vote, slaveholders would thus have the benefit of increased representation in the House and the Electoral College. The final compromise of counting "all other persons" as only three-fifths of their actual numbers reduced the power of the slave states relative to the original southern proposals, but increased it over the northern position."

"The three-fifths ratio was not a new concept. It originated with a 1783 amendment proposed to the Articles of Confederation. The amendment was to have changed the basis for determining the wealth of each state, and hence its tax obligations, from real estate to population, as a measure of ability to produce wealth."

"The South immediately objected to this formula since it would include slaves, who were viewed primarily as property, in calculating the amount of taxes to be paid. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his notes on the debates, the southern states would be taxed "according to their numbers and their wealth conjunctly, while the northern would be taxed on numbers only."[3]

"The proposed ratio was, however, a ready solution to the impasse that arose during the Constitutional Convention. In that situation, the alignment of the contending forces was the reverse of what had obtained under the Articles of Confederation. In amending the Articles, the North wanted slaves to count for more than the South did, because the objective was to determine taxes paid by the states to the federal government. In the Constitutional Convention, the more important issue was representation in Congress, so the South wanted slaves to count for more than the North did"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-Fifths_Compromise

Posted by: jnc4p | January 6, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

All, my take on what's wrong with the William Daley as COS pick:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/01/william_daley_as_new_chief_of.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 6, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Reading the Constitution is a political stunt to begin with, yet claw and QB expects us to believe that motivations for leaving out parts of the Constitution is motivated by something other than politics. That something is apparently a desire not to confuse people or waste time by reading repealed poritons? Seriously, what do you lose by reading the 3/5th compromise? What do you gain by leaving it out?

Posted by: ashotinthedark | January 6, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Ethan-

Emanuel is correct. Any Party that would have Christine O'Donnell as a candidate is truly radical.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 6, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

@bismon1""It is possible to accommodate the presentation of the historical information with a version of the book that doesn't cause you to choke on the text as it is read aloud."

The value of the novel, referring to Finn, not Sawyer, is in the growth of the character, Huckleberry Finn. The growth of that character is absolutely reliant on his relationship with Jim, and their relative places in the society of that time. Changing the adjective preceding Jim's name changes the meaning of the novel, and mislabels him for large swaths of the story. For one thing, he's not a slave for the entire story. In the opening he's a slave, becoming shortly thereafter a runaway slave and eventually (spoiler alert!) a freed man, though we don't learn that until the concluding chapter. A status of Jim that doesn't change over that time is his skin color, and how that determines his place in society. To edit the novel in the name of political correctness is to turn it into something other than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

Completely agree. I wouldn't change a word of this, especially "To edit the novel in the name of political correctness is to turn it into something other than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

Posted by: jnc4p | January 6, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

@quarterback1:

"Liberals have their panties in a wad because, even though they think the Constitution is unimportant..."

Say WHAT?

It was George W. Bush who called the Constitution "just a g*ddamned piece of paper".

I am getting so sick of the degrading comments that liberals and conservatives scream at each other. I am REALLY sick of being called un-American because I do not march in lock-step with either side. Just who the hell died and made either of you Uncle Sam?

Posted by: wiccan | January 6, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

"GOP sanitizes Constitution" - wow, who would have thunk it?

Wasting 2 hours a day reading the constitution? Hey, if our legislators need a constitutional refresher, do it on your own time - you're on MY dime, and I expect you to be working on solving the pertinent issues of the day, not wasting time grandstanding and pacifying the tea baggers.

Posted by: notfooledbydistractions1 | January 6, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Anybody know where I can get one of those "Don't tread on Snakes" flags?

Posted by: WmLaney | January 6, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

If you were just now hearing the constitution read for the first time this would be very confusing. They skipped the 18th entirely and then read the 21st saying the 18th is hereby repealed. If you didn't already know what that was you would have know clue what the 21st amendment was repealing since the didn't even read it!

Posted by: Truthteller12 | January 6, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

@Ethan2010 "I love how the Right is now arguing that the Constitution is a mutable document, complete with "inoperative parts".

Why was the Constitution changed, QB?

Could it be that it was modified to accommodate present-day interpretations of law?

Start there. Begin."

The question isn't whether or not the Constitution is perfect or immutable. It's how do you go about changing it. The method the Constitution provides for changing itself is the amendment process. You don't simply get a friendly judge (or Justices) to rule that the plain meaning of the clauses is no longer operative because they have become inconvenient to your political agenda.

Progressives used to believe this. In the first half of the twentieth century, the Progressive movement passed the 16th (Income Tax), 17th (Direct Election of Senators), 18th (Prohibition) and 19th (Women's sufferage)amendments. Somewhere around the time of the New Deal though they gave up on this and on persuading the electorate that their positions were correct. The New Deal should have required some sort of constitutional amendment for the changes in society that FDR was trying to enact.

You and I have had this discussion before. I find no way to square an interpretation of the Commerce Clause that required the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) to be enacted before the Federal government had the power to regulate alcohol manufacture and transport across state lines with the Supreme Court Decision Wickard v Filburn (1942) which validated the Federal governments ability to directly control the growing of wheat on one's own farm for private consumption. There were no amendments to the Constitution between the 21st (Repeal of Prohibition) in 1933 and Wickard, so how was the Constitution legitimately changed to expand the scope of the Commerce Clause?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn

Posted by: jnc4p | January 6, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

They are reading the Constitution as is. The parts that have been sperseded are no longer part of the Constitution. It isn't a historical document. It is the highest law of the land.So what would be the point of reading parts of the Constitution that are no longer law? What century do we live in?

Posted by: BradG | January 6, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

jnc, nothing in that tract contradicts what I said. The details of the negotiation don't address the fundamental issue. They were property, a commodity and they were argued over as such. Sure the North made the case that if you want to count their numbers as votes they they have to pay taxes too. The logical thing would have been to have them not counted for the purpose of voting, but to tax their number to the extent all property was or was not taxed. The South needed to compromise with the North on the tax issue in order to get the power they wanted.

To say "3/5ths was a clause to reduce the power of the slaveholding south" is ludicrous. Was the North supposed to accept the idea that slaves were not men for any other purpose than for increasing the voting power of their owners? Obviously pretending slaves were part human so their owners' votes would count for more was a concession the South won from the North in exchange for some property tax on them.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

"It's how do you go about changing it. The method the Constitution provides for changing itself is the amendment process."

That's half of the story and you know it. It's not just about amending the Constitution.

The Framers set up the amendment process specifically so the country could change the fabric of the Constitution. They set up the Judiciary/SCOTUS to INTERPRET the fabric of the Constitution.

"how was the Constitution legitimately changed to expand the scope of the Commerce Clause?"

Your comments on Prohibition and Wickard v Filburn only prove my point. The prohibition amendment was unnecessary because of the Congress' power under the Commerce Clause, and by 1942 interpretation of the clause had evolved to include aggregate economic impact interstate commerce.

These are both instances which perfectly exemplify the brilliance of the Framers.

In producing a mutable document, they gave both the Judiciary AND the American people a way to "form a more perfect union."

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Calling the blacks only three-fifth humans?

And these were the all-knowing, thoughtful, visionary, Forefathers?

No wonder the Constitution had to be changed 20+ times!

Posted by: kishorgala | January 6, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Ethan2010 "Your comments on Prohibition and Wickard v Filburn only prove my point. The prohibition amendment was unnecessary because of the Congress' power under the Commerce Clause, and by 1942 interpretation of the clause had evolved to include aggregate economic impact interstate commerce."

So the entire Congress, the President and the state legislatures enacted a completely unnecessary amendment? They all just screwed up?

My position is the only legitimate way for the interpretation of the commerce clause to "evolve" in the manner you are describing is to amend the Constitution through the amendment process. Evolving interpretations don't cut it.

Posted by: jnc4p | January 6, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

"Calling the blacks only three-fifth humans?"

They didn't want them to be counted as humans at all, but they had to. Otherwise they feared the far more populous North would have ended slavery through its voting majority. So the slavers insisted on their votes counting for more in proportion to the number of slaves they owned, not that they were 3/5 human. Why did the North allow this? Secession was threatened as the alternative, so the North settled for the tax deal.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

"Secession was threatened as the alternative, so the North settled for the tax deal."

I thought it was more about House representation. The Southern states said we've got X number of people, so we're due so many reps. Northern states said, your slaves don't count for that. resulted in the 3/5.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 6, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Under which Constitutional authority was the reading of the "sanitized" Constitution considered acceptable?

And what did the Tea Party have to say about it? That is, if they were even asked! They were reined under the Republican party, counted towards the majority that helped select Boehner as the Speaker. But that is all done now!

And this is the only second day of the Republican reign in the House!

Posted by: kishorgala | January 6, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

BradG, thank you! I thought that the exercise was a huge success. A few funny moments too. I was watching CNN for a bit a noticed that [Journ-O-List] Brianna Keilar still called Pelosi "Speaker". No wonder they can't get the Constitution right either.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Ethan2010:

Your comments on Prohibition and Wickard v Filburn only prove my point...by 1942 interpretation of the clause had evolved to include aggregate economic impact interstate commerce.
*******

Oh Ethan, and by Korematsu interpretation of the constitution had evolved to allow for internment of Americans on basis of national origin. and obviously presidents have been able to withold habeus corpus since the time of Lincoln.

you cannot blindly transfer supreme court accquiessence in a time of emergency to the here and now. else, based on Wickard and the precedents above, the country would be a shadow of itself.

Posted by: dummypants | January 6, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

"Secession was threatened as the alternative, so the North settled for the tax deal."

I thought it was more about House representation. The Southern states said we've got X number of people, so we're due so many reps. Northern states said, your slaves don't count for that. resulted in the 3/5.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 6, 2011 1:44 PM
=====================================
Even at 60% humanoids, the South fared pretty well! 'Coz they probably had ALL the slaves in the Country!

Posted by: kishorgala | January 6, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p, we will have to agree to disagree on your points then. May I move on to another sub-topic? Does the U.S. Constitution, as it exists currently, allow for the election of a female President? Every section read today refers to the President as "he" or "him."

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

@NoVA: "I thought it was more about House representation."

That is my understanding as well.

@jnc4p: "So the entire Congress, the President and the state legislatures enacted a completely unnecessary amendment? They all just screwed up?"

I think so, yes, based on my understanding of things. But it may have been consistent with the contemporary interpretation of the Commerce Clause at that point in time. But yes, to me it looks like one big mistake, just as the 3/5ths Compromise looks nuts today.

"My position is the only legitimate way for the interpretation of the commerce clause to "evolve" in the manner you are describing is to amend the Constitution through the amendment process. Evolving interpretations don't cut it."

I couldn't disagree more.

The entire scope of the judiciary is based on interpretation of law, including interpretation of the Constitution. Again, that is WHY we have a judiciary. If there were no disagreements in writing the Constitution, there wouldn't be ambiguous language in the Constitution, and thus there wouldn't be a need for a Judiciary. But the fact is that there WERE major disagreements, on almost every single issue broached by the convention, in fact.

Knowing this, they devised the judiciary to interpret language in the Constitution that was INTENTIONALLY left vague for precisely the purpose of allowing the future population to deal with issues that were unforeseen back in 1789.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

They are reading the Constitution as is. The parts that have been sperseded are no longer part of the Constitution. It isn't a historical document. It is the highest law of the land.So what would be the point of reading parts of the Constitution that are no longer law? What century do we live in?

Posted by: BradG | January 6, 2011 1:20 PM
========================================
How convenient!

I thought the uproar during the last election cycle was about how the Congress had veered away from the Constitution (only during the Obama administration), as gleaned by reading the minds of the forefathers 200 years later!

If it is about the law of the land as of today, what is this "repeal" business about?

Can't have it both ways!

Posted by: kishorgala | January 6, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

"Every section read today refers to the President as "he" or "him."

"He" used to be gender neutral. In standard written English the possessive pronoun "his" is used to refer to a singular indefinite pronoun unless the group referred to is known to be all female.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 6, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I will ask the question again: Does the U.S. Constitution, as it exists currently, allow for the election of a female President?

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

"Does the U.S. Constitution, as it exists currently, allow for the election of a female President?"

Yes.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I will ask the question again: Does the U.S. Constitution, as it exists currently, allow for the election of a female President?

Yes. see the natural born citizen clause for requirements.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 6, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

"@NoVA: "I thought it was more about House representation."

That is my understanding as well."

Yes of course. So why would they threaten secession unless their slaves were counted as part human for increasing the voting power of their masters in the legislature? A: To keep the North from destroying the slave industry with their voting majority.

Thus the 3/5 rule was a concession by the North, in essence, empowering slavers, to allow slavery to continue in the South (for a price) to keep the country together.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

@clawrence12 "jnc4p, we will have to agree to disagree on your points then. May I move on to another sub-topic? Does the U.S. Constitution, as it exists currently, allow for the election of a female President? Every section read today refers to the President as "he" or "him.""

Yes. Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5:

"No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_Two_of_the_United_States_Constitution#Clause_5:_Qualifications_for_office

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html

Posted by: jnc4p | January 6, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

The "N" word is unacceptable today, but I wonder if a black person would be offended if I called him/her a "Sixty Percenter?"

Posted by: kishorgala | January 6, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

@jnc4p: "Thus the 3/5 rule was a concession by the North"

It was a concession from both sides, hence "compromise".

@kishorgala: "I wonder if a black person would be offended if I called him/her a "Sixty Percenter?"

Why don't you try that and let me know how it goes. Better yet, let me grab my video camera first.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I would add that the 14th amendment should have extended the right to vote for women. But the Supreme Court thought otherwise in Minor v. Hapersett.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 6, 2011 2:43 PM | Report abuse

@Ethan2010 "@jnc4p: "Thus the 3/5 rule was a concession by the North"

It was a concession from both sides, hence "compromise"."

You've quoted shrink2 as myself, which may offend him. However, your point is exactly correct.

Posted by: jnc4p | January 6, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

@kishorgala: "I wonder if a black person would be offended if I called him/her a "Sixty Percenter?"

Why don't you try that and let me know how it goes. Better yet, let me grab my video camera first.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 2:40 PM
=================================
I guess the "forefathers" were braver than I am. But then, there were no video cameras at that time to document the event!

Posted by: kishorgala | January 6, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

This is wrong:

"the 3/5ths was a clause to reduce the power of the slaveholding south, not diminish the humanity of African-Americans"

The idea that slaves could count as a whole vote owned by their owner (since they could not vote) would be ludicrous. The 3/5 compromise increased the power of the slavers.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

"The idea that slaves could count as a whole vote owned by their owner (since they could not vote) would be ludicrous. The 3/5 compromise increased the power of the slavers."

I guess it depends on your point of view. If you're the South and think the slaves should count 100%, you're decreasing your political power with the deal. If you're in the North, you've got be be thinking you've given away the store by giving even proportional representation.

I don't know if it's moxie or insanity -- the idea that you (the South) would march into a negotiation on how citizens would be represented and essentially say your "property" should be counted. Go big or go home, I guess.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 6, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

"I guess it depends on your point of view."

Exactly my point, if you think slavepower a victim of the 3/5 compromise, you support slavery.

"I don't know if it's moxie or insanity"

Moxie, so how could they argue both sides, these are not people they are work animals like horses, but that they should, simply because I bought them give my vote more weight than yours? How could they argue that? They wielded secession like a club and eventually they used it...on themselves. Some argue the burden of southern history is immutable, it can't be overcome for as long as the descendants of slaves and their owners live there together.

Two good and important books:

The Road to Disunion, Secessionists at Bay by Freehling and
The Slave Trade by Thomas

(nowadays you don't have to give any more info than that to find a book)

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

"I don't know if it's moxie or insanity -- the idea that you (the South) would march into a negotiation on how citizens would be represented and essentially say your "property" should be counted."

Well said. That made me laugh. It really is incomprehensible.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Ok now we are all on the same page.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

It just occurred to me that the President can be described with a mathematical formula (60% + 100%)/2 = 80% human!

That is by taking the liberty to assume the "forefathers" counted white women as 100% humans. But, I'd be wrong according to Justice Scalia!

Posted by: kishorgala | January 6, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Ezra Klein somehow has managed to channel me, although I don't think he intends to:

"In this country, we amend the Constitution. We don't edit it."

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/01/huck_finning_the_constitution.html

Posted by: jnc4p | January 6, 2011 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"...counted white women as 100% humans. But, I'd be wrong according to Justice Scalia!"

kishorgala. even more outrageous, slave women and children were included in the 3/5 compromise for the purpose of vote counting, even though, obviously, they were not eligible to vote anywhere.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Adam:

"...since it didn't consider black people to be full human beings."

This is an absurd claim.

First of all, there is nothing in the Constitution that suggests black people were not full human beings. The 3/5ths clause concerned slaves, not blacks. There were many free blacks, all of whom were counted for the purposes of congressional representation and taxes in precisely the same way as whites.

Second, the 3/5ths clause had nothing to do with defining what a human being was. It was defining the method by which representation and taxes would be apportioned. Indeed, the relevant clause refers to counting "3/5ths of all other persons". Assuming you understand that the word "person" means "a human being", it is quite plain that the constitution could not possibly have been defining blacks (or even slaves) as only 3/5ths human.

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 6, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

"They are reading the Constitution as is. The parts that have been sperseded are no longer part of the Constitution."

Uh... no. They read all the amendments in order. They just skipped one uncomfortable part.

Posted by: Alex3 | January 6, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p:

"In this country, we amend the Constitution. We don't edit it."

Actually, nowadays, penumbras formed by emanations transform the words into something other than what they mean in ordinary English. No amendments needed any more. It amends itself. It lives and breathes, afterall, remember?

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 6, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

@ScottC: "it is quite plain that the constitution could not possibly have been defining blacks (or even slaves) as only 3/5ths human"

No, just having the VALUE of 3/5ths human.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

So today we were told by a Republican that slavery wasn't about being black, it was about being a slave. By a strange twist of fate, there were no white, nor Chinese, nor even Indian slaves (except of course, Indians enslaved each other).

The Constitution did not say all blacks are slaves so their full humanity was established. Republicans are not all this stupid. That couldn't be.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Ethan:

"No, just having the VALUE of 3/5ths human."

Wrong. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the quality or value of being human. The fact that non-inhabitants of the country don't count at all towards either representation or taxation doesn't mean that the Constitution holds all others on the earth to have no value as human beings.

Non-slaves states would have been as happy with counting them fully as not counting them at all, because it wasn't a commentary on the humanity of slaves in any way. Rather it was simply a method of apportioning both benefits (representation)and burdens (taxation).

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 6, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

shrink:

"So today we were told by a Republican that slavery wasn't about being black..."

If you are talking about me, you are wrong. I did not say that slavery wasn't about being black. I said that the 3/5ths compromise wasn't about being black. It was about slavery.

Are you trying to suggest that even free blacks were counted as only 3/5ths? Or that there were no free blacks when the constitution was written? If so, I suggest you educate yourself on our history. If not, I suggest you either address what I actually said, or don't address it at all.

"The Constitution did not say all blacks are slaves so their full humanity was established."

I have no idea what you are trying to say here. Do you?

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 6, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

"non-inhabitants of the country don't count"

Wow this is some sick shıt. This guy doesn't realize African "non-inhabitants" were forced to inhabit the country they didn't inhabit.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

"I thought the uproar during the last election cycle was about how the Congress had veered away from the Constitution (only during the Obama administration), as gleaned by reading the minds of the forefathers 200 years later!"

No, the issue is their veering away from what the Constitution says.

"If it is about the law of the land as of today, what is this "repeal" business about?"

Repealing a bad statute. How in the world do liberals get THIS confused?


Posted by: quarterback1 | January 6, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

The founding fathers did not pass an abridged version of the Condtitution. They declared that slaves were only a portion of whites in determining the number of House members. They refused to allow women to vote or to own property. The fact that an amendment was subsequently reversed by a later amendment doesn't void the history of the initial amendment. Once again, the teabaggers show that their election promises were just rhetoric.

Posted by: mikesba | January 6, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Merely an attempt to educate the ignorant politician what they swore an oath to uphold and defend. It was not a history lesson.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | January 6, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

The teabaggers once again show that they want to present a revised history to propagate their views on government. They do not acknowledge slavery nor the refusal to give women the right to vote or own property.

Posted by: mikesba | January 6, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

"Say WHAT?

It was George W. Bush who called the Constitution "just a g*ddamned piece of paper"."

No, he didn't. Stop telling leftwing bloglies.

"I am getting so sick of the degrading comments that liberals and conservatives scream at each other."

You must be outraged if you've been reading comments here by wbgonne, caothien, Ethan, Liam, and even Greg.

"I am REALLY sick of being called un-American because I do not march in lock-step with either side."

You ought to direct your complaint to whoever is doing that.


Just who the hell died and made either of you Uncle Sam?

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 6, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

shrink/ethan:

The slave states wanted to apply 100% of the number of slaves as part of the population when apportioning representation. According to your thinking this must mean that they believed that slaves were "fully human"?

They also wanted to apply 0% of the number of slaves as part of the population when apportioning their share of taxes. According to your thinking this must also mean that they believed that slaves were not at all human.

Do you really believe they were trying to make both of these mutually exclusive statements with their position on the apportionment of representation and taxation? Or, perhaps, just maybe (think long and hard about this, but don't hurt yourselves) could it be that, as I have said, the portion of the slave population that should be counted towards apportioning representation and taxation was in no way whatsoever a commentary on the humanity of slaves?

(BTW, shrink....it does not surprise me that Ethan can't grasp this fairly simple notion. But you strike me as fairly bright, even if not always that coherent. If you are trying to deny the truth in what I am saying, you aren't being honest.)

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 6, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

"If there were no disagreements in writing the Constitution, there wouldn't be ambiguous language in the Constitution, and thus there wouldn't be a need for a Judiciary."

This is balderdash even from a purely linguistic standpoint. People in complete agreement can write an ambiguous document, and people in disagreement can write an unambiguous one. There is no connection.

"But the fact is that there WERE major disagreements, on almost every single issue broached by the convention, in fact.

Knowing this, they devised the judiciary to interpret language in the Constitution that was INTENTIONALLY left vague for precisely the purpose of allowing the future population to deal with issues that were unforeseen back in 1789."

This is historical and constitutional balderdash. Please cite any historical evidence that they intentionally left the text vague because of disagreements so that courts could later resolve the disagreements they left vague.

I'll save you time: there is none. Have you ever cracked the Federalist Papers or any other historical sources? Where in their defense of the Constitution do the authors say anything remotely like this? Your argument is directly contrary to all the evidence.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 6, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Ok I get it. You are saying slavers knew their chattel were fully human, that never was an issue. They just treated them as if they were not, as if they were animals or furniture, but they always knew they were human. So the 3/5s deal was not about pretending they were this or that much human, it was just a business/political transaction, a way to get the North to buy into and profit from slavery, in order to preserve it.

Everyone knew they were 100% human beings just like their owners and what we were doing to them and why. I'll buy that. It is a more brutal point than the one I was making, but I get what you are saying.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

@ScottC: "The fact that non-inhabitants of the country don't count at all towards either representation or taxation doesn't mean that the Constitution holds all others on the earth to have no value as human beings."

JEEZ LOUISE. Yet another argument from the right that is entirely hinging on semantics.

Here:

"No, just having the VALUE of 3/5ths human for the purposes of the American government."

That is what I meant and you know it.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 5:48 PM | Report abuse

"it does not surprise me that Ethan can't grasp this fairly simple notion"

I agreed with your comment above that "the 3/5ths clause concerned slaves, not blacks," I just didn't post it.

The second part of your argument regarding the humanity of slaves -- "it is quite plain that the constitution could not possibly have been defining blacks (or even slaves) as only 3/5ths human" -- is just another semantics argument. They were 3/5 of something, right? They were 3/5 the VALUE to the government of white citizen.

The compromise didn't dehumanize the slaves any more than they already were dehumanized, but I don't see how any logical argument can be made to suggest that the 3/5ths compromise didn't at minimum DEVALUE their humanity.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Alex3, are you sure that you were watching the right channel on tv? The 18th Amendment was, in fact, NOT read aloud.

Are you really Rep. Nadler (D-NY) who participated in the charade even though he derided what he called the "ritualistic reading" as "total nonsense" and "propaganda"?

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/01/06/constitutional-reading-sparks-debate-omitted-parts/#

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Ethan, I think his point is that the humanity of slaves was not being debated, everyone knew they were 100% human, they just didn't have any rights because they were slaves. The relative amount they were worth to the North and the South was what was enshrined in the Constitution, not their humanity. It is a vicious idea. Since there was money being made, the power of that money got transacted as extra votes for the South and a cut for the government.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Shrink, yes. That was my point too in my post at 4:12pm. ScottC just always has to be right no matter what, so he had to add the extraneous bit about "non-inhabitants of the country". Whatta schmuck (him, not you).

I agree, the very idea of making political and financial deals over the value and trade of human beings is entirely vicious and deplorable. It is unfortunate that they couldn't just start the country with a fresh slate: no slavery. But that is the sad truth of the founding of this country and economics in the late 18th century, and it should be remembered in accurate terms for historical value.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 6:34 PM | Report abuse

"I love how the Right is now arguing that the Constitution is a mutable document, complete with "inoperative parts"."

I've consistently argued precisely the same thing: the Constitution can be amended. It isn't "mutable" by interpretation.

"Why was the Constitution changed, QB?

Could it be that it was modified to accommodate present-day interpretations of law?

Start there. Begin."

What on earth can that possibly even mean? What do you mean by "changed" and "modified"? What "law" or "interpretations of law"?

If you are suggesting that the Constitution was "modified" or "changed" by judicial interpretation, no, clearly it wasn't. That is functionally how the left views the Constitution. That's the idea of a "living constitution" -- that it can be changed by interpretation.

And that is exactly what is wrong with the left's position. The Constitution can be changed only by amendment. Not by interpretation. All else is nonsense and efforts to intellectualize nonsense.

Why was it changed? Answer: it has been amended when the country decided it needed to be amended. It doesn't otherwise change.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 6, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Indeed, it isn't as if any other business arrangements were transacted as votes. But that gets back to my original point, this bizarre deal was written into the Constitution so the slavers would stay in, to empower them. In this version of profit sharing with the government (taxing the industry), slavery was made Constitutional without ever using the word.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

shrink:

"Ok I get it."

Reading on, it becomes apparent that you do not. Or, if so, you are still intent on being dishonest about it.

"You are saying slavers knew their chattel were fully human, that never was an issue."

No, I never said that, and I did not imply it. I said and meant that as far the Constitution is concerned, the humanity of slaves was never addressed, except, perhaps, by implication where it referred to them as "people", or, in other words, humans.

Yes, there were slavers who believed that slaves/blacks were subhuman. That does not mean, as you seem to suggest, that those beliefs were endorsed by the Constitution. I understand that perhaps you would like it to be so, in order that your disdain for the constitution and its principles might be justified. But sorry, shrink. It just ain't so, and a smart guy like you should be able to grasp that fact.

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 6, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I tried. It seems like you just want to parse words and fight.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 7:34 PM | Report abuse

shrink:

"In this version of profit sharing with the government (taxing the industry), slavery was made Constitutional without ever using the word."

And thus shrink shows his utter incoherence on this issue. In one breath he maintains that counting slaves as anything less than a full part of the population shows that the constitution endorses the notion that slaves are not fully human. In the next he maintains that counting slaves at all as a part of the population is simply government "taxing the industry" and hence endorsing slavery.

In short, shrink apparently disdains the constitution no matter what, and will use any and all arguments, even wholly contradictory arguments, to try to justify his disdain.

shrink, you are incoherent....again.

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 6, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

shrink:

"It seems like you just want to parse words and fight."

I don't want to do either. I just want others to stop lying about what the constitution says or means.

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 6, 2011 7:59 PM | Report abuse

ScottC3, obviously, you've been around here long enough to know they won't stop lying.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Maybe it would have been better to just let the Democrats read all of the inoperative parts.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 6, 2011 9:30 PM | Report abuse

First, it's 'superseded' not 'superceded'.

Second, should the Republicans also have read the long parts about the election of Senators by state legislators and the original method of picking the Vice President?

All one has to say about counting slaves is that those who want them to have been fully counted are on the side of the slave masters and on the wrong side of history.

Posted by: frissell1 | January 7, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Great article Adam. But was your spellcheck broken? It's supersede, not supercede. I guess the Post bought out one too many editors. Again, I loved the article. Keep them coming.

Posted by: LMF1 | January 7, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

They read the Constitution as it applies today. You can buy alcohol, the 2nd-place prize in a Presidential election isn't the VP slot, and I'm not required to return your slave to you if he/she runs away.

Why you're upset that they didn't read the rules that no longer apply, I'm not sure...

I guess I'm sorry that you're so upset that I'm not required to return your slaves to you when they finally get out of your basement; but the document that used to protect your slaves as property has changed.

I'm sorry that these changes offend you so deeply.

Posted by: gekkobear | January 7, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Richard Prior's spinning in his grave.

Posted by: johnharris1 | January 7, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Inconvenient Truths!

Posted by: Whittier5 | January 7, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Adam should be glad that the superseded parts were not included in the reading.

That makes it easier for him and other liberals to lie about what those parts said.

For instance, I see that Serwer's fellow journ-O-list Dana Milbank -- along with scores of other extra-chromosome leftwingers on the 'net -- is claiming that the superseded sections "counted blacks as 3/5s persons" and "denied women the right to vote".

But Serwer goes them one better: He lies even about the parts that WERE read.

For instance, most of us remember that the Constitution's preamble includes the phrase "PROMOTE the general welfare". Serwer has edited that to read "PROVIDE FOR the general welfare".

Think I am lying? Read this:

"The phrases 'necessary and proper' and 'provide for the general welfare' might be somewhat disquieting to conservatives. But those phrases are as much a part of the Constitution as the 'right of the People to keep and bear arms.'"

-- Adam Serwer, Dec. 17, 2010
http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=necessary_and_proper

Adam, I know you're not the brightest candle on the menorah (I see others have already caught your "supersede" error) but you should remember: Like a camera, the 'net never blinks.

You have no credibility. Do yourself a favor. Resign now.

Posted by: RomeoHotel | January 9, 2011 12:08 AM | Report abuse

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