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Posted at 12:14 PM ET, 01/ 5/2011

The Tea Party does not own the Constitution

By Greg Sargent

Now that we've learned that Michele Bachmann is mulling a run for president, it's worth taking a quick look at how she views the Constitution. Unsurprisingly, this leading Tea Party warrior queen seems to share the impression many Tea Partyers harbor that they are the true intellectual and political heirs of the founding document:

She said she believes that the Constitution was a guide to paring down expansive government powers. "The words of the Constitution mean what they say they mean," she said. She described the Constitution as "the organic, original document" that "gives life to a nation."

I'm glad Bachmann has conceded that the Constitution is "organic," since so many Tea Partyers seem to view it as holy scripture, rather than as a flawed and ever-evolving framework for the ongoing American arguments that originated with the founding and coninue to this day. But Bachmann's view -- also shared by many Tea Partyers -- of the document as an expression of nothing but hostility to government power is also off the mark.

Check out the interesting rebuttal to this view from legal scolar Garrett Epps, who advises House members set to read the Constitution to listen to what it actually says:

If the Members actually listen, they may notice that the document they are hearing is nationalistic, not state-oriented; concerned with giving Congress power, not taking it away; forward-looking, not nostalgic for the past; aimed creating a new government that can solve new problems, not freezing in place an old one that must fold its hands while the nation declines.

Of course, Tea Partyers will disagree with this interpretation. But this is precisely the point: The Constitution is a framework for ongoing disagreement and argument about the federal government's proper role and the proper limits on its power, not a pronouncement from on-high that is meant to end the discussion one way or the other.

The high-profile reading of the Constitution tomorrow in the House offers a good opportunity to undercut the lingering presumption of contemporary conservatives and Tea Partyers that they somehow own the nation's founding document.

By Greg Sargent  | January 5, 2011; 12:14 PM ET
Categories:  House Dems, House GOPers  
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Next: Here it is: The filibuster reform package!

Comments

"Now that we've learned that Michele Bachmann is mulling a run for president"

And once we've gotten off the floor and stopped laughing, we can talk about something serious, like the fact that even the Founders did not agree on what the Constitution actually says and permits.

Posted by: fiona5 | January 5, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Greg, I find your characterization of the Constitution as a framework for argument in a sense true, but also too timid. On point after point, today's Tea Partiers are taking the role of Ant-Federalists, the perpetrators of the Whiskey Rebellion, and of course the nullifiers and disunionists leading into the Civil War. Not only do the have history contestably wrong, they are turning U.S. constitutional history on its head.

Posted by: skocpol | January 5, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised that no one has pointed out that the Tea Party view of the Constitution is actually closer to what the Articles of Confederation tried to do. And we all know how well that worked out.

Posted by: jesteinf | January 5, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

jesteinf for the win.

That is exactly right.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 5, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Problem is that they just take whatever laws they don't like and call it unconstitutional. Really? Cutting Medicare is unconstitutional? Income taxes are unconstitutional? If they weren't so hell bent on repeating Sean Hannity talking points, they might have half a chance at sounding informed.

Posted by: DDAWD | January 5, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

"Tea Party view of the Constitution is actually closer to what the Articles of Confederation tried to do."

Exactly!

"And we all know how well that worked out."

I honestly don't think most of them do know how that worked out. (Trade and business came to a near standstill as states started issuing their own currency and enacting their own tariffs. Foreign countries began to give up on doing trade with the U.S. as no one knew what was going on when the ship docked.)

Posted by: Alex3 | January 5, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Palin-Bachmann 2012
------------------------------
Yeah! And Christine O'Donnell for Secretary of Paranormal Affairs.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | January 5, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

fiona, hilarious, exactly, I mean are there any Republicans who are not mulling a run for President in 2012?

To this list of pretenders and charlatans, we now solemnly add...a 25th name:

Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, John Thune, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence, Rick Santorum, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, David Petraeus, Ron Paul, Jeb Bush, John Bolton, Bob McDonnell, Jim DeMint, Chris Christie, Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Judd Gregg, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

"I'm surprised that no one has pointed out that the Tea Party view of the Constitution is actually closer to what the Articles of Confederation tried to do."

Thank you. Did the Tea Partiers sleep through that section of history class?

I'd really be curious to see a poll conducted on the percentage of people who have the slightest clue that the Articles of Confederation even existed.

Posted by: schrodingerscat | January 5, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey Greg, filibuster reform to kick off today -- and about time. Did you know you can buy a filibuster?

"Steven Duffield, one of Heritage's experts for the event, is a GOP
operative and the president of Endgame Strategies LLC, a lobbying
firm he founded. According to Roll Call, Duffield, a former aide to
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ),
the Republican whip in the Senate, created his firm to help his
clients work with Senate Republicans to "use their power to filibuster to hold up legislation."

Duffield's lobbying website
advertises that he can help his clients find just the right
"backbench Senate Republicans" to "exercise their prerogatives to
delay or obstruct" legislation:

     Managing Holds and Filibusters. Your organization has an interest
in a bill that has proven controversial and you require advocacy
before those legislators - often backbench Senate Republicans - who
may exercise their prerogatives to delay or obstruct. Endgame Strategies will give you new ways to manage your interests in a
legislative environment that gives great power to individual senators."
>

Posted by: fiona5 | January 5, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Well, the Tea Party and traditional GOP have this in common: they don't let facts and reality get in the way. Dressing up in period garb does not a constitutional scholar make.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 5, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Is there some polling I am unaware of that precisely defines "Tea Partyer" opinion about the Constitution?

I think quite a few might agree with Scalia:

"In its most important aspects, the Constitution tells the current society that it cannot do [whatever] it wants to do... If you give to those many provisions of the Constitution that are necessarily broad... an evolving meaning so that they have whatever meaning the current society thinks they ought to have, they are no limitation on the current society at all."
======
"You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society... If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don't need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box... Persuade your fellow citizens it's a good idea and pass a law. That's what democracy is all about."

http://www.callawyer.com/story.cfm?eid=913358&evid=1

Posted by: sbj3 | January 5, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Alex, Alex Hamilton may have saved the United States.

DD, in re "sounding informed", on the early thread we learned that being informed is a liberal affectation that increases the national debt. It turns out the American workforce is overeducated which causes outsourcing.

“Why is it that whenever I ask for a pair of hands, a brain comes attached?” Henry Ford

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Anyhow, good post Greg. I've given it some thought and I think you're right. Even if I find this to be a useless bit of theatrics. Liberals and anyone who disagrees with the Tea Party needs to have their voice heard. We are not a one party nation and never have been. Not even when the nation was founded.

Posted by: Alex3 | January 5, 2011 12:43 PM | Report abuse

"Is there some polling I am unaware of that precisely defines "Tea Partyer" opinion about the Constitution?"

Sure -- anything they don't like is 'unconstitutional.'

Posted by: fiona5 | January 5, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

New and renewed questions for you, Greg.

"rather than as a flawed and ever-evolving framework for the ongoing American arguments that originated with the founding and coninue to this day. "

What is the significance of this new emphasis on asserting that the Constitution is "flawed"? What does that mean for how it should be interpreted and applied?

Other than by finding ambiguities or grounds for disagreement about proper interpretation, what evidence is there for the modern liberal view that the Constitution is just a "a framework for ongoing disagreement and argument about the federal government's proper role and the proper limits on its power"? What historical evidence is there for the notion that the drafters were trying merely to set up a framework for dispute and struggle over the scope of federal power rather than trying to be as clear as they possibly could?

Take some concrete examples. The requirement of equal apportionment of taxes was seen as a flaw standing in the way of of an income tax that was a modern necessity (supposedly). Why did we need an amendment rather than just letting Congress and the courts recognize that this flaw should no longer bind the country over 100 years after ratification?

The Epps argument is, like the others, an exercise in question begging and straw man attacks. It's a non sequitur and obtuse rejection of the text to claim that the the Constitution was intended to establish a national government without acknowledging the limitations it imposed. Do you deny that the Constitution granted Congress only certain powers and reserved all others to the states and people?

"creating a new government that can solve new problems, not freezing in place an old one that must fold its hands while the nation declines."

Does this mean that the federal government's powers expand and change as "new problems" arise? If not, then what? Does it mean that "we" are simply free to "interpret" the enumerated powers as necessary to address "new problems"? They why pretend the document grants limited powers in the first place? Isn't that more of a dishonest and fetish-based approach than the one you attack?

"But Bachmann's view -- also shared by many Tea Partyers -- of the document as an expression of nothing but hostility to government power is also off the mark."

Can you cite any evidence that this is Bachmann's or anyone else's position?

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I think Greg is correct that this presets the Dems with an opportunity. Knowledge and thought are the Right Wing's enemies. The Cons promote and demand ignorance. So the reading of the Constitution, if taken seriously, could actually be helpful to them politically. Moreover, Americans SHOULD know far more about our Constitution and our government. However, I am not optimistic that this enlightened scenario will occur. I expect this to devolve into a spectacle of feigned fealty and political gamesmanship, if it registers at all.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 5, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

@scat: "I'd really be curious to see a poll conducted on the percentage of people who have the slightest clue that the Articles of Confederation even existed."

This.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 5, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Article 1, Section 8:

"To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;"

OK, I'm good with that. How about the baggers?

Posted by: Quatermass | January 5, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

"O'Donnell for Secretary of Paranormal Affairs."

Ha! Good one.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 5, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

All, here it is, the filibuster reform package:

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

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 5, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Why is it that whenever I ask for a pair of hands, a brain comes attached?” Henry Ford

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Fantastic quote. Thanks, Shrink.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 5, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

@fiona: "Sure -- anything they don't like is 'unconstitutional.'

And anything you like is constitutional?

Posted by: sbj3 | January 5, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"Is there some polling I am unaware of that precisely defines "Tea Partyer" opinion about the Constitution?"

Sure -- anything they don't like is 'unconstitutional.'

Posted by: fiona5 | January 5, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

You guys are rocking this thread!

Posted by: wbgonne | January 5, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Leave it to Greg Sargent to deride Conservatives for taking the Constitution seriously.

Posted by: diehardlib | January 5, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

No, the Tea Party doesn't own the Constitution, the American People do.

However, we have recently decided as a legislative body to ignore almost all of the Constitution as needed.

In Arizona, we have a state that wants to enforce the law, and a Federal government who is taking them to court to PREVENT them from enforcing NATIONAL law. At the same time, this same government is bending over backwords to accomodate those who are here illegally.

Obamacare seeks to force citizens to buy something that they otherwise wouldn't. It forces states to pay for things that are NO WHERE in the Constitution.

We would all be better off is SOMEBODY in Washington were aware of the Constitution.

Posted by: jimbo561 | January 5, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse


Sargent,

It's not the hostility to government power that the Tea Party views with disdain, but the trampling of the Constitution by both parties.

I assume the Journolistas received their WH talking points today, with all the blogs and articles in WaPo about the GOP, Tea Parties and Constitution.

Posted by: janet8 | January 5, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Right on cue, Jimbo, to prove fiona's point. Thanks.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 5, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

"What historical evidence is there for the notion that the drafters were trying merely to set up a framework for dispute and struggle over the scope of federal power rather than trying to be as clear as they possibly could?"

---------------

"Most Tea Partiers claim that the 10th Amendment, which says “the powers not delegated” to the federal government are “reserved to the states,” is proof that the Framers would’ve balked at today’s bureaucracy. What they don’t mention is that James Madison refused a motion to add the word “expressly” before “delegated” because “there must necessarily be admitted powers by implication.”

http://www.newsweek.com/2010/10/17/how-tea-partiers-get-the-constitution-wrong.html

Posted by: schrodingerscat | January 5, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Tea Partiers crack me up, except when I get stuck behind their scooters at the grocery store. Fat old jerks.

Posted by: danw1 | January 5, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

"Can you cite any evidence that this is Bachmann's or anyone else's position?

Posted by: quarterback1"

You might have to look things up on the internet. If only you were a liberal.

Posted by: DDAWD | January 5, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I thought Pelosi owned the constitution or was it Reid...must be Obama my hero...

Posted by: mjandrews8 | January 5, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

We are a nation divided. This morning I have read comments by those supporting the gash bashing Naval captain and immigrant bashing right wingers; both of these are the antithesis of American ideals. Tea Partiers who have been making clear thier ignorance of the constitution are ostentatiously reading it in Congress to the mystification of those who have long been aware of its contents. It is my view that the new electees to Congress make very clear the pitiful state of education in America today and are the best case for reform I have seen.

Posted by: withersb | January 5, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Most of the Tea party do not even understand the Constitution and how it was developed. I have never seen or heard from a more ignorant group of people.

Posted by: mdembski1 | January 5, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

The Constitution is not a flag; People should stop trying to wear it.

Posted by: kmy042 | January 5, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

The Constitution changes with time, or else it wouldn't have amendments. I am tired of the Tea Party elitist attitude that only they are worhty of interpreting the Constitution.

Posted by: jsoles2001 | January 5, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Curious George could make a boat out of it.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm looking, and I can't find the Article that says one political party gets to decide what the Constitution means. It can't possibly entrust that to unelected judges--can it?

Oh, well, I loves me that Constitution, except for the parts I'd rather ignore.

Posted by: krickey7 | January 5, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I find it hilarious that the progressive socialists who infest this site have ZERO problem with the fact that a community organizer with NO experience to speak of is now in charge of our country and by anyone's measure doing a PATHETIC job, yet they pooh-pooh and laugh at the prospect of conservative candidates with actual EXPERIENCE running for the job.

What is wrong with you people? Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely happy that you are as vocal as you are since it guarantees that the country will NOT be heading in the progressive socialist direction again any time in the foreseeable future. Clear thinking Americans can see how ridiculous your position is and EVERYONE wants to stay well clear of it going forward for the sake of the country.

Posted by: SayWhat5 | January 5, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

"What historical evidence is there for the notion that the drafters were trying merely to set up a framework for dispute and struggle over the scope of federal power rather than trying to be as clear as they possibly could?"

the historical evidence is that there was never one monolithic view of the constitution or the government among the founding fathers ,but arguments about it continued long after the constitution was adopted (and continue to this day)...the federalist papers show that disagreements existed, the existence of the bill of rights shows that disagreements existed. Fundamentally what the constitution does do is give us a framework and a structure in which to work out our disagreements -- ie govern ourselves. The bill of rights (insisted upon by citizens before they would vote for ratification) protects the individual from the government...no one forsaw the need to protect individuals from multinational corporations, mores the pity...the constitution is indeed organic-- ie a living document(though I don't think Michele Bachman realized what she was agreeing to when she said that).

Posted by: underhill | January 5, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

"The words of the Constitution mean what they say they mean," [Rep Bachmann] said.


Is it just me, or is she paraphrasing the epic rant of former Vikings head coach Denny Green? "They were who we thought they were!" (now making the rounds as a coors lite (ugh) beer commercial)

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 5, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

"Thank you. Did the Tea Partiers sleep through that section of history class?"
The biggest teabagger I know did basically sleep through History Class. He was a C and D student.
I don't fail to remind him of that, 20 years later, when he starts spouting off Tealogic on Facebook.

Posted by: flounder2 | January 5, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

No, it isn't just you, a few days ago we were debating the concept of the original idea and I staked out the position that for neuro-linguistic reasons, all vocalized semiotics are derivative.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

"Tea Party doesn't own the Constitution"

And the democrats refuse to obey their oath to the Constitution.

The once noble Party of JFK doesn't exist anymore. What used to be called "the lunch pail party" has been hi-jacked by the neo-commie progressives. This ain't Mom and Dads Democrat party.

Posted by: Straightline | January 5, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

The Tea Party might not own the Constitution, but it's fairly clear that the Democrats don't even own a copy of it.

Posted by: postfan1 | January 5, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I didn't know the tea-baggers could actually read, let alone understand what the Constitution actually says.

As for Michelle "bat $#it crazy" Bachmann running for Prez, LMAO.

Palin - Bachmann: The 2012 GOP rub one out tour.

Posted by: dcp26851 | January 5, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

If the long-dead framers had been opposed to a strong central government, they would have kept the Articles of Confederation. Which, um, basically bankrupted the nation because they were fiscally ridiculous (sound like any political movement we know?).

The ENTIRE POINT of the Constitution was to STRENGTHEN the central government.

(Oh, and if the Framers had intended themselves to be the final word on the Constitution, they wouldn't have allowed Amendments.)

Posted by: theorajones1 | January 5, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

m surprised that no one has pointed out that the Tea Party view of the Constitution is actually closer to what the Articles of Confederation tried to do. And we all know how well that worked out.

Posted by: jesteinf | January 5, 2011 12:22 PM
___________________________________
Well said. Unfortunately, not only do the tea baggers apparently NOT know how that turned out, I doubt that many, if any, of them even know that the Articles of Confederation even existed.

Posted by: luridone | January 5, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

re: "What historical evidence is there for the notion that the drafters were trying merely to set up a framework for dispute and struggle over the scope of federal power rather than trying to be as clear as they possibly could?"

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Samuel Kercheval, now inscribed on the wall of the Jefferson memorial:
"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

Posted by: rapw18 | January 5, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

S'cat, nice try but no dice. Implied powers does not equate to the "framework for dispute " narrative/theory.

In addition, Madison believed the entire Bill of Rights was unnecessary because the original document already withheld the powers it forbade. It was adopted as a belt and suspenders measure intended to make citizens' rights and the government's limited powers clear.

If there were any real support foe your position I presume you could cite it. Where did they say they were deliberately leaving federal powers undefined and open to political struggle? And don't just tell us about later disagreements because that doesn't support your claim.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

When the people who debated and wrote the Constitution were actually in government the attempt was made to use what we call today "originalism." The concept was shot down in debate because, as was pointed out, that among the 55 men who were present at various points during the construction of this document you would be hard pressed to find agreement on what exactly wny provision meant. bachman and the tea baggers show their ignorance of history and the Constitution itself in the way they speak of the Constitution. And reading it in congress is about as silly an idea as have ever been put out. If incoming congresspersons are not wel enough versed in the Cosntitution to know at least what is in it they c should resign immediately and let someone who knows the basic of basics about our government take their place.

Posted by: John1263 | January 5, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Since most of liberalism today has been court imposed...

...the idea of Constitutionality must scare the loser left.

Liberals are a small part of a political party.......no need to listen to them at all

Posted by: georgedixon1 | January 5, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Yeah - liberalism is such a bad thing. If only we had never had Madison, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Mason, Adams, the other Adams, the other Adams, Lincoln, LaFollett, Roosevelt, the other Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Dr. King, Frederick Douglass.....

yeah, leberalism is awefull. If only we had more nixons, and bushs', and hardings....

Posted by: John1263 | January 5, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Just to drive the point home:

The passage from Jefferson's letter to Kercheval directly preceding that posted earlier.

"Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence,
and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.
They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than
human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that
age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of
its country. It was very like the present, but without the
experience of the present; and forty years of experience in
government is worth a century of book-reading; and this they would
say themselves, were they to rise from the dead."

...and a little later...
"It is this preposterous idea which has
lately deluged Europe in blood. Their monarchs, instead of wisely
yielding to the gradual change of circumstances, of favoring
progressive accommodation to progressive improvement, have clung to
old abuses, entrenched themselves behind steady habits, and obliged
their subjects to seek through blood and violence rash and ruinous
innovations, which, had they been referred to the peaceful
deliberations and collected wisdom of the nation, would have been put
into acceptable and salutary forms. Let us follow no such examples,
nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another
of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs. Let us,
as our sister States have done, avail ourselves of our reason and
experience, to correct the crude essays of our first and
unexperienced, although wise, virtuous, and well-meaning councils.
And lastly, let us provide in our constitution for its revision at
stated periods."

Posted by: rapw18 | January 5, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Greg opined, "The Tea Party does not own the Constitution"
----------------------------------------
Of course not. However, they seem more concerned that the government should follow it than their opponents...

Posted by: illogicbuster | January 5, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

own the constitution? what the heck are you talking about? when liberals cant make sense any longer they settle for being downright confusing.

Posted by: dummypants | January 5, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

"The Tea Party does not own the Constitution"

Quite so;
However are resolve to safeguard it from the likes of you is of mortal seriousness and consequence.
Beware where thou doth tread.

Posted by: rexreddy | January 5, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Tea Party: The constitution does not authorize health care reform!

Why?

Because it does not say, "and we heretofore authorize health care reform just in the event that it is needed at some undetermined future date and that it may be passed and signed into law by a future president called "Barack Obama."

Posted by: roskoreh | January 5, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

While they are reading the Constitution, here's a little "language problem". Didn't Michele Bachmann say the Constitution says "what it says".

(CNN) -- A group of state legislators opposed to illegal immigration plan to propose a legislative "fix" Wednesday that would prevent children of illegal immigrants born in the United States from being citizens, a spokesman said.

The group, State Legislators for Legal Immigration, will reveal their strategy at a Wednesday morning news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, Ty McCauslin said.

The coalition counts members from 40 states. It argues that the 14th Amendment has been wrongly applied to so-called "anchor babies."

The 14th Amendment says that "all persons born ... in the United States" automatically become U.S. citizens.
-----------------------------------------------------
Let's see, what could be up to interpretation? Maybe the word "persons", or the word "born" or the words "United States".

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | January 5, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

rapw18,

1. Jefferson was in France during the Constitutional Convention. He wasn't part of drafting it.

2. More importantly, he was writing 40 years later about (a) the need for a mechanism to AMEND (b) a STATE constitution.

So, what you've cited, while a favorite "sacred text" (a private letter, of all things) and trope of liberals, is no evidence at all in support of the claim that the Constitution was just intended as a vague framework for federal powers to be defined through political struggle. If anything, it contradicts the point by stressing the necessity of an amendment mechanism.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

"You might have to look things up on the internet. If only you were a liberal."

There's nothing on the internet that supports the claim.

What else have you got?

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Agreeing with scalia means yo are far out on the fringe in terms of Constitutional interpretation. not very many serious Constitutional scholars agree with much of what the extremist partisan Nino has to say. His "originalism" is a very very thinly vieled justification for his imposition of his personal views in place of the law when deciding cases.

Posted by: John1263 | January 5, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

'Leave it to Greg Sargent to deride Conservatives for taking the Constitution seriously. '

you seem to be missing the point... we all take the Constitution seriously. but not all of us claim that we understand every word in it and that it is in perfect agreement with everything we think.

Posted by: fiona5 | January 5, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Sorry about the typos
Too many years at sea!
I pronounce many words as:
“Arrggggh!”
So "are", "our", "your:, "hour" and words with similar vocalizations become quite obscured.
I knew you would understand. : )

Posted by: rexreddy | January 5, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"The Constitution is a framework for ongoing disagreement and argument about the federal government's proper role and the proper limits on its power, not a pronouncement from on-high that is meant to end the discussion one way or the other."

This is accurate, but incomplete and too focused on the mechanics of government. The Constitution presents a framework for *resolving* disagreement between the constituent parts of the union.

Posted by: dollarwatcher | January 5, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"The 14th Amendment says that "all persons born ... in the United States" automatically become U.S. citizens.
-----------------------------------------------------
Let's see, what could be up to interpretation? Maybe the word "persons", or the word "born" or the words "United States"."

No, actually, you left out the words relevant to this particular argument. I assume that's ignorance rather than dishonesty.

There have been some good articles and discussions of the issue that are available on the web. I'm sure you can find them if you are actually interested in knowledge and not groundless snark.


Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I can't figure out why the Republicans have so few Presidential hopefuls. Everyone knows Mickey Mouse could have beaten Harry Reid. Mike Castle was DuPont's RINO, but a RINO nonetheless, just waiting for a head shot.

MIchelle Bachmann, is that what you people think America wants?

Republicans need some more candidates. Tom Tancredo? Doug Hoffman? Think outside the box.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I think QB should run for President on the platform of a weak central/federal government governed by religious doctrine.

See how that goes.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 5, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

"The ENTIRE POINT of the Constitution was to STRENGTHEN the central government."

This new talking point about the Articles of Confederation is just one more fallacy in the fallacy storm that is the left's tantrum against the Constitution. The Constitution was designed to establish a stronger federal government but not a national government with unlimited power. That's why the powers were . . . limited. Duh.

"(Oh, and if the Framers had intended themselves to be the final word on the Constitution, they wouldn't have allowed Amendments.)"

What is it about liberals that makes them unable to grasp the difference between amendments and free-wheeling "living constitution" "interpretation" of what is already in the document? The Framers certainly intended the words they wrote to be binding unless and until changed by amendment.

That's what Greg et al are denying by arguing that it makes a "fetish" or "sacred" text of it rather than recognizing it as a "flawed" "set of political compromises" that can't bind us today.

Not only liberal has mounted a logical or historically supported defense of this claim.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Quaterback 1:

Soon after the Constitution was ratified and went into practice, two of the framers who worked together to get it rafitied, Madison and Hamilton, had serious disagreements as to what the actual document meant.

The issue was the National Bank of the United States. According to Hamilton the Bank was a "necessary and proper" function (Article I Section Section 8)of the federal government given that Congress (and therefore the federal government) had the "power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imports and excises" (Article I Section 8)and to "coin money, regulate the value thereof" (Article 1 Section 8). Hamilton's argument was that a National Bank of the United States would be the depository of taxes and would be the mechanism for regulating the value of money.

Madison, vehmently disgareed, arguing that since the Constitution did not directly give Congress the power to create a Bank it did not have the power to do so.

So here we have two framers of the Constituiton who were in Philadelphia that hot summer of 1787, who worked together to write the Federalist Papers in support of the Constitution, disagreeing as to the proper role of the federal government.

Therefore, even at its inception, the meaning of the Constituiton and the proper role of the federal government has been a debate that has gone on since the Constituion itself was created. This is historical fact.

By the way, in the case of McCulloch v. Maryland, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bank of the United States was a "necessary and proper" function of the federal government. In his opinion, Chief Justice John Marshall argued that the Constitution provided powers to Congress and thus the federal government that were not directly written into the document itself.

Posted by: smith6 | January 5, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Madison, vehmently disgareed, arguing that since the Constitution did not directly give Congress the power to create a Bank it did not have the power to do so.
------------------------------------------------------
Let me anticipate quarterback's objections:

1. Were you there? How do you really know what Madison argued? Do you have it on video?

2. Vehemently? How do you know he was really vehement? Maybe he was mildly disagreeing.

3. Arguing? ...

Well, you get the idea.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | January 5, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

"the historical evidence is that there was never one monolithic view of the constitution or the government among the founding fathers ,but arguments about it continued long after the constitution was adopted (and continue to this day)...the federalist papers show that disagreements existed, the existence of the bill of rights shows that disagreements existed."

The existence of disagreements over meaning does not support the claim that the document was written with the purpose and design claimed by Greg et al -- merely to establish a framework of undefined powers to be fought over. It floors me that liberals are swarming around this logical fallacy. You are positing a document that effectively says "Congress shall have all the powers that it [or the Court] deems necessary to the current needs of the United States."

Which raises the question why they didn't just write it that way instead of with enumerated and specific powers, with all others reserved.

"Fundamentally what the constitution does do is give us a framework and a structure in which to work out our disagreements -- ie govern ourselves."

Quite a different (if unhelpful) proposition than the claim that the powers of the government are themselves left up to political struggle.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

"This is historical fact."

smith6, QB doesn't care about facts (obviously).

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 5, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Tea Party: The constitution does not authorize health care reform!

Why?

Because it does not say, "and we heretofore authorize health care reform just in the event that it is needed at some undetermined future date and that it may be passed and signed into law by a future president called "Barack Obama."

Posted by: roskoreh | January 5, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The Constitution was created to form a stronger central government because what they had before DID NOT WORK. That is why they tried again, and rewrote the Articles of Confederacy into the far more central power based document, and setup Supreme Court to continuously interpret it.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | January 5, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Read Federalist 44

Posted by: smith6 | January 5, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

smith6,

I'm quite familiar with all that. It simply doesn't support the argument being made by Greg, Lithwick, Dionne, Klein, Ellis and all these other talking point artists. It isn't even relevant to it, other than perhaps to tend to refute it.

Their argument isn't about textual ambiguity or interpretive disagreements. It is that the Constitution was deliberately written so as not to define federal powers but to leave them up to generational and political dispute, and that the document is "flawed" and cannot in any event be treated as "sacred," i.e., binding on us anyway.

If that argument were true, then neither Madison nor Hamilton would have, as you describe, adamantly argued that his position on the National Bank was dictated by the Constitution. They would have just had an argument over whether the times necessitated such power.

So try again if you care. So far, all your side has cited are the amendment process and disagreements about meaning. These are completely beside the point.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

"1. Jefferson was in France during the Constitutional Convention. He wasn't part of drafting it.

2. More importantly, he was writing 40 years later about (a) the need for a mechanism to AMEND (b) a STATE constitution.

So, what you've cited, while a favorite "sacred text" (a private letter, of all things) and trope of liberals, is no evidence at all in support of the claim that the Constitution was just intended as a vague framework for federal powers to be defined through political struggle. If anything, it contradicts the point by stressing the necessity of an amendment mechanism."

quarterback1, interesting and well thought-out reply, but still just deconstructionism.
On 1, so what? Do you dismiss all of Jefferson's views on forming government, or just those issues for which he was not actually physically present at all possible moments of the debate? Kind of rules-out yourself from having an opinion on the matter, doesn't it? Quite a high bar to set, wouldn't you say? As for weighting your opinion on this matter against Jefferson's in the absence of anything else - I think he's got the historical chops, don't you?
On 2, again, so what? And you seem to have missed the point entirely. That he WAS writing 40 years later is key to its veracity, a point he also makes in his letter. That it was in regard to a state constitution is a distinction best described as a red herring. And it was a private letter, yes, but again you provide no reason, and I see none implied, for why this might dilute the worth of the opinion it contains.
As for your distinction between amendment and flexible framework, it seems to me that they are clearly symbiotic in nature - the first is a means to the achieve the second, and yet the first cannot exist in the absence of the second. Given them separate names doesn't imply that they part of a whole intended for the same purpose.
Deconstructionism is an amusing party trick, but is usually of little value in political debate. It is also typically the province of those without a coherent counter-argument. Ironically, Derrida (the father of deconstructionism) would suggest that taking this approach through to it to its logical conclusion proves that no text can ever be interpreted as having a single meaning. As for your ad hominem fallacies (i.e. liberals are wrong because they are liberal), I'll assume that because you appear to be intelligent and educated that you simply had a moment of weakness (while acknowledging that no side of the debate is innocent on this one).

Posted by: rapw18 | January 5, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Sargent's piece including Rep. Bachmann's quote reminds me of a speech I heard several years ago. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, then still active now retired, talked about the relationship between the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, reflecting on the determination of early Americans to see that those amendments were brought to fruition without delay. She described the Constitution as giving broad powers to the federal government, paraphrasing her remarks, while the Bill of Rights was intended to place a "ball and chain" around the ankles of that very government to safeguard against abuses. I have always remembered that contrast and would be curious to hear currently from Justice O'Connor on this matter. Perhaps an Op-Ed in the Post? If Justice Antonin Scalia can address new members of Congress on the Constitution, why not hear from a retired Justice who occupied an important central position in the perceived philosophical alignment of members of the Court during her tenure?

Posted by: Cleo6 | January 5, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Sargent's piece including Rep. Bachmann's quote reminds me of a speech I heard several years ago. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, then still active now retired, talked about the relationship between the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, reflecting on the determination of early Americans to see that those amendments were brought to fruition without delay. She described the Constitution as giving broad powers to the federal government, paraphrasing her remarks, while the Bill of Rights was intended to place a "ball and chain" around the ankles of that very government to safeguard against abuses. I have always remembered that contrast and would be curious to hear currently from Justice O'Connor on this matter. Perhaps an Op-Ed in the Post? If Justice Antonin Scalia can address new members of Congress on the Constitution, why not hear from a retired Justice who occupied an important central position in the perceived philosophical alignment of members of the Court during her tenure?

Posted by: Cleo6 | January 5, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Sargent's piece including Rep. Bachmann's quote reminds me of a speech I heard several years ago. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, then still active now retired, talked about the relationship between the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, reflecting on the determination of early Americans to see that those amendments were brought to fruition without delay. She described the Constitution as giving broad powers to the federal government, paraphrasing her remarks, while the Bill of Rights was intended to place a "ball and chain" around the ankles of that very government to safeguard against abuses. I have always remembered that contrast and would be curious to hear currently from Justice O'Connor on this matter. Perhaps an Op-Ed in the Post? If Justice Antonin Scalia can address new members of Congress on the Constitution, why not hear from a retired Justice who occupied an important central position in the perceived philosophical alignment of members of the Court during her tenure?

Posted by: Cleo6 | January 5, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

"The Constitution was designed to establish a stronger federal government but not a national government with unlimited power."

Who exactly on the left is arguing for a national government with unlimited power?

Posted by: schrodingerscat | January 5, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

"Read Federalist 44"

Read 41-45. A tidbit:

"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."

Even better, read Art. I sec. 8.

Who you going to go with, Greg or James Madison?

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 3:01 PM | Report abuse

"And you seem to have missed the point entirely"

Not an accident.

QB doesn't post unless he knows he can sucker a liberal into a spitting contest. You'll see how depraved this lunatic is (if you haven't already).

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 5, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday I advocated the House do focus groups today (after the reading of the Constitution and BoR) on the Federalist Papers and some selected letters of Thomas Jefferson. Today, the Plum Liners are on point. Too bad Boehner didn't agree, this stuff really matters.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Quaterback 1:

Disagreements about meaning is EXACTLY the point. What the Constituion means has changed throughout history, so yes, different generations have interpeted the Constitution differently.

In 1896 in the Case of Plessy v. Ferguson The 14th Amendment was interpted to mean that states could segregate the races without violating the "equal protection clause" so long as it was "separate but equal" This was the view of the Constituion until 1954 when in the case of Brown v. Board of Ed, the 14th Amendment was interpreted to mean that "separate is inherently unequal."

Even the most recent Supreme Court case of 2010, Citizens United, the Supreme Court changed not only over one hundered years of Constitutional law but its own decision a few years earlier that denying corporations or unions the right to campaign for a candidate violated the first amendment rights of corporations and unions. Up to that point, the court had interpreted the Constitution to allow the legislative branch to deny that right to corporations and unions.

I can only speak for myself, but I don't think the people you mention (Dionne, Sargent, etc.) are saying the Constitution gives a blank check for the federal government to give it what ever powers it wants. The argument is that those who hold "original intent" of the Constitution as a guide to knowing what the Constitution means are misguided because there is no such think as "original intent." No one is arguing "do the times necessitate such a power" but rather they are asking "does the Constitution provide such a power." Just like Hamilton and Madison, people can disagree as to what power/role the federal government has, but no one can claim that there is an original, 1787, way of viewing the Constituion that will tell us EXACTLY what it means.

Posted by: smith6 | January 5, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

"Who exactly on the left is arguing for a national government with unlimited power? "

All of you are.

That's the necessary corollary of this: "The Constitution is a framework for ongoing disagreement and argument about the federal government's proper role and the proper limits on its power, not a pronouncement from on-high that is meant to end the discussion one way or the other."

That's just a convoluted way of saying that the Constitution does not limit federal government powers.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

"The 14th Amendment says that "all persons born ... in the United States" automatically become U.S. citizens.
-----------------------------------------------------
Let's see, what could be up to interpretation? Maybe the word "persons", or the word "born" or the words "United States"."

No, actually, you left out the words relevant to this particular argument. I assume that's ignorance rather than dishonesty.

There have been some good articles and discussions of the issue that are available on the web. I'm sure you can find them if you are actually interested in knowledge and not groundless snark.


Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 2:21 PM
____________________________________
The full language of the provision in question plainly says that ANY person born in the U.S., subject to U.S. jurisdiction (i.e., not in a foreign embassy or other place considered foreign soil) is a U.S. citizen. The citizenship of the child's parents is irrelevant.

Posted by: luridone | January 5, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

"That's just a convoluted way of saying that the Constitution does not limit federal government powers."

What's the Judiciary then? Chopped liver?

You have issues, and they are not limited to your inability to comprehend basic facts.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 5, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

This statement in this leftist article really summed up the liberals view of the Constitution:
"If the Members actually listen, they may notice that the document they are hearing is nationalistic, not state-oriented; concerned with giving Congress power, not taking it away;'
===================================

If liberals actually listened they would see that the document CREATED a government OF limited powers with the bulk of the poweres and freedoms being retained by the PEOPLE.... and not the federal government. That is the beauty of our Constitution... it crated a government strong enough to keep us free... but NEVER with enough power to bring about tyranny.

It is a document to forever forbid tyranny in America... Never a king.... Never a ruler ..... Never a dictator ... never socialist.

The soft tyranny that we now live under due to Obama and the liberal democrats is a direct result of people in our government taking powers not granted to them in our founding protecting document... the supreme law of the land... the U.S. Constitution.

No honest reading of the U.S. Constitution can honestly come to any other conclusion.

Obama and liberal democrats and R.I.N.O.'S are wrong and so is anyone who tries to RULE America.

Posted by: markandbeth92 | January 5, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

"That's just a convoluted way of saying that the Constitution does not limit federal government powers."

No it isn't.

Posted by: schrodingerscat | January 5, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Here is one obvious problem trying to explain the Constitution to Conservatives: Cons don't do complexity. Forget about nuance. And opposing ideas simultaneously? Impossible, what with all the hobgoblins crowding the little mind.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 5, 2011 3:24 PM | Report abuse

We can all of honest disagreements as to the power and role of the federal government. We can have honest disgareements as to what the Constitution means in regards to power and role of the federal government. Although I was personally disapointed with the Citizens United decision, I see the validity of the argument made by the court.

What we can not have is a situation in which one side argues they have the absolute truth and understanding of the Constitution based upon what the framers of the Constituion "meant" when they wrote the Constitution. Not a single framers left Philadelphia feeling that the Convention had created the "prefect" governing document. Hamilton thought it did not give the federal government enough power. George Mason refused to sign becasue he thought it gave the federal government too much power.

The beauty of the Constitution is that it has given us a framework to work with that has done very well for over 200 years. And for that I'm very thankful and very lucky to be an American citizen.

Posted by: smith6 | January 5, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Also consider the import of the Con Law position: The Constitution PROHIBITS the American People from using the federal government to address health care. Of course, that is just the prelude; what the Cons are really saying is that the Constitution prohibits the American people from doing ANYTHING that is not specified: minimum wage; environmental regulation; social security; education, on and on. The self-proclaimed "freedom-loving" Cons see the Constitution as a straightjacket on the power of the American People.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 5, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

"What we can not have is a situation in which one side argues they have the absolute truth and understanding of the Constitution based upon what the framers of the Constituion "meant" when they wrote the Constitution."

Well said.

That's why we not only have a Supreme Court of the United States, that's why the SCOTUS is comprised of a panel of NINE Justices and not just one single "decider".

Of course, all of this is self-evident.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 5, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

And not to be boring, but whenever someone says, it doesn't matter which party controls the White House because of the bilateral consensus on plutocracy...the political provenance of the members of the SCOTUS still matters.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

rapw18,

"quarterback1, interesting and well thought-out reply, but still just deconstructionism."

To borrow from you, since you cite Derrida, I assume you have some familiarity with deconstructionism, in which case I can't imagine how you could categorize my comment that way. Should I assume you are kidding?

The claim was made that a letter from an aged Jefferson advocating an amendment mechanism for state constitutions supports the argument that the Framers intended the Constitution simply as a framework within which political actors struggle to define the scope of federal powers, and does not itself define them. (The quotation I supplied above from Madison rather directly falsifies that claim, but we'll leave that aside for now.)

The two points of my reply were simple: Jefferson wasn't a Framer (and his letter is not part of the history of the Constitution or the Convention), and his advocacy of an amendment process for a state constiution is completely irrelevant to the claims of Greg et al that federal powers are open-ended and undefined.

As to Jefferson as a "Framer," his letter expresses personal opinions about government and constitutions. He says nothing there about what the actual Framers of the Constitution intended by their work. So it is beside the point what you or anyone else think of him as an "authority" on history. His letter has nothing to do with the intentions of the Framers. Period.

"On 2, again, so what? And you seem to have missed the point entirely. That he WAS writing 40 years later is key to its veracity, a point he also makes in his letter."

No, it's you who completely miss the point. His veracity as to . . .? Who has questioned his veracity? He was stating his personal opinions about a state constitution, not commenting on the Constitutional Convention decades earlier.

"That it was in regard to a state constitution is a distinction best described as a red herring."

You have an odd notion of a red herring. The present debate concerns Greg's theory of the nature of the US Constitution, particularly its determinate or indetermine powers given the federal government. If you can explain how Jefferson's views on a state constitution inform that debate, feel free. You haven't.

"And it was a private letter, yes, but again you provide no reason, and I see none implied, for why this might dilute the worth of the opinion it contains."

I was simply noting the irony of liberals' ridiculing treatment of the Constitution as "sacred" while pulling out the trusty private Jefferson letter as a totem (mischaracterized as it always is).

(continued)

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes picking the lesser of two evils turns out to be the wrong choice.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 5, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Since quarterback can't win a fair argument, he needs to put words in his opponents' mouths...and even then he still loses.

Posted by: Observer691 | January 5, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Gee whiz, QB, that's an awfully professional job for a comment on a blog. What's next? Charts?

Posted by: wbgonne | January 5, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

"As for your distinction between amendment and flexible framework, it seems to me that they are clearly symbiotic in nature - the first is a means to the achieve the second, and yet the first cannot exist in the absence of the second. Given them separate names doesn't imply that they part of a whole intended for the same purpose."

If it seems to you there is no distinction between the amendment process and the "living constitution" notion of an ambiguous and protean constitution that is putty for each generation of judges and representatives, then all I can say is that you don't make distinctions very well.

"Deconstructionism is an amusing party trick, but is usually of little value in political debate. It is also typically the province of those without a coherent counter-argument. Ironically, Derrida (the father of deconstructionism) would suggest that taking this approach through to it to its logical conclusion proves that no text can ever be interpreted as having a single meaning."

Yes, your categorization of my argument against liberal deconstruction of the Constitution as deconstrictionist is probably the most ironic charge I've ever seen on PL. It's frankly off the wall.

"As for your ad hominem fallacies (i.e. liberals are wrong because they are liberal), I'll assume that because you appear to be intelligent and educated that you simply had a moment of weakness (while acknowledging that no side of the debate is innocent on this one)."

I'd suggest you don't spot ad hominem fallacies so well, either, since I haven't made that argument.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

The full language of the provision in question plainly says that ANY person born in the U.S., subject to U.S. jurisdiction (i.e., not in a foreign embassy or other place considered foreign soil) is a U.S. citizen. The citizenship of the child's parents is irrelevant.

Posted by: luridone | January 5, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

__________________________________

That's funny. In all the versions I've seen, the Constitution doesn't contain that parenthetical "explanation." (I.e., you lie.)

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

The Constitution was designed to created a strong National Government that could build and defend the newly independent U.S. from domestic instability, tyrannical majorities and foreign aggression. It was designed to overcome the weakness of the States Rights based Articles of Confederation which failed to preserve liberty,create a stable economy or protect against foreign invasion.

Madison's Virginia plan was designed to give the Federal Government the necessary powers to act where the States were incompetent such as matters of interstate and international commerce,raising an army, conducting foreign affairs including immigration and nationalization, issuing national currency spend for the general welfare and the other plenary powers in Article 1 section 8.

John Marshall's strong nationalist interpretation of the Constitution allowed the Country to expand its geographic and economic reach across the continent.As Marshall said, the Federal Government powers are limited in scope but broad in matters within its delegated powers.

The New Deal Court's strong nationalistic interpretation of the Commerce Clause allowed the Federal Government to mitigate the harm caused by the depression and created a strong middle-class.

The Warren Court's strong nationalistic enforcement of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments and the Commerce Clause created a freer, more equal society especially in the South.

The strong Federal Government and Federal reserve response to the financial meltdown saved the Country from a repeat of the Great Depression.

We live in a globalized world competing against five billion non-US citizens. The idea that we should reduce the Federal Government's Constitutional powers when we are at the crossroads of international conflict or cooperation is absurd. States are competent at the everyday purely local activities.

Posted by: cstern1 | January 5, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

"Here is one obvious problem trying to explain the Constitution to Conservatives: Cons don't do complexity. Forget about nuance. And opposing ideas simultaneously? Impossible, what with all the hobgoblins crowding the little mind."

And yet, as this thread shows, it is liberals who cannot distinguish between the amendment process and "living constitution" "interpretation"; who cannot comprehend the difference between evidence of disagreements as to the scope of defined powers and evidence that powers were intended to be undefined; who cannot fathom the difference between an imagined argument that the Constitution is "sacred" and perfect as is for all time and an argument that its existing terms are binding until amended; and who imagine it is there is a functional difference between claiming that the Constitution leaves it to Congress and courts to define their powers as needs arise and claiming that the Constitution does not itself define and limit their powers.

It's been fun, liberals.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 5, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

"We live in a globalized world competing against five billion non-US citizens. The idea that we should reduce the Federal Government's Constitutional powers when we are at the crossroads of international conflict or cooperation is absurd."

Yes, I make this argument every day. We are just now starting Cold War 2.0

State capitalist countries have figured out market capitalism, they have retooled, they understand its strengths and its weaknesses. They are no longer devastated by WWII, they are not beholden to America like impotent Japan.

Americans on the right think they are up against liberals and colored people: free loaders. They are not. We are all up against the race to the bottom. Republican voters don't want those anchor babies to be citizens, but the people who buy the Republican voters' votes sure do.


Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Now than we've all agreed that the Tea Party does not own the Constitution, there are more details from Rep. Goodlatte (R-Starbucks): the reading will start tomorrow at 10:30 a.m., is expected to take one to two hours only, and all Members of Congress are invited to read the Constitution and Amendments on a first come first serve basis.

http://goodlatte.house.gov/2011/01/goodlatte-to-lead-historic-reading-of-us-constitution-on-house-floor.shtml

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 5, 2011 6:09 PM | Report abuse

@fiona: "Sure -- anything they don't like is 'unconstitutional.'

And anything you like is constitutional?

==

Wowo\ folks did you see what he did there?

He took what she wrote and he turned it around backwards! That's ... fantastic! I think we have a new Aristotle in our midst! Nobel material for sure!

Posted by: caothien9 | January 5, 2011 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Curious George could make a boat out of it.

==

(*hronk*)

(*snort*)

And the Man in the Yellow Hat could shoot up a Jewish Community Center

Posted by: caothien9 | January 5, 2011 9:48 PM | Report abuse

a consequently false parapet against it. My position, and that of many others here, is that flexibility can come in many guises, and some of them are jointly necessary. You can’t amend a completely inflexible constitution. Oh, and your interpretation of irony is ironic, in my opinion, and following it with “off the wall” borders, yet again, on an ad hominen fallacy.

Finally, the amount of time and effort that you applied to this silly little thread imply something else. That this is an issue that sparks a passion within you, I venture to say, because you deem it as important and consequential. Reasonable and well informed men and women can disagree on an issue, and all can still share virtuous motives and good intentions. Ideology is a relationship between the normative and postive – the way the world is and the way we want it to be. Good and reasonable people can disagree on both, and will therefore disagree on the path between the two. All of us – liberal and conservative – only short change ourselves and each other by forgetting this.

Posted by: rapw18 | January 6, 2011 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Aren't ALL constitutions frameworks for future action and discussion? I don't understand how that can be disputed in the case of ours. Our Constitution is not a glorified straitjacket.

Posted by: geneven | January 8, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

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