Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 3:16 PM ET, 01/ 3/2011

Why Dems should welcome GOP reading of Constitution

By Greg Sargent

Liberals have mostly responded to the House GOP's plans to read the Constitution aloud on the House floor with equal parts derision and outrage. But E.J. Dionne makes the case today that Dems should embrace the GOP's plan as an opportunity to restore a sane view of the Constitution to the national conversation:

I offer the Republicans two cheers for their fealty to their professed ideals. We badly need a full-scale debate over what the Constitution is, means and allows -- and how Americans have argued about these questions since the beginning of the republic. This provision should be the springboard for a discussion all of us should join.

From its inception, the Tea Party movement has treated the nation's great founding document not as the collection of shrewd political compromises that it is but as the equivalent of sacred scripture...An examination of the Constitution that views it as something other than the books of Genesis or Leviticus would be good for the country.

I don't particularly care one way or the other if House Republicans read the Constitution aloud, but if they are going to do that, I'd actually go E.J. one better here. A debate about the Constitution -- and indeed a broader discussion about this country's founding -- could provide a chance to undercut the notion that somehow contemporary conservatives and Tea Partyers are more in sync with the founding generation than all the rest of us can claim to be.

The basic case you hear endlessly from Tea Partyers and conservatives is that they are the true intellectual descendants of the founders, chiefly because their primary goal is to scale back federal power at all costs. Liberals, by contrast, are constantly trying to flout the Constitution by expanding government in a manner that would make the founders tear their wigs off with righteous rage.

But as the historian Joseph Ellis (hardly a liberal) has written, the chief achievement of the founding generation was to create a framework within which the argument over the proper limits on Federal power could continue to unfold, not to decide it permanently one way or the other. Indeed, as Ellis has also noted, the Constitution's ambiguities, most notably its failure to deal with slavery, and the founding's undemocratic imperfections, paved the way for latter-day robust expressions of Federal power to move the country closer to true democracy.

Right now, of course, the Constitution is at the center of the argument between the two parties over the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The Tea Partyers' position is that by opposing the mandate, they are the ones representing the Constitution's true spirit, which is hostility to Federal power at all costs. In fact, the Constitution's real legacy is that it created a framework ensuring that precisely this sort of argument over the proper role of the Federal government could continue to unfold across the generations. And as it happens, some credible legal observers and judges have argued persuasively that the mandate represents an exercise of Federal power that exists comfortably within the Constitution's constraints.

Better for Dems to aggressively join the argument over the Constitution's real meaning and significance, rather than to scoff at the "Tea Baggers" for their ritualistic reading of the document, which is exactly what they want Dems to do.

By Greg Sargent  | January 3, 2011; 3:16 PM ET
Categories:  Health reform, Tea Party  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Senate Dems to Boehner: We'll block your repeal push
Next: Dems playing rough on health reform?

Comments

I welcome the wingers reading the Constitution! Then perhaps they will finally learn what's actually in it instead of just making sh*t up.

Posted by: fiona5 | January 3, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

fiona5 -- that's a much more concise way to put it. :)

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 3, 2011 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Exactly Greg. Let them read "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;"

Not to mention, two courts have recently ruled the Constitution is a living document by applying the 4th Amendment to the 21st century in two separate rulings dealing with digital technology...

http://www.thefoldblog.com/2010/12/second-court-this-week-applies.html

Posted by: Chris-TheFold | January 3, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Maybe they are the heirs--or at least feel that they are the heirs--of the faction that wanted to continue to own slaves and keep women and the unpropertied in their proper place. Maybe they don't WANT the Constitution to be a living document rather a means to freeze that world in time. No pesky 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, and 19th Amendments.

They need to read more Alexander Hamilton and less Thomas Jefferson.

Posted by: Mimikatz | January 3, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

The House Dems, should help out by reading the entire constitution; each member should read it, in it's entirety, and all the history behind it, and each amendment,every time the Republicans introduce one of their pet bills. Dems can use the Republicans' own rules. to engage in virtual House filibusters.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 3, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Please, GOP, more political theatre.

Maybe they'll do the same here in Texas. ours is ridiculously long. Anything to keep the GOP-controlled Lege from doing more damage.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 3, 2011 3:53 PM | Report abuse

OT, file this under "youve gotta be kidding":

Fallen New York Times scribe Judith Miller trashes Julian Assange for not verifying the information he was getting from his sources.

http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/judith_miller_criticizes_assange_for_not_verifying.php

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 3, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I completely agree, Greg. As others have said, somebody might learn something.

Here is a question: Are they going to read it as amended? Or are they going to read the original and then read the amendments? The 16th amendment could cause spontaneous combustion among the membership.

But I am all for the reading, and the debating idea you propose. The House commemorated the bicentennial of the Constitution (September 17, 1987) by spending all day debating due process, and equal protection, and reasonable vs. unreasonable searches and seizures, the balance between individual rights and governmental power, and the balance between security and individual liberty.

They wrapped up the day by deciding that the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II had been a bad idea and voted to apologize.

Which was miracle enough, but the really interesting thing is that some people actually changed their minds on the issue based on the debate. It will be interesting to see if that still works.

Posted by: chris1231 | January 3, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

The will read it up until the time reading it interferes with something they want to do. This is all show and the American people will see through this just like they are beginning to see that Republicans have no intentions on making their lives better by creating jobs and fixing the economy.

Posted by: catmomtx | January 3, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

OK, which is more likely to resonate with the mood of the American electorate, the reading of the constitution in the House, or the testimony of a comedian?

I guess the Democrats were to busy lying about the racial sensitivities of their opponents to bother with this particular bit of political theatre.

the stench of sour grapes emanating from the liberals here is hard to miss.

If the insurance mandate can fit comfortably within the liberal interpretation of the constitution and that prevails, our democracy is doomed. The last thing liberals want is free Americans. That's just too messy for them.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 3, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Joseph Ellis? Really? The disgraced liar and peddler of foolish straw men and misrepresentations?

http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/49032/re-joseph-elliss-misconceived-attack-originalism/matthew-j-franck

"But as the historian Joseph Ellis (hardly a liberal) has written, the chief achievement of the founding generation was to create a framework within which the argument over the proper limits on Federal power could continue to unfold, not to decide it permanently one way or the other."

This is patent historical nonsense. The portions of the Constitution defining and limiting federal powers were written PRECISELY to "decide" what Congress could and could not do, and to limit it to specific, stated powers. You can tell this is true by the aburd lengths to which the left must go to twist and ignore that language. No, the draftres didn't make this "permanent," because they provided for amendments. But they provided for clarity and specificity and limitations.

"Indeed, as Ellis has also noted, the Constitution's ambiguities, most notably its failure to deal with slavery, and the founding's undemocratic imperfections, paved the way for latter-day robust expressions of Federal power to move the country closer to true democracy."

What an amazingly dense package of nonsense and confusion here. The "failure to deal with slavery" wasn't an ambiguity. Paved the way for what? Constitutional amendments? How is that vindication of "living constitution" interpretation?

Another bulletin: the Constitution was deliberately designed NOT to establish "true democracy"! Have you ever studied any American history at all?


fiona5 said:

"I welcome the wingers reading the Constitution! Then perhaps they will finally learn what's actually in it instead of just making sh*t up."

I can list any number of examples of the left's making up constitutional nonsense. Like the right to abortion.

Can you list any examples of the right's making up anything comparable? No, thought not.

Another confused person said:

"Not to mention, two courts have recently ruled the Constitution is a living document by applying the 4th Amendment to the 21st century in two separate rulings dealing with digital technology..."

There is no such thing as a court's "ruling" that the Constitution is a "living document." Some courts have treated it that way -- effectively as toilet paper -- but there is no court that "rules" that it is so.

Mimikatz said:

"Maybe they don't WANT the Constitution to be a living document rather a means to freeze that world in time. No pesky 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, and 19th Amendments."

What conservatives object to is lawless "interpretation" of the Constitution, i.e., amendment by "interpretation." That's the meaning of "living constitution" -- the words mean what we want them to mean. Conservatives don't object to amendment by the prescribed process.

How do you not get that?

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 3, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

What is the Democratic equivalent of "GOP"?

Posted by: mattintx | January 3, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

The Constitution was written because the Articles of Confederation were a woefully inadequate framework from which to create national solutions for national problems.

The idea that its framers were hostile to Federal power is to take a very selective and biased view of history.

The Tea Party, unfortunately, is not bothered with nuance.

Posted by: smomin1 | January 3, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

@skip-

"...our democracy is doomed". Doomed!

I didn't know Chicken Little was a registered Republican.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 3, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

chris1231: "The 16th amendment could cause spontaneous combustion among the membership."

That will only add more gasoline to the fire that starts after they read: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.."

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 3, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a great idea -- just make sure they don't skip the parts they don't like, e.g., most of the amendments after number 13 -- or may not even know about, e.g., Christine O'Donnell and the "establishment clause."

Posted by: francissheed | January 3, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Well chuck has nothing to offer. guess that new year's resolution about staying relevant failed already, eh pal?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 3, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

"the stench of sour grapes emanating"....from Skippy!

Happy New Year, skippy!


Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 3, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

@qb: "Conservatives don't object to amendment by the prescribed process. How do you not get that?"

Because if you're going to be the really, really good guy, somebody has to wear the black hat. And everybody has to know they wear the black hat. So you have to explain what bad guys they are, in comparison to your side. So, conservatives want war, hate the poor, want people to die, and don't like anything the government does (ever) and wishes any constitutional amendment that does anything good for anybody had never happened, because they hate science, peace, joy, and cupcakes.

:)

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 3, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

"The idea that its framers were hostile to Federal power is to take a very selective and biased view of history. The Tea Party, unfortunately, is not bothered with nuance."

The Federalist Papers should be read too, if not out loud, then as a form of course work.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 3, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

What Sargent seems to miss in his column is that the conservatives are not against making changes to the Constitution, but they want the left to follow the prescribed process for making such changes- that is, the Amendment process. The left, being "liberal" by definition, is not constrained to the actual text. They believe in a rather "flexible" interpretation. This has lead to new righst being created and old rights being abrogated, without the burden of the Amendment process. For example, when the tenth Amendment (part of the Bill of Rights) interferred with FDR's plans, the courts simply declared it meaningless and swept it aside. Liberals created a new "Constitutional" right for women to choose abortion, such right being so absolute as to preclude any interference; while the Constitutionally explicit right "to keep & bear arms" is indisputedly one of our more "abridged" rights. (BTW: I support the right to choose, but I do not find it in the Constitution. I do not own a gun, nor have I ever.)

Posted by: EddieNJ | January 3, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

If the Republicans start reading, who knows what might actually happen?

Someday Sarah Palin may be able to answer a question about which magazines she reads.

And if a real miracle happens they might start reading the laws they vote on.

Posted by: roboturkey | January 3, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Dear "quarterback" - ever since the current Supreme Court made up the notion that corporations are "people" and money is "speech" and corporations are therefore entitled to the same protection to flood the political system with unlimited amounts of cash as you and I are to stand on the street corner and talk, I think you conservatives are pretty hard pressed to pretend that the right doesn't make up constitutional law when it serves its interests.

Posted by: francissheed | January 3, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Why is reading the Constitution such a threat to the Democrats. We're going to believe the Democrats wants the Constitution read aloud. Ha! The Democrats no more believes in the Constitution then they believe in capitalism and the free market. The Democrats wants us believe they know the true meaning behind the Constitution. Whenever the Democrats define anything, it's with the lefts version not the founding fathers. Go sell this snake oil to the useful yes we can crowd and the left. They'll believe anything.

Posted by: houstonian | January 3, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Republicans throw another tire on the fire...

"As he battles to retain his position as chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele on Monday defended his rocky two-year tenure while his rivals decried the party apparatus as broke and lacking credibility with its donors and its conservative base."

Posted by: shrink2 | January 3, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

skipsailing28 writes
"If the insurance mandate can fit comfortably within the liberal interpretation of the constitution and that prevails, our democracy is doomed."

The insurance mandate is allegedly legal (i.e. Constitutional) under the commerce clause, despite the generally state-regulated nature of the insurance business. Somewhat amusingly, conservatives argue both that the commerce clause does not apply AND that insurance companies should be able to sell their products across state lines. This simultaneously wipes out their alleged preference for States' Rights (i.e. each state regulating the insurance sold there) while explicitly opening the industry to be indisputably interstate in nature (i.e. subject to the commerce clause, and thus Congressional oversight).

Whew!

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 3, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Apparently The Boehnerites do not even understand what the drafters of The Constitution actually created.

The Courts rule on what is constitutional, and not Mr. Full Body Nicotine Stain Boehner,(look up when he passed out Tobacco Lobby Bribes, on the House floor) and his gathering of Boehner Heads.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 3, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

The solution for the state's rights crowd is to revert to the Articles of Confederation. One wonders why the Founders replaced that compact, duh.

Posted by: csintala79 | January 3, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

63% of Americans support the new healthcare law, according to this week's USA Today poll.

Fact.

Posted by: paul65 | January 3, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

I note with much amusement that no liberal here will answer my simple question: which will make more sense to the American electorate, congress hearing "testimony" by Colbert, a comedian, or the reading of one of our core founding documents?

As I said the stench of sour grapes cannot be mistaken. Here's a few examples:
And if a real miracle happens they might start reading the laws they vote on.

The Tea Party, unfortunately, is not bothered with nuance."

I think this is a great idea -- just make sure they don't skip the parts they don't like, e.g., most of the amendments after number 13 -- or may not even know about, e.g., Christine O'Donnell and the "establishment clause

The will read it up until the time reading it interferes with something they want to do. This is all show and the American people will see through this just like they are beginning to see that Republicans have no intentions on making their lives better by creating jobs and fixing the economy.

I could go on, but the point is amply proven. Sour grapes. The house is now in the hands of the Republicans who, at the moment anyway, intend to do what they were elected to do.

It is going to be a very interesting two years. I look forward to some tough fights ahead. We have to bring the government to heel or we will all be serfs soon enough.

If the government can force us to buy something we don't want, there is simply no limit on what they can mandate. How does it go? Eventually everything that isn't mandatory will be banned. Welcome to the socialist dream world. It worked so well for Europe, why don't we join in the misery?

I hope you lefties are ready for a fight because here it comes at ya. Naming calling slander won't work anymore.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 3, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

The post by quarterback1 on January 3, 2011 at 4:06 PM rocks! He is right on target.

Posted by: wearedoomed1 | January 3, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Has Boner cried yet today?

Just need to know when to mark my daily scorecard.

TIA

Posted by: paul65 | January 3, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

My favorite low point in conservative judicial activism is Clarence Thomas lone dissent in the strip search case, Safford Unified School District #1 v. Redding.

Clarence declared, "Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments [even though she didn't, but school officials need to be able to check should they feel the need, right Clarence?], nor will she be the last after today's decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school."

Posted by: shrink2 | January 3, 2011 4:33 PM | Report abuse

shrink,

About Michael Steele, did you see this? At the "debate" today for RNC chairmen-hopefuls, the participants were asked for their favorite book.

"when Steele answered, he mentioned Tolstoy's War and Peace as his favorite, but then added, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." The line, of course, comes from neither Tolstoy nor War and Peace, but rather, Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities."

I'm going to miss Michael Steele!

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 3, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Guess what, folks? The Founders didn't agree on the correct interpretation of the Constitution even back then! Does anyone recall the names of the first political parties: the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists?

Posted by: flynnb | January 3, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Greg:

"Indeed, as Ellis has also noted, the Constitution's ambiguities, most notably its failure to deal with slavery, and the founding's undemocratic imperfections, paved the way for latter-day robust expressions of Federal power to move the country closer to true democracy."

Robust expressions of Federal power....like waging a Civil War against several of the states? Is that what you had in mind? Because that was the consequence of the failure of the founders to deal with slavery.

"The Tea Partyers' position is that by opposing the mandate, they are the ones representing the Constitution's true spirit, which is hostility to Federal power at all costs."

That is absolutely false. They do not have hostility to federal power at all costs. They have hostility to the federal exercise of power that it does not legally (ie constitutionally) posess. Such an obvious mischaracterization ought to be beneath you, Greg. Unfortunately, as we have seen many times, it is not.

"In fact, the Constitution's real legacy is that it created a framework ensuring that precisely this sort of argument over the proper role of the Federal government could continue to unfold across the generations."

Yes...that framework being the ability to, er, amemd the constitution. Have at it with the amendments, Greg, if you want. But don't tell us that pretending the constitution already says something that it manifestly doesn't say is the "unfolding" that the founders had in mind.

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 3, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Will Boner cry at the opening of Congress on Wednesday?

Just wondering.

Thanks.
America

Posted by: paul65 | January 3, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

IRONY ALERT: I hope you lefties are ready for a fight because here it comes at ya. Naming calling slander won't work anymore.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 3, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

---

I can list any number of examples of the left's making up constitutional nonsense. Like the right to abortion.

Can you list any examples of the right's making up anything comparable? No, thought not.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 3, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

---

Sure. Calling unemployment insurance unconstitutional.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 3, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I think the objection comes from an rejection of a reading that essentially says: "it is Necessary and Proper to regulate interstate Commerce Clause to promote the General Welfare." And interstate commerce is defined as "everything ... except abortion"

Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 3, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

"I'm going to miss Michael Steele!"

We'll have to find someone else to throw tires on the Republican Party house-afire.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 3, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

The Reublicans were left for dead, after the 2008 elections.

Since then;

They have come back strong. They even captured the US Senate seats that were previously held by Ted Kennedy, and President Obama.

Michael Steele, and Tim Kaine.

Guess which one is about to get fired, and which one is being kept on?

Posted by: Liam-still | January 3, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

One problem, of course, is that you can claim anything is covered under some clause of the Constitution- if only under the "common Defense and general welfare" or "regulate Trade" provisions. It is far more difficult to deal with objections that a proposed action is in fact unconstitional- prohibited rather than acceptable. Is there any statement of how that issue is supposed to be addressed?

After all, I could claim that a 100% inheritance tax, for example, would "promote the General Welfare," and is thus allowed under the Constitution. I suspect we will see, not that silly example, but equally silly justifications which conveniently ignore other clauses of the document- just as we have seen such approaches in the past- remember the gymnastics used to claim that the US Government could deprive US citizens of basic rights if thoe citizens were suspected of being "terrorists?"

Both sides will use this new piece of silliness to advance their agendas- and both sides will avoid actually dealing with the important issues.

Posted by: jhherring | January 3, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I think reading the US Constitution by the House is primarily theatrical politics cooked up by the Republicans (although certainly benign), and is likely to have unintended consequences from their perspective. Instead of "strict adherence" as proposed by conservatives, as we all devote more study to the document we will undoubtedly find greater flexibility than imagined. As we breakdown historical documents we tend to find more flaws and have more questions in the end.

Posted by: gfoster56 | January 3, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

If the American people are no longer capable of reading the Constitution, but need to have it read to them, by The Boehnerites, then the nation is already doomed.

Skippy wants The Lachrymose John Boehner, to become his Mr. Rodgers.

Can you say; Skippy is just another Joe The Dumber clone, Boys and Girls?

Posted by: Liam-still | January 3, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

More delay tactics and smoke and mirrors.. The Republicans do not have a clue about how to jump start the economy or how to have an impact on creating jobs..the housing market etc..so they camouflage their lack of an agenda by reading the constitution.. aka..Christine O'Donnel..remember a strict constitutionalist..LOL...so phony it makes my head hurt

Posted by: sabrina2 | January 3, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

The US Constitution is OUTDATED.

The Constitution is a great document no doubt. Its author’s brilliant men. But even they could not predict the future and it's totally insane to think they could produce a document to stand the test of time over hundreds of years. I.e. when they wrote the "right to bear arms" language, it was during a time when we had no army to protect from foreign invaders - we needed a citizens militia. Today, the handgun makers and gun nuts hide behind it for profit and despite the fact that over 38,000 people are killed by handguns each year in the US alone, and almost never in personal defense. And the last time I checked we've never needed guns to ward off a foreign tyrant.

As for the Republican's they are a bunch of flaming A-- holes. They pick and choose parts of the constitution to suite their needs, ignore it when it counters their thinking, and misconstrue it at will. i.e., they don’t want regulation on corporations, but they have no problem restricting a women’s right to abortion and to gay’s to marry. They are truly scary people, wanting to take us back to the days of witch hunts.

Bottom line - the Constitution is not sacred document, important yes. But it needs to be updated from time to time to suit present day needs and reality. The likes of Scalia and others that favor strict interpretation of the Constitution are morons

Posted by: JJH1 | January 3, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Can you list any examples of the right's making up anything comparable?

Bush v Gore
Dred Scott
Plessy v Ferguson

All wonderful rulings from conservative courts.

Posted by: pragmaticagain | January 3, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Sargent, really, tell me you didn't put "Tea Partyers" [sic; no caps, not a real party] and "intellectual" in the same sentence:

"The basic case you hear endlessly from Tea Partyers and conservatives is that they are the true intellectual descendants...."

If the Tea Party and its Fox News masters are about one thing above all others, its anti-intellectualism. Every other sentence from every one of them features the phrase "the college-educated elites think you're [their audience] stupid." Even the college-educated among them, like Laura Ingraham and Michael Medved, work overtime to distance themselves from their elite backgrounds. For all his insanity, Michael "Savage" Wiener is the only one of them who embraces his educated roots and that's because he's Jewish, where deep respect for actual accomplishment is highly valued.

Conservatives can read the Constitution 'til they're red, white and blue in the face. I don't care. Their job is to craft bills; it's the Supreme Court's job to determine if they comply with the Constitution. This is a laughably pathetic stunt and nothing more, designed to appeal to the idiots who voted for them this cycle.

Posted by: abqcleve | January 3, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse


I Republicans need to read it out loud, tape record it, listen to it everyday if necessary, and then be tested on it.

This is obviously the first time Republicans will have read the U.S. Constitution and I am so sure they're not gonna like what it says because the U.S. Constitution promotes a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, NOT big business.

The U.S. Constitution says government must provide for the general welfare (well being) of the American People, which Republicans would rather barf for 2 weeks non-stop than to provide for the general welfare of anyone other than Republican Welfare States Mississippi, Alabama and Virgina.


Posted by: lindalovejones | January 3, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

'Why is reading the Constitution such a threat to the Democrats."

ROFLOL. These people are so precious. Here, everyone democrat has agreed that reading the Constitution is a fine thing indeed, and so these poor wingers have to construct one of their perpetual straw men so they will have something to be p*ssed off about.

And skippy's sour grapes are really starting to stink up the house.

Posted by: fiona5 | January 3, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I note with much amusement that no liberal here will answer my simple question: which will make more sense to the American electorate, congress hearing "testimony" by Colbert, a comedian, or the reading of one of our core founding documents?
----------------------------------------
I note with much amusement that you continue to pose self-serving and irrelevant questions then draw conclusions based on the fact that people ignore them. Your questions are not an actual attempt to engage in dialogue, they merely a talking point that ends in a question mark rather than a period.

Like many liberals here, I'm all for reading the Constitution and disagree with the Congressmen/women who oppose reading it.

Given that millions of Americans regularly listen to the comedian Glenn Beck, I'm not sure why Colbert wouldn't interest them as well. Although providing him the forum of a Congressional Committee seemed unnecessary even if he raised some valid points. Not to mention that Americans seemed to be very interested in a comedian's opinion on the legislation to provide health care for 9/11 responders.

"If the government can force us to buy something we don't want, there is simply no limit on what they can mandate."

A little hyperbolic, no? I suggest you try and pass a law that mandates all Americans to pray to Jesus or Allah and see if our "toilet paper", as QB so quaintly calls it, stands up to that mandate.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | January 3, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

The full reading of the Constitution is as pathetic as the "Contract with America" crap the Republican's put out. They are only capable of diversionary tactics and making blowhard promises.

They had alomst complete control under Bush for 8 years leading up to the worst recession since the great depression, they are to this day espousing the same crap that got us in our current mess. (Lower taxes for the rich, less regulation on corporations, etc) They are MORONS, and even more so now that they've thrown their lot in with the TEA PARTY Idiots.

We are doomed.

Posted by: JJH1 | January 3, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Original Intent, My Arse!

They agreed to enslave people, to not let women vote, and to only allow property owners to have the franchise.

There is no way that those people could have envisioned what laws would be suitable for the 21st Century.

I will say it again:

Original Intent, My Arse!

Posted by: Liam-still | January 3, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse


Your halfwit colleague Ezra Klein seems to think that nobody can understand the Constitution because it is more than 100 years old.

How did this nitwit Klein who has no degree in Economics, get to write a column for that section?

Posted by: screwjob23 | January 3, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

The republicans didn't 'capture' any seats, they were assigned them by the independents.

And guess what, we can take them back. Remember 2006, 2008? If you republicans act like you were back then in the coming two years, you can kiss your assignment goodbye.

You true believer liberals and true believer conservatives are about equal in number in our country, and as you are constants in the equation you can be cancelled out without affecting the results.

Nobody but you and your juvenile рissing contest cares what you have to say, it never changes. You are, useless.

Posted by: eezmamata | January 3, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

"Dear "quarterback" - ever since the current Supreme Court made up the notion that corporations are "people" and money is "speech" and corporations are therefore entitled to the same protection to flood the political system with unlimited amounts of cash as you and I are to stand on the street corner and talk, I think you conservatives are pretty hard pressed to pretend that the right doesn't make up constitutional law when it serves its interests.

Posted by: francissheed | January 3, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse "


If the right just started to "make up stuff" last year, we only have around 80 years of catching up to do. But I'm afraid you'll have to bark up another tree. Here are some reasons why.

The current SCOTUS in no way originated the principle that corporations are treated as legal persons. That's been part of our law at all levels for as long as there have been corporations.

Nor did the current SCOTUS in any way originate the principle that corporations have rights, including free speech and press rights. Pause to consider that if corporations had no rights or legal personhood, they would serve no purpose. Their property could be taken at whim, they could make not contracts, they couldn't be prosecuted for crimes. Thought experiment: what do you suppose would happen to the stock market the next day if SCOTUS somehow ruled that corporations have no rights (or responsibilities) of persons?

Indeed, even Austin v. Michigan CoC, which was overruled in Citizens United, accepted the principle that corporations have 1st Am rights, holding that expenditure restrictions had to be necessary to achieve a compelling purpose. Austin only departed from all previous law -- and so was rightly overruled -- by accepting a radical theory of "free speech" recognizing censorship as a compelling purpose in itself. Now, THAT was "making sh*t up."

Strike one.


Posted by: quarterback1 | January 3, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

hey ashot, when the republicans call Mr Beck to testify and he does so in some sort of "character" as colbert did, get back to me.

In the meantime the stench of sour grapes grows stronger as more liberals express their utter disdain for their opponents and the constitution itself.

By all means lefties, show us who you really are. It should do wonders for you in 2012.

and there is nothing hyperbolic about my statement. Nothing. You wish to down play the impact of that little bit of liberal nanny stating because it serves your short term goal. Unlike you, I want my children to experience freedom, something that you'll try to suck out of the country if you could.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 3, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

There really is no debate that will clarify all of the issues that the Constitution creates. People on the right will say that federal powers were explicitly limited, but things like "...provide for the general welfare..." are extremely broad or narrow, it just depends on your interpretation of the document. There are no easy answers, so pretending like there are is pointless. Certain clauses of the Constitution appear to give the federal government unlimited powers (commerce clause coupled with the general welfare clause), other amendment (See 10th Amendment) seem to limit federal power. It really comes down to the judges deciding these issues, but the reality is, nothing in the Consitution gives courts the authority to determine the Constituitonality of laws. That's simply a judicially created principle. These are debates that will rage forever. "What does 'general welfare' mean? How broad is is it? What does it include?"

Posted by: nsu1203 | January 3, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

It is always interesting to speculate what the founding fathers would think of the various aspects of our system today. My favorite speculation is that they would all be totally aghast at the superior individual freedom and power we have accorded massive corporations. Would Joe "I apologize to BP" be considered a Tory? Most likely. Our revolution was not just a fight against the Crown but the economic exploitation by the Crown chartered trading cartels.

Posted by: chucko2 | January 3, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the Republicans will note that the word "corporation" is not in the Constitution once they read it for the first time.

Posted by: BuddyK | January 3, 2011 5:37 PM | Report abuse

"hey ashot, when the republicans call Mr Beck to testify and he does so in some sort of "character" as colbert did, get back to me."

I said it was unnecessary to give Colbert the platform.

"and there is nothing hyperbolic about my statement. Nothing. You wish to down play the impact of that little bit of liberal nanny stating because it serves your short term goal."

Well, I ummm..have to disagree. I think it was absurd hyperbole. You really can't think of anything that wouldn't be allowed?

"Unlike you, I want my children to experience freedom, something that you'll try to suck out of the country if you could."

Alas...you've seen right through me, I don't want my future children to experience freedom. Although it would seem to be easier just to move to socialist Europe rather than suck out the freedom from the US. Afterall, I'm just a lazy, dead-weight, looking for a handout, liberal. Hard to imagine that I would want to do all the hard work it would take to end freedom.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | January 3, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

" Pause to consider that if corporations had no rights or legal personhood ..."

Sounds reasonable. But then, rights involve responsibilities as well. How is it that when a corporation breaks the law it isn't thrown in jail?

Posted by: eezmamata | January 3, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Liam-still good idea on having the democrats read the Constitution but the problem is that for a t least the last two years they have been told to don't read the bill just vote yes by Speaker Pelosi. And in the case of the Health Care Bill it was we have to pass the bill to find out whats in it. To me if you read the bill but 2000 pages is more that the novels I normally read so who would expect a Congressman or woman to waste their time reading a bill. I have been a registered dem since 1971 and served the country in the Navy for 24 years so I swore many oaths to support and defend the Constitution of the United States a duty I took freely and proudly. I have absolutely no use for the far left uber liberals that have hijacked the dem party and was glad to see them smacked down in the past election. Maybe now the parties can work together but the House keeping it's leadership in power doesn't lead me to hold out much hope of that happening. It would be nice if both parties would remember who they represent, not the parties but the citizens of their districts and states.

Posted by: RICHDIET1 | January 3, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Since five right wing activists have ruled that Corporations are persons, my wife is talking about divorcing me, so that she can marry General Electric, because of how wealthy he is.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 3, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

"Sounds reasonable. But then, rights involve responsibilities as well. How is it that when a corporation breaks the law it isn't thrown in jail?"

Gosh that's a toughy. Is it good enough for Obama to put his boot on the corporation's neck?

It'll comfort you to know that corporations can and are routinely prosecuted for crimes, and are sued about a million times a day. (I wouldn't try to tell the plaintiffs' bar that corporations aren't persons.)

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 3, 2011 5:54 PM | Report abuse

"It'll comfort you to know that corporations can and are routinely prosecuted for crimes, and are sued about a million times a day. (I wouldn't try to tell the plaintiffs' bar that corporations aren't persons.)"

I don't give a damn about corporations being sued, I want to know that if they have all the rights of a person then they are held legally responsible as a person.

You can tell Obama to shove it somewhere, I don't care how much you like or dislike him, he's not relevant to this.

Posted by: eezmamata | January 3, 2011 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Now that The Gang Of Five Right Wing Activist Justices have declared that General Electric Corp is a Person,

We should elect him President Of The USA. Too bad that Enron went under, because he would have made a better VP candidate than Sarah Palin.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 3, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

"Our revolution was not just a fight against the Crown but the economic exploitation by the Crown chartered trading cartels."

I wonder if any of the self-identified baggers even understand that the Boston Tea Party was a revolt against a monopolistic corporation? Unfortunately,they appear to be far less intelligent than the original Teapartiers.

"The Boston Tea Party was a direct action by colonists in Boston, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the British government and the monopolistic East India Company that controlled all the tea coming into the colonies."

"To me if you read the bill but 2000 pages is more that the novels I normally read so who would expect a Congressman or woman to waste their time reading a bill."

Umm, sorry to break it to you but that is what we taxpayers PAY them to do. Write the bills and read them too -- they get paid pretty darn well for it.

Posted by: fiona5 | January 3, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Wake me when it's over.

Posted by: whocares666 | January 3, 2011 6:34 PM | Report abuse

"Bush v Gore
Dred Scott
Plessy v Ferguson

All wonderful rulings from conservative courts.

What party was responsible for the injustices the last two cases are examples of, I forget?

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | January 3, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

There is some awkward language in the original constitution that had to be amended, some of it only after we fought a civil war. How will the republicans feel when they read that? Will they put in their own interpretation or views at that point? That would be interesting to see.
The constitution is not a religious text but a reflection of political compromises at the time. Each generation has the duty to reinterpret and make relevant the constitution for their own times. (For example: Corporations should not be considered people with the same rights). As we grow, we learn, and so the constitution must grow as well, or it ceases to be useful. Perhaps we should consider amending the amendment process to make it slightly easier to adapt the constitution to modern times.

Posted by: stevenasmith | January 3, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse

All, Happy Hour Roundup posted:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/01/happy_hour_roundup_157.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 3, 2011 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Those from the Right posting here claiming that the government mandating that people carry health insurance is "the end of the Republic" don't seem to understand that millions of self-employed and sub-contractor workers have been running around for decades with no Health Insurance -while most of us simply end up having an ever-increasing share of it deducted directly from our paychecks.

They also don't seem to understand that many of these same people, livid that they are finally being asked to start paying their fair share on Health Care, are ALSO livid because the 1099 provision in the Finance Reform act would help stop them from under-reporting their income every year. Fortunately for them, both Parties are rushing to remove that rule -which, for once, would have started to balance the scales.

On the one side we have most people -who earn only W2 income and who get their insurance through work... while on the other side we have the self-employed and the sub-contactors -who do everything in their power every year to understate their income and leave the rest of us covering their share of taxes.

Whether the Right, the Left or anyone in between (like me) wants to admit it or not, cracking down on employed people who don't carry Health Insurance (and make the rest of us cover them when they go to the Emergency Room) and cracking down on people of all income brackets who under-report their income and cheat all the rest of us by under-paying their (state, local and federal) taxes is coming soon to theatres near us. Since the vast majority of people are W2-only income and job-provided Health Insurance, I just don't GET how or why you would continue to support these people skating on their obligations to this great Nation. Where in the Constitution that you love to quote and accuse the rest of us of hating do you see the words: "and people who can cheat and have others cover their expenses should do so". I've read the constitution several times and I've never seen that in there. Why should the vast, working majority have to cover (any of) the expenses that should be covered by those who get to "make up" their own W2 numbers? Please, enlighten those of us who can't pull that little W2 trick and who DO pay for Health Insurance. We're all ears to hear your excuses as to why you shouldn't have to pay your fair share on either.

Once we start to get the issues above in order and start to see what kind of impact doing so will have on State and Federal budgets, THEN we can start reforming the Tax code and take away some of those giant tax breaks that anyone who can afford a Lobbyist have purchased from both parties. Before we lift one finger to touch the current tax code though... I want to see EVERYONE pay their fair share by law - and we all know that's not happening today. Anyone who says otherwise doesn't know any one who is a.> Self Employeed or b.> a Contractor.

Posted by: dlo455 | January 3, 2011 6:55 PM | Report abuse

I think it is great. I find it interesting that the GOP talks about what a sacred document it is yet they seem to have issues with every part of it except the 2nd Amendment. Speaking of which, if the 2nd Amendment were taken literally private gun ownership outside a "well regulated militia" would be illegal...

Posted by: rcc_2000 | January 3, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Read it? The Left not only doesn't want to read it, they couldn't care less what's in it. Ezra said it best, "Uh, that thing is hard to understand."

True liberal analysis there.

Posted by: PS7900 | January 3, 2011 7:04 PM | Report abuse

I doubt anyone will be harmed by the reading of the Constitution.

The framers of the Constitution were intelligent men, and they knew that they were doing what no one had done before in founding an independent nation. They were aware (painfully, at times) that there was no guidebook on how to set up a government, and they were equally aware that they did not agree. But instead of name calling and oversimplifying, they recognized each other as the best men the new states were able to send, and they gave each other the benefit of the doubt.
Don't believe me? Consider this: James Madison, who was never suspected of being anything but a Democratic-Republican and Alexander Hamilton, who was a Federalist to the core, worked diligently on the Federalist Papers to bring about ratification of the document on which they'd worked.
We should consider how well this Congress lives up to the standard set by the framers.

Posted by: amstphd | January 3, 2011 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Greg is exactly right. The Tea Party, being basically authoritarians by nature, look on "The Law" as definative -- just as they do The Bible -- a set of precepts written long ago that tell you exactly to behave and to which people must conform in the name of law and order.

Instead, the law is a language, a framework, a set of attitudes and guidelines for dispute resolution.

In the one, you get the rigid application of dictates. In the other you get the impartial application of certain universal principles to very different circumstances.

In the one you cut off the hands of a thief who stole a loaf of bread because he was starving. In the other you have the possibility of achieving justice.

Posted by: TedFrier | January 3, 2011 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Reading the Constitution is simply a stupid waste of time. Adding a Constitutional justification to all bills is an equally stupid waste of time, although it will take about 2 seconds to add a paragraph saying, for example, that this bill is justified by the Commerce Clause. More smoke and mirrors to prevent the American people from paying attention to that obscenely rich corporate CEO or Wall Street bankster pulling the strings behind the curtain.

Posted by: ejs2 | January 3, 2011 7:28 PM | Report abuse

rcc:

"I find it interesting that the GOP talks about what a sacred document it is yet they seem to have issues with every part of it except the 2nd Amendment."

Could you give us some examples of republicans having "problems" with, just to pick a random one, Article I section 7?

"Speaking of which, if the 2nd Amendment were taken literally private gun ownership outside a "well regulated militia" would be illegal."

Even accepting your questionable interpretation of the language, you are obviously very confused about the purpose of the Bill of Rights. In brief, the absence of an amendment protecting something as a right does not imply that that something is therefore illegal. It merely implies that a legislature can make it illegal if it seeks to do so.

The constitution was written in order to establish what the government can do, not what citizens can do.

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 3, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

TedFrier:

"The Tea Party, being basically authoritarians by nature, look on "The Law" as definative -- just as they do The Bible -- a set of precepts written long ago that tell you exactly to behave and to which people must conform in the name of law and order."

That is interesting and all, but doesn't have anything to do with the issue at hand...the Constitution. The Constitution is not a document that regulates the behavior of citizens. It regulates the behavior of the government. And if you think the Constition is mere "guidelines" for dispute resolution, then you really ought to educate yourself on the founding of the nation. You are extremely confused.

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 3, 2011 7:36 PM | Report abuse

skipsailing28 said: I note with much amusement that no liberal here will answer my simple question: which will make more sense to the American electorate, congress hearing "testimony" by Colbert, a comedian, or the reading of one of our core founding documents?

Sorry, I missed the question. I am a liberal and I will agree with you that Colbert testifying was ridiculous (and not even funny) while reading the Constitution is actually a pretty welcome development.

It even makes imminent sense as the first thing the House does at the beginning of each Congress is talk about the rules. And if the Constitution is not made up of the most basic rules what is it?

And the issue of how much we can apply contemporary interpretations of its principles vs. deferring to the intent of the people who originally wrote a particular provision or amendment is a perfectly legitimate topic of debate.

I am on the living document side of that debate; skipsailing28 is on the original intent side. It makes for interesting discussion -- I just hope that the House spends some time talking about what they are reading actually means, and debating the conflicting views.

That is what we pay them for, after all.

Posted by: chris1231 | January 3, 2011 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Good column. Just because you dress up in Revolutionary War era costumes like the tea bag people, doesn't mean you have a corner on the Constitution. And guess what? God didn't dictate the Constitution to James Madison.

Posted by: MNUSA | January 3, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

the GOP thinks that by reading the constitution they can give all the crap they do some kind of constitutional 'flavor' it won't deserve otherwise.

It will get all the conservatives hard, all the liberals soft, while the rest of us know it for the charade it really is.

So what's the point? They don't mean it.

Posted by: eezmamata | January 3, 2011 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Nice gesture but it won't mean much. Those liberals who can read, won't care.

Posted by: carlbatey | January 3, 2011 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Nice gesture but it won't mean much. Those liberals who can read, won't care.

Posted by: carlbatey | January 3, 2011 8:37 PM | Report abuse

The Constitution is a good document. But (there is always a 'but') the way many talk about it is idolatrous. The irony is that they claim to be Christians, who have apparently forgotten that little line about 'false Gods'.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | January 4, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

was with you until the (obligatory?) false equivalence sentence. Regardless of whether the concluding paragraphs made sense, this alone renders your piece a major fail.

Posted by: daphne5 | January 4, 2011 5:56 PM | Report abuse

They have never passed the Equal Rights Admentment for women..we are a majority of the population and deserve more equality..I want to see it in writing..Wasilla

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

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company