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Posted at 4:07 PM ET, 02/ 3/2011

Hey, it's my Constitution, too!

By Ruth Marcus

The serious news, such as it was, out of President Obama's remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast concerned the escalating violence in Egypt.

The fun news was his description -- and do I ever identify with this one -- of his new personal prayer: "Lord, give me patience as I watch Malia go to her first dance, where there will be boys. Lord, have that skirt get longer as she travels to that dance."

The more interesting part, I thought, involved the president's linkage of governmental action with moral responsibility, and his explanation for why the first is necessary to fully implement the second.

"There's only so much a church can do to help all the families in need, all those who need help making a mortgage payment or avoiding foreclosure, or making sure their child can go to college," Obama said. "There's only so much that a nonprofit can do to help a community rebuild in the wake of disaster. There's only so much the private sector will do to help folks who are desperately sick get the care that they need.

"And that's why I continue to believe that in a caring and in a just society, government must have a role to play; that our values, our love and our charity must find expression not just in our families, not just in our places of work and our places of worship, but also in our government and in our politics."

Obama's remarks resonated because I've been bristling recently at conservatives' dual hijacking: morality and the Constitution as the domain of small-government conservatives.

I'd like them back.

The Tea Party-infused national conversation revolves around government as tyrant, or at least government as bully. Government, in this view, is the out-of-control institution that instructs citizens what light bulbs they can buy and what food they should eat. As Obama described the debate, "one side's version of compassion and community may be interpreted by the other side as an oppressive and irresponsible expansion of the state or an unacceptable restriction on individual freedom."

Except that the positive case for government -- indeed, the lasting necessity of government as a moral matter -- goes largely unmentioned. Ceding morality to the anti-government forces is a dangerous omission, and it was useful for the president to fill the void on his side of the argument.

My second gripe -- the conservative usurpation of the constitutionalist mantle -- didn't come up in Obama's remarks, but it was implicit in his discussion of the state and freedom, and in the context of the debate about the constitutionality of the health-care act's individual mandate.

I was reminded while reading a quote from Newt Gingrich in Post reporter Amy Gardner's story about the blend of fiscal and social conservatives in the Tea Party movement in Iowa.

"I'm deeply committed to constitutional government," Gardner quoted the former House speaker as saying.

Well, me too. It's my constitution as much as it is Michele Bachmann's. She and I may disagree about its meaning, but I am just as committed to its enduring importance.

The folks on my side of the political spectrum ought to be saying so. Through their silence, they risk being portrayed as the anti-constitutionalists.

By Ruth Marcus  | February 3, 2011; 4:07 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus  
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Next: Democracy's unlikely look

Comments

And yet the way Obama chooses to "help" people facing foreclosure is to make it even easier for the banks to take their houses.

Obama is in the pockets of rich bankers. He has no more business lecturing anybody about morality than the repugs do. They are all the same.

If you are rich in this country, you can steal all the money you want. If you are NOT rich, good luck. If the rich don't screw you over, the government will.

And how do Obama's big words square with his plans to screw over Social Security? And don't bother to tell me he doesn't have those plans regardless of what he says.

Posted by: solsticebelle | February 3, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Since you are so constitutional now, maybe you should chastise the Senate Democrats for their recent support of unconstitutional laws such as Obamacare. There is a scary example of government as tyrant and a political party dedicated to tyranny.

Posted by: zxccxzasd | February 3, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

HEAR, HEAR!!! For years I have been asking friends and co-workers why the Republicans/conservatives have allowed these right-wing extremist kooks to hijack their party, and why mainstream Christians have allowed the nutcase creationists to hijack the term "Christian".
The violence in Arizona IMHO is a direct result of all the hate-mongering some of these people promote. Palin can whine about her innocence all she wishes, but painting targets on her political adversaries online is exactly the kind of irresponsible behavior that led to that awful incident.
The Constitution belongs to ALL of us, and just because we aren't in their Tea Party doesn't mean we are any less patriotic Americans.

Posted by: webgypsy | February 3, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

@zxccxzasd: If I'm not mistaken, the Constitution never called for a massive standing army to be used to destroy nations that resist our rule. If you want to talk of government as "tyrant" and "a political party dedicated to tyranny", you should look at the party that started all of our most recent imperialist adventurism wars in the mideast.

@solsticebelle: If he's such a horrible SOCIALIST, WHY ON EARTH would he have secret, terrible plans to dismantle your beloved SOCIAL Security? If anything, he's EXPAND it at the expense of military spending.

Posted by: zenphoenix42 | February 3, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus, there was a time when I could share President Obama's view on the role of government in delivering useful change. But then my business career intervened and gave me a close up look at how inefficently the money transferred via the public sector is utilized.

If the President had similar experiences as a young man, I suspect it would have punched a hole in his firm belief in big government.

Posted by: gowen1 | February 3, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

zxccxzasd is scared of what he calls obamacare. This reminds me of an obstinate child who refuses to take a bath. What are the real drawbacks of being insured? Why is that tyrany Why doesn't he worry more about the Patriot Act and the expansion of the security state?

Posted by: RDenning | February 3, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Obama and morality are mutually exclusive. This dude lacks the testicular fortitude to help the pro-democratic forces in Egypt. The gap between his rhetoric and his actions is enormous.

This government is a tyrant that supports other tyrants all over the world. They hate the Consitution. They hate the Bill of Rights. They hate freedom.

Posted by: alance | February 3, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

@gowen1 - I am in business as well, and I see where the government wastes it's resources too. Not Social Security - that keep seniors, widows and orphans out of poverty. Not Medicare - that has but a 2 - 4% administrative overhead burden. Not in Medicaid - like Medicare, a minimal overhead burden. Waste, fraud and abuse are nearly the exclusive pervue of the Pentagon. Why just today Sen. Sanders released a report showing over $200Billion is fraud by a group of 90 odd contractors. Or what about the $9B in cash that Bush and his minions let go missing in Iraq?

It seems to me that big government is not the problem, big government enterprises favored by right wingers and other conservatives are the problem.

Posted by: pblotto | February 3, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

OBAMA - DONT TELL gwb YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. GEORGIE BELIEVE THAT IF YOU ARE NOT A BABTIST YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED THROUGH TH PEARLY GATES IN HEAVAN.

I OFTEN WONDER WHERE THE LAST POPE IS ? IS HE JUST FLOATING AROUND OR DID THEY MAKE AN EXCEPTION AND LET HIM IN THE BACK DOOR!

No matter what Obama believes religiously is not of any consequence. What he is doing to this country, SS Medicare and now I hear tell the freedom of the internet is in jeoprdy. I am 90% hearing impaired. Cannot hear a radio, go to a movie or a concert,or watch trlevision. Without all the news on the internet and info. I and thousands like me, are in BIG trouble.

Obama, if you do not convince people in this country have have Gay Rights and you are making life harder and almost impossible to survive you cannot win a second term and anyway who wantsa you? You are not what you promised you would be as President, and I for one did not believe you for a second!

Posted by: LOONYBIN2000 | February 3, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure that all the businessmen gowen1 met as a young man were virtuous and cared more about responsibility than profits. Unfortunately he apparently has not had any experience on Wall Street. It may be efficient to steal, I mean earn million dollar plus bonuses through mortgage fraud but it doesn't give me much faith in American style free enterprise.

Posted by: RDenning | February 3, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus, there was a time when I could share President Obama's view on the role of government in delivering useful change. But then my business career intervened and gave me a close up look at how inefficently the money transferred via the public sector is utilized.

If the President had similar experiences as a young man, I suspect it would have punched a hole in his firm belief in big government.

Posted by: gowen1
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Since you are versed in this, WHY DON'T YOU STAND UP AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Don't wait for the next guy, YOU participate! For all you know, the next guy in line couldn't make 2 + 2 = 4. Since you see this, you particpate in the fix.

BTW, please don't mistake this for an attack. It isn't. Or maybe only a little one.

Posted by: taroya | February 3, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

alance, do you really know what tyranny is? A good example might be the regime of former Ugandan president Idi Amin who treated Ugandans as his personal property and slaughtered thousands of them. It's ok to use hyperbole to make a point but saying Obama is a tyrant too often will lead some who are not as discerning as yourself to actually believe it.

Posted by: RDenning | February 3, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

RDenning - efficiency in transfer isn't the same thing as fraud and abuse.

Wall Street is nothing but fraud and abuse, so far as I can tell.

But they are very efficient in the transfer of funds...............

Posted by: taroya | February 3, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

My typing is lousy, but I am certain Obama gets the drift of what I mean Gays and Seniors count for a lot of votes . You will lose them if you run for a second term- and remember dont tell GWB you are a devout Cristian and not a Babtist. The gates of Heavan will be closed to you.

Just one other thing is there Air Conditioning in Hell. Withthe way this country is being given a SNOW JOB BY BIG BOYS IN CORPS AND DIRTY CROOKED POLITICAL CREEPS, it is going to be mighty crowded.

Posted by: LOONYBIN2000 | February 3, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

And yet the way Obama chooses to "help" people facing foreclosure is to make it even easier for the banks to take their houses.
Posted by: solsticebelle
========================

Listen you sorry sap..
You should not have voted for Bush TWICE!!

Posted by: IssaGallegos1 | February 3, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Headline:
"Obama's prayer: 'To walk closer with God'"
/>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
This from a guy who attended church with Jeremiah Wright for 20 years, baptized his kids there, then denied liking it.
This from a guy who can't find time to go to church as president.
This from a guy who still thinks he is qualified to lead a prayer breakfast.......

Quite the poser.

Dear Barry, I don't pretend to go to church every Sunday either, but at least everyone knows I am a Christian. We are still trying to figure out which religion of convenience you practice.


Posted by: jimbob3 | February 3, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Obama has started his 2012 campaign from this Church Breakfast. He is from Chicago and very clever in using the time and place. He has started his campaign making full stop to his middle name problem. He knows that now Obama's campaign speeches may bring less votes than right wing's religious, conservative and less government philosophy.

Posted by: citysoilverizonnet | February 3, 2011 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I've been saying this for years in exactly the same words! Tolerance and compassion are moral values too, and the Democrats need to be far more firm in saying so.

Posted by: Philosophe | February 3, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Actually, more to the point, tolerance and compassion are *Christian* values, which Christ himself makes pretty clear. The so-called social conservatives have been spuriously hijacking the definition of morality, explicitly in the name of Christianity, for decades now. Enough already.

Posted by: Philosophe | February 3, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately the Democratic Party has been hijacked by the Progressive Union Socialist Communist arm of the party and they would not know the Constitution if it bit them. The sooner the Progressives are run out of office the better. There is much work still left to do in 2012 to try and save the Nation from the march towards socialism.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | February 3, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

"Ms. Marcus, there was a time when I could share President Obama's view on the role of government in delivering useful change. But then my business career intervened and gave me a close up look at how inefficently the money transferred via the public sector is utilized."

In many ways you are right.

But in health care we waited for the private sector to provide a solution for, what, 40 years?

And they came up with nothing.

Even after it became clear that if they did nothing the government would step in.

I would have loved a private solution to health care.

But it was clearly never going to happen.

As for the author's larger point, I say Amen. I am progressive on some issues, conservative on others.

And I'm a bit sick of being told I'm unAmerican and that I somehow hate the Founding Fathers if I don't tow the conservative line on hating gays, etc.

Posted by: TheHillman | February 3, 2011 5:49 PM | Report abuse

The Constitution allows passionate minority opinions to receive disproportionate weight in political decision-masking. This is why states with tiny populations have the same Senate representation as the largest states in the union.
However, the radical right confuses the deeply held opinions of its small group with the widely held opinions of America as a whole. They attempt to bolster their membership by adding God to their roster.

Posted by: karenfink | February 3, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Bubbette:
I want to see you refuse ALL of your 'Socialist' benefits: Social Security, Medicare, and Subsidies.

I'm betting you won't.

Posted by: vigor | February 3, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Court hears challenge to Voting Rights Act

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2011

Conservative legal activists are set to renew their campaign to overturn the nation's landmark Voting Rights Act, arguing before a federal district judge in Washington on Wednesday that states and local jurisdictions should no longer be forced to justify voting changes to the Justice Department or a federal court.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/02/AR2011020206303.html

No comments on this story, eh Hiatt you sold out piece of crap?

Posted by: aartmann112004 | February 3, 2011 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Since you are so constitutional now, maybe you should chastise the Senate Democrats for their recent support of unconstitutional laws such as Obamacare. There is a scary example of government as tyrant and a political party dedicated to tyranny.

Posted by: zxccxzasd

So when we were bullied into a military invasion by Obama's predecessors that was not tyranny, that was promoting democracy right? You are either with us or you are with the terrorist. When they rounded up people and jailed them indefinately without due process that was not tyranny, that was keeping us safe from enemies who hate us because we are free. When our phones and email are illegally tapped without warrants thats not tyranny is it? All these things happened before you even knew who Obama was. Why were you not upset then? Could it be that tyranny is fine with you as long as republicans are in charge?

Posted by: ged0386 | February 3, 2011 6:14 PM | Report abuse

In a democracy there is something called the market place of ideas. After all of the shouting etc people vote for the best approach. You have hit the nail on the head. There is only ONE argument in the market of ideas. The right wing trash. No one is calling their blatent lies and misrepresentations. As such since it is the only idea in play it carries the market place.

1. Job killing obamacare. Hillarious.
The health bill is the largest real job CREATOR engine in history. 32million new patients. patients = doctors,nurses,technicians the whole nine yards. Yet silence. Millions of new real jobs and the only argument in town is that it is a job killer. Obama needs to take ownership of Obamacare as the positive force and accomplishment it is and will be.

2. The right wing crackpots want to eliminate 15% of the fedreal work force. That is JOB KILLING on steroids. A 140K middle class jobs KILLED,MURDERED for a right wing ideology. But of course they are not real jobs according to the crackpots.

3. Statewide job KILLING courtesy of the rightwing nuts. Teachers,firemen,policemen all KILLED for the sake of the right wing psychonuts. Those aren't real jobs either. Those are union jobs.

4. These guys are the job KILLER on steroids. Don't look over your shoulder. it might be your job next

Posted by: Modeldon_9 | February 3, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

. . . and don't be fooled by whiny liberals like Marcus.

Posted by: rplat | February 3, 2011 6:22 PM | Report abuse

@alance - Hey dodo for brains! When you become POTUS, let's see how you would handle the Egypt issue as well as all of the other issues this man has had to deal with and quite remarkably got done in this political climate. Don't be an idiot.

Posted by: cholly85241 | February 3, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

@Bubbette1 - What a bubblehead.

Posted by: cholly85241 | February 3, 2011 6:27 PM | Report abuse

It's really amazing how it is possible, when people no longer have the ability to think for themselves, that the "simple" becomes the arcane, and common sense becomes an outcast of the world!

Just as God and Man are One! government and "we the people" are one! Thus, what is good for all can be shared by all, limited only by the constraints of myopic self interests. However, those who have stolen that spirit from many of the "the people", have done so by fabricating this myth that government is "over there", while we are "over here". This is no different than any religious dogma that, by commission, or, omisssion, deceive "the people" that God is "over there", while we are "over here"! So just as there is only one union- the United States of America, there is only One Soul-the universal substance of all there is and all there will be! And anyone who predicates any concept on the idea that "we are not our brother's keeper", lies as much as anyone who would have the world believe in a ("volitional") God's supernatural rival-"the devil", in a universe of origins, and that matter is the progenitor of consciousness!

Posted by: D-0f-G | February 3, 2011 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Since you are so constitutional now, maybe you should chastise the Senate Democrats for their recent support of unconstitutional laws such as Obamacare. There is a scary example of government as tyrant and a political party dedicated to tyranny.

Posted by: zxccxzasd
________________
if it's unconstitutional, the courts will say so, and the individual mandate, the part two of the four judges found unconstitutional, was proposed by the GOP first, in all of its health reform proposals since Nixon.

Posted by: JoeT1 | February 3, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Part of the problem with allowing conservatives to claim the moral high ground is they have the morality of a school yard bully. As any GLBT individual knows most organized religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) are as dangerous as Rabid Dogs. They may think the U.S. Government is a tyrant but it is mainly because the government will not allow these fundamentalists to impose their perverted lifestyle on others.

Posted by: w002772 | February 3, 2011 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Of course Ruth, you are correct about at least this one thing: '...Government, in this view, is the out-of-control institution that instructs citizens what light bulbs they can buy and what food they should eat...'
Government is telling us what light bulbs to buy and for that matter what health insurance we must buy. Unfortunately, when government acts it seems to trample our individuality and freedoms with its 'one size fits all' answers to our problems. And who can possibly believe that killing a helpless fetus is anything but totally against the commandment 'thou shalt not kill' and completely immoral. Yet, our bullying government is trying to jam this behavior onto everyone.

Posted by: bruce18 | February 3, 2011 6:57 PM | Report abuse

first off religion is not at fault. religion is the basis for marrige. the problem is government got involved. its everyones constitution and declaration of independence but ALOT of people need to read it first. it says pursuit of happieness it doesent say you will be. it says we all start the same not end up at the same place. and as far as government paying for socal programs that is fine, i'm all for that, as long as its paid for. we shouldent go into debt to pay for them.

as far as the morgage issue is concerned thats personal responsability . if you sign a contract you should always READ IT FIRST including the fine print. and understand what your reading before you sign it. if you couldent afford the payments maybe you should have bought a less expensive house or rent.
goverment debt is and always has been legalized slavery. when you owe someone money ,like say china, they own you till you pay it back .

Posted by: wech0201 | February 3, 2011 7:10 PM | Report abuse

OBAMA - DONT TELL gwb YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. GEORGIE BELIEVE THAT IF YOU ARE NOT A BABTIST YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED THROUGH TH PEARLY GATES IN HEAVAN.

I OFTEN WONDER WHERE THE LAST POPE IS ? IS HE JUST FLOATING AROUND OR DID THEY MAKE AN EXCEPTION AND LET HIM IN THE BACK DOOR!

No matter what Obama believes religiously is not of any consequence. What he is doing to this country, SS Medicare and now I hear tell the freedom of the internet is in jeoprdy. I am 90% hearing impaired. Cannot hear a radio, go to a movie or a concert,or watch trlevision. Without all the news on the internet and info. I and thousands like me, are in BIG trouble.

Obama, if you do not convince people in this country have have Gay Rights and you are making life harder and almost impossible to survive you cannot win a second term and anyway who wantsa you? You are not what you promised you would be as President, and I for one did not believe you for a second!

Posted by: LOONYBIN2000
===========================================
I was going to respond until I got to the screen name!!

CASE CLOSED!!

Posted by: Angryman | February 3, 2011 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Government is greatly involved in underwriting and getting energy, but can't be involved in eliminating forms of consumption that waste it?

It is crazy. I will have less tax dollars going to support energy discovery, development, and production if we waste less of it.

And, I'm with you. I love our constitution, I love the embodiment of the ideals of freedom, justice, and equality. What we are fighting right now is a vision of what individuals are permitted that is more than 2000 years old. We have changed. We have grown. We ended slavery - not because the Bible said it was evil but because we could take the ideals of loving one another and the ideals of freedom/justice/equality and merge them into a new understanding. We ended the servitude of women by recognizing that women today are not the same and society is not the same as they were 2000 years ago. The Bible did not teach us that.

All this does not mean that what we learn from the Bible is wrong or not relevant. But we need to learn to take what is in the Bible and reframe the lessons of God and Jesus into the world of today. We must distinguish between the descriptions of life lived in an ancient world and the lessons of love, faith, and trust in God that are the point of the Bible.

Literalists hate that - think about the conflict about evolution. But look at what we have done in the name of freedom/justice/equality that is not "biblical" but certainly good. Look at what we have learned about the physical world through science that either contradicts the Bible or isn't even conceived as an idea in the Bible.

Our current battles along these lines are over recognizing that 1) we are a nation without a national faith, 2) full citizen participation by gays and 3) assuring women continue to control their own bodies.

With advances in science, medical care, education - we learn more of the beauty and wonder of G-d's creation. I don't understand those who deny what we have learned.

I refuse to give up G-d and Jesus and the Bible. I want my Muslim neighbors to hold onto their faith and their holy book. But we all must also look at what science, modern medicine, equality and freedom give us so that all can make our own choices about faith and how to live to reach whatever next life they believe in. And, so that we will all have the freedom to do so.

I love both God and the Constitution of the U.S.

Posted by: amelia45 | February 3, 2011 7:16 PM | Report abuse


We won't have to worry about liberals hijacking morality!

Posted by: geo82170 | February 3, 2011 7:18 PM | Report abuse

What I don't understand about conservative self-righteousness concerning the constitution, is why we never hear a peep out of them when the president decides to invade a foreign nation without declaring war? Something only Congress is allowed to do, and something Congress hasn't done since WWII.

I've witnessed conservatives suggest that liberals intentionally manipulate the constitution by overinterpreting it, or treating it as a "living document."
But frankly, when it comes to matters of "search and seizure," or "cruel and unusual punishment," some of these same purists become very clever at extrapolating novel interpretations of the framers' words. For an example, watch Antonin Scalia's 60 minutes interview where he asserts that water-boarding isn't "cruel and unusual punishment" because it's not punishment, it's interogation...give me a break. For another example, look back at the Patriot Act debates on warrantless wiretapping. In those days, scared Americans (led by conservatives), couldn't be bothered by limiting themselves to only "reasonable" searches.

Finally, since some are of the belief that the constitution prohibits the government from "mandating" people buy health insurance, does that mean it's unconstitional to force people to fight in US wars via the draft? Congress can "raise and support Armies," but that's not the same as forcing unwilling people into the army. The constitution also says Congress has the power to "collect taxes," but apparently that's not the same thing as forcing people to purchase health insurance. (By the way, if you really don't want to buy health insurance, you can just pay the tax.)

Posted by: patricklynch1 | February 3, 2011 7:37 PM | Report abuse

"Actually, more to the point, tolerance and compassion are *Christian* values, which Christ himself makes pretty clear. The so-called social conservatives have been spuriously hijacking the definition of morality, explicitly in the name of Christianity, for decades now. Enough already."

Actually, Jesus did not in any way tolerate sin. He was very patient and forgiving. For example, when the woman, who was caught in adultery by the religious leaders, was brought to him she was required to be stoned under religious law. Jesus did not tolerate her sin, but instead reminded those wanting her death of their sin and then asked who would throw the first stone. When no one would, He said that He would not stone her either. He then told her to go and leave her life of sin.

He had mercy on her and forgave her, but did not tolerate her sin.

For reference, this passage is John 7:53 - 8:11.

Posted by: cpumechanic | February 3, 2011 8:21 PM | Report abuse

No, Ruth Marcus, it's NOT your constitution. There is no remotely plausible way to justify the individual mandate under any part of the constitution. Not to mention labels on vending machines, diversity training for nurses, or most of the other 3000 pages or so of crap. The only way to reconcile the individual mandate is to say straightforwardly that the constitution has no meaning, and that government can do whatever it wants to because it said so.

The gap between what the constitution SAYS and what statists like Marcus claim it means has grown so wide that the gulf is insuperable. It's like they are wide-eyed, pathological liars. Congress has no right to tell me I have to buy something and it has to have certain characteristics, just like they have no right to tell me what I can sell at my garage sale or how to do it. Claims to the contrary are just unfounded, made up out of thin air. Wickard v Filburn is not founded on any constitutional principle; it's made up whole cloth, a fabrication, a charade. It just goes to illustrate the power of insistently repeating a lie often enough.

Nobody in Congress, in the Administration, or in the courts today can tell anyone anything about what the constitution means. The men who wrote it explained it pretty thoroughly in a number of letters, essays, speeches, and papers.

"With respect to the two words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators." --James Madison

"On every question of construction, (we must) carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." -Thomas Jefferson, written to Supreme Court Justice William Johnson

Posted by: _BSH | February 3, 2011 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Jefferson also said there should be a revolution every twenty years.

Clearly, he didn't object to change. In fact, another revolution might get rid of the Constitution altogether.

Notice that Jefferson refers to the "probable" spirit in which the Constitution was passed. Would that be the spirit of the 3/5 compromise?

Posted by: marik7 | February 3, 2011 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Posted at 4:07 PM ET, 02/ 3/2011
Hey, it's my Constitution, too!
By Ruth Marcus

Yeah? So?

No aurgument there, but all this infusin', agitatin' for social and economic justice and all, when there is clearly none of any of it to be had (nor even possible) at the hands of an overreaching, overfunded, overly democratic administration of redistributed mayhem is more than any Party or People should have/and/or tolerate.

Posted by: RichNomore | February 3, 2011 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Obama even stoops to paddle his own "faith" to push Obamacare.
How outrageous that he thinks that this 3ooo page monstrosity is in any way connected to any Christian sense of compassion.
Not when its core is the unconstitutional cohercion of people to purchase health care or when it obviously channels tax-payers' money to fund abortion.
Also how can Obama reconcile this newfound Christian faith with his support of the killing of the unborn in the womb and the abandonement of aborted babies born alive?
What a very opportunistic faith!

Posted by: castellina | February 3, 2011 10:07 PM | Report abuse

And it is. But, why then, when a judge rules the health care act as unconstitutional, do you remain silent as the administration and other liberals try to portray him as a jurist run amuck. Shouldn't, under the constitution, we all grow concerned when one branch tries to intimidate another?

Posted by: Marin823 | February 3, 2011 11:44 PM | Report abuse

catelilina at 10:07 pm. I have a surprise for you.

According to gallup poles: "From 1975 through today, a majority of Americans have almost continually held that abortion should be legal "only under certain circumstances."

While I will give you a quote that seems to support you, please notice that the majority of people support abortion when the right conditions are there.

Regarding current opinion, when asked about abortion in various circumstances, the Gallup poles show: "Most recently Gallup has found about a quarter of Americans (26%) saying abortion should be legal in all cases, a little over half (56%) saying it should be legal in certain cases and 17% saying it should be illegal in all cases."

Please note that only 17% of people want abortions denied in all cases.

As an aside, the recent case of the Arizona bishop who decided that church doctrine trumped advice from physicians, the bishop would have let the woman, a mother of four healthy and living children, die before he would have approved an abortion from a pregnancy that the doctors said would likely kill her.

What is interesting about Gallup poles over time is that they show a shifting of opinion in favor of abortion to a restriction of abortion to special circumstances. ]

I think this in healthy. It shows a path of growing understanding. It definitely shows why the recent bill to limit abortions to an undefined "forcible rape" met with fierce opposition from many women. Rape is rape, except in the minds of those who have not been raped or who want to find any reason to restrict abortions as far as they can.

I want my tax money to be availabel to those who decide that an abortion is the right and only option for them. I don't want it to be an easy decision, but I want it to be an available decision.

And, that is what the polls tell us in the feeling of the majority of people when you ask them enough questions to understand how far they are willing to go.

It is not all or nothing. There are shades of gray.

Thank God. The mother's life is hers to choose. It certainly isn't yours.


Posted by: amelia45 | February 4, 2011 12:03 AM | Report abuse

A lot of heat, but not much light here. I guess the that where a substantiative argument is impossible, a lil ruffling of feathers will do. heh.

Posted by: madhtr | February 4, 2011 12:43 AM | Report abuse

A lot of heat, but not much light here. I guess the that where a substantiative argument is impossible, a lil ruffling of feathers will do. heh.

Posted by: madhtr | February 4, 2011 12:44 AM | Report abuse

A lot of heat, but not much light here. I guess the that where a substantiative argument is impossible, a lil ruffling of feathers will do. heh.

Posted by: madhtr | February 4, 2011 12:51 AM | Report abuse

After reading some of the posts hear, I have come to the conclusion that this planet needs a do-over. Gravity doesn't pull, it sucks.
For most Americans (and probably the human race) belief trumps facts. Where's Armageddon when you need it?
Get the Second Coming over with, enough already. Stupidity hurts, see how much pain the world is in!

Posted by: kparc1212 | February 4, 2011 6:59 AM | Report abuse

You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.

You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn't get mad when we spent over 600 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn't get mad when you saw the Abu Grahib photos.

You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.

You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn't get mad when we let a major US city drown.

You didn't get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark.

You finally got mad when.. when... wait for it... when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all ok with you but helping other Americans... well “f” that. That about right?

Posted by: kparc1212 | February 4, 2011 7:04 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, your constitution differs fundamentally from that of our nation if you think the commerce clause entitles Congress and the White House to take whatever action they deem "moral". Such high-blown sentiments and the authoritarian actions stemming from them are the very reason our constitution places well-defined limits on governmental power. Your so-called constitution will remain a product of wishful "progressive" thinking so long as we stick with enforcing the real one.

Posted by: craigstephens | February 4, 2011 8:13 AM | Report abuse

"The gap between what the constitution SAYS and what statists like Marcus clai..."

"Statist" is suddenly the right-wing word for [obscenity redacted].

Police enforcing speed limits; government goons forcing rich white Republicans to build huge high-rise condoms here in Florida and then go broke; Air traffic control; regulations that keep coal mine owners from treating miners as disposable trash; the Marine Band; the Ronald Reagan office building... all examples of the evil we call statism, and all well outside the bounds of the Constitution.

Show me where in the Constitution it says: "Republicans will become morons and work with their allies in al Queda to impoverish the American middle class."

Show me where in the Constitution it says: "Even through tariffs were one of the first forms of taxation the federal government used to raise funds and protect American industries, we are now against them because they would benefit working Americans at the expense of our nastiest billionaires."

By God, we must follow the Constitution. Let's arm every able-bodied adult with Hi-Point or Kel-Tec carbines and organize them into well-regulated militias.

I am going to go get my Jeep's oil changed later today. As a freedom-loving American, should I let the damn statists force me to drive on the right side of the road, or should I drive on the left side to show my independence?

What would YOU do? :)

Posted by: roblimo | February 4, 2011 9:01 AM | Report abuse

If you want to be taken seriously about saying its your Constitution, too, then why haven't you written an article on how the Obama administration has been held in contempt of court twice, first for disobeying a court order to the EPA not to destroy documents in an ongoing case, and most recently, for violating the order throwing out its unConstitutional ban on offshore drilling. the administration has announced it will not abide by Judge Vinson's decision invalidating Obamacare & at the same time, has not sought a stay of that decision. When liberals decide they are bound by court orders they don't like, just like everyone else, then they might be taken seriously.

Posted by: 55sprout | February 4, 2011 9:04 AM | Report abuse

If you want to be taken seriously about saying its your Constitution, too, then why haven't you written an article on how the Obama administration has been held in contempt of court twice, first for disobeying a court order to the EPA not to destroy documents in an ongoing case, and most recently, for violating the order throwing out its unConstitutional ban on offshore drilling. the administration has announced it will not abide by Judge Vinson's decision invalidating Obamacare & at the same time, has not sought a stay of that decision. When liberals decide they are bound by court orders they don't like, just like everyone else, then they might be taken seriously.

Posted by: 55sprout | February 4, 2011 9:05 AM | Report abuse

If you want to be taken seriously about saying its your Constitution, too, then why haven't you written an article on how the Obama administration has been held in contempt of court twice, first for disobeying a court order to the EPA not to destroy documents in an ongoing case, and most recently, for violating the order throwing out its unConstitutional ban on offshore drilling. The administration most recently has announced it will not abide by Judge Vinson's decision invalidating Obamacare & at the same time, has not sought a stay of that decision. When liberals decide they are bound by orders of the judicial branch, just like everyone else, then maybe then they'll deserve to be taken seriously about their love of the Constitution.

Posted by: 55sprout | February 4, 2011 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I've been saying for years, that the Bushites, and now the Tea Partiers, implications that everyone that disagrees with them is somehow un-American or not the "Real America", is Exhibit #1 of the bankruptcy of their arguments. Facts persuade sane people. Present facts if your way is the correct way. And conservatives appear to be hyper allergic to facts.

Posted by: CardFan | February 4, 2011 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Well done Ms. Marcus, I'm with you. The glaring reality is that the folks proclaiming to be the Constitutionalsts (Bachmann, et. al), obviously have no understanding or comprehension of its contents or meaning. Just like the "Christians" that claim their moral superiority while brandishing their "Christian" version of hate and bitterness. I've learned long ago that those that brag the loudest have the most to hide.

Posted by: JilliB | February 4, 2011 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I find it remarkable to see how many who respond to a statement think that foaming-at-the-mouth name-calling and demonizing constitute persuasive argument--and all without even touching upon the subject at hand. WOW!

Posted by: bandefeder | February 4, 2011 9:42 AM | Report abuse

zxccxzasd wroe: "Since you are so constitutional now, maybe you should chastise the Senate Democrats for their recent support of unconstitutional laws such as Obamacare."

zxccxzasd unilaterally declares Obamacare unconstitutional. We have courts with educated, experienced judges expressly for the purpose of avoiding vigilante government by know-nothings like zxccxzasd. The law may eventually be struck down (one district court has held the law unconstitutional.) The mandate provision may be held unconstitutional (one district court has judged that particular provision unconstitutional). Or not because two district courts have upheld the law. So zxccxzasd doesn't get to decide what is unconstitutional. It's not just HIS constitution, which is the point of this article.

Posted by: RufusPlimpton | February 4, 2011 10:05 AM | Report abuse

The headline got my interest, then as I read on and saw the name Michelle Bachmann I realized that this is just a case of Monkey See, Monkey Say, Monkey Do.

Posted by: questioneverything | February 4, 2011 10:05 AM | Report abuse

jimbob3 wrote: "Dear Barry, I don't pretend to go to church every Sunday either, but at least everyone knows I am a Christian. We are still trying to figure out which religion of convenience you practice."

Who are you to sit in judgement of someone else's faith or to judge whether someone is "pretending"? Apparently, in your world view, only ostentatious faith is legitimate. Comments like yours show the world that you've never really even read the Bible (or whatever theology you subscribe to), and if you did, you certainly didn't learn anything from it.

Posted by: RufusPlimpton | February 4, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Amelia45 at 12:03 AM
You say at the end of your comments: Thank God the mother's life is hers to choose. It certainly isn't yours".

No, it is not mine. If I have nothing to do with it then, why do my tax dollars have to go into killing the life of HER baby? I personally believe that abortion is murder-- why do I have to be forced into contributing to the millions of tax-payers' dollars that abortuaries like Planned Parenhood receive?
Abortion's mantra is "choice". Well, where is my choice as a tax-payer?
You say you have no problem giving your maney towards abortion. That is your prerogative. I do not want to fatten up the pockets of Planned Parenthood--an organization that supports sex trafficking of minors in addition to murdering millions of babies.
Pro-abort people are fond of saying if you don't like abortion, don't have one.
Fine, than YOU pay with YOUR money.
You will say abortion is legal--so was slavery. And abortion will go in the same direction.

Posted by: castellina | February 4, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Much of the government's social and charitable programs are remnants of the great society policies put in place after the Great Depression.

While it's fair to argue that government programs have expanded excessively, it is important to remember that those programs originally were put in place specifically because private charitable activities failed. They didn't have the scope or the organization to address the massive level of poverty, hunger, and economic damage caused by the great depression.

These all have their roots in economic policy and commerce. Those, like RichNomore and Craigstephens, are wrong that the constitution doesn't allow programs to promote the general welfare.

Posted by: RufusPlimpton | February 4, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Ruth Marcus is concerned about the usurpation of constitutional principals because of liberal silence on the matter. Nancy Pelosi was not silent when she replied, "Are you serious?" when asked where congress has the authority under the constitution to mandate individuals purchase health insurance. It seems her lack of silence made usurpation unnecessary, she ceded it with her words.

Posted by: GnirJ | February 4, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Well said. I am so tired of being considered unpatriotric, unAmerican, antiConsitutional, a liberal retard, and so on, because of not being a conservative Republican (and I´m not really all that liberal either). When did Gingrich (who has the ethics and morality of a hyena....not to insult hyenas), Palin, Bachman, DeMint, et al, get to define what being constitutional means? Americans have been arguing about the scope and meaning of the Constitution from its inception and adoption. Americans need to read more about Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison and the history of the Supreme Court and its decisions, and listen far less to modern pundits.

Posted by: Aquarius1 | February 4, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

rufusplimpton: ...The law may eventually be struck down (one district court has held the law unconstitutional.) The mandate provision may be held unconstitutional (one district court has judged that particular provision unconstitutional). Or not because two district courts have upheld the law. So zxccxzasd doesn't get to decide what is unconstitutional....
----------------------------------------
Rufus: As it currently stands the law is unconsitutional in the 26 states to which Vinson's decision applies. I'm sure the White House will appeal the ruling, but until or unless a stay of that ruling is issued, it's unconstitutional. I know the liberals are trying to spin this as a 2 to 2 score, like it's some sort of baseball game or something, but that's not how our court system works.

Posted by: Marin823 | February 4, 2011 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Gingrich quote;
"I'm deeply committed to constitutional government,"

So am I as long as it's my interpretation and not yours.

Posted by: knjincvc | February 4, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Ah Ruth, but the difference is that my Constitution is the one actually written and applied as intended by the writers. Your's is the one elastically stretched and bent to the whims of how you feel today.

I would rather have mine.

Posted by: jwdkturner | February 4, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Are these not definitions of tyranny:

Telling a woman who has had sex forced upon her that she must carry and deliver the child that results through no choice of her own;

Telling a person with a treatable illness and no insurance that due to their lack of funds, they are deprived of medical treatment that is available to the more fortunate in our society;

Telling the citizenry that failure to support the agression of the administration as it invades a sovereign country on a pre-emptive basis is unpatriotic and opens you to suspicion as Un-American;

Tellimg the citizenry that being even suspected of an act labeled as terrorist pre-empts all of your civil liberties.

Remember that what you believe is an absolute has an interpretation by others that seems tyrannical.

Posted by: DawnG1 | February 4, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus, it's not your constitution, it's the United States Constitution.

You serve as a member of an editorial board which embraced views on subjects such as campaign finance reform and gun control that the federal courts deemed constitutionally incorrect. Two federal judges recently struck down all or part of a health care reform law which your editorial board also supported.

The federal government has indeed grown too big and too powerful for our good, engaging in functions not intended by our founding fathers and infringing upon the liberties of its citizens. That is a major reason for last November's election results.

I respectfully suggest you devote some time to educating yourself about the Constitution rather expecting it to embrace your big-government philosophy. And I also respectfully request that you stop describing those with differing views from yours as "anti-government."

Posted by: austinrl | February 4, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus says: "Obama's remarks resonated because I've been bristling recently at conservatives' dual hijacking: morality and the Constitution as the domain of small-government conservatives."
The only constitutional issue she mentions is the requirement (in the new health care) that we all must purchase health insurance. Is that constitutional? Proponents say yes, it somehow accords with the interstate commerce clause. Opponents say that's ridiculous-- does that mean they're hijacking the constitution? Rather than "bristling" Ms. Marcus should show us where the "hijackers" are wrong!

Posted by: pjk1 | February 4, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus -- for someone whose commentary is normally well-considered, it's a little stunning to see you write about "the lasting necessity of government as a moral matter." In an open and pluralistic society in which people have differing moral views, gov't action cannot be justified in moral terms (hence, separation of chuch and state).

The suggestion that Obamacare or any other Obama policy represents a moral imperative that the gov't must fulfill is at once stunningly arrogant and stunningly closed-minded.

Posted by: bdiddy2 | February 4, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

What a crock. I wouldn't buy a used car from disingenuous Odumbo. He makes Bill Clinton look honest, and that ain't easy.

Posted by: LarryG62 | February 4, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

What a crock. I wouldn't buy a used car from disingenuous Odumbo. He makes bill Clinton look honest, and that ain't easy.

Posted by: LarryG62 | February 4, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes we might forgit that politicians are ordinary citizens,- with an education,- from various walks of life with various outlooks and insights who are elected by a whole host of voters with many many different views of what this country should look like.to go to the most upside down place in the country to serve their constituants and interpet the constituation of this country. No one ever gets it wholly right and we make mistakes that sometimes cost us creditability amoung our citizens as well as the world. I believe that most of the time we get it right and rise to great heights and lead the world by our words and accomplishments. In spite of our differences and bantering we still remain the strongest,the best educated and the most democratic country on earth and the envey of all who want to duplicate us. If we continue to collectivly try our best and are allowed to trip and fall on occasion and do not become too critical or severe we will surely prevail as the great nation that we truely are.

Posted by: cliffc1 | February 4, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Ruth - I usually post to pan you or take issue, but not this time. Right on, as we used to say.

However, I can't help but point out how your colleagues, and my former colleagues, in the Fourth Estate have let the Right in general and the Teabaggers in particular get away with all kinds of insane, false, and sometimes violent rhetoric without at least pointing out how they don't know the Constitution from a rat's backside.

This commentary is at least a small step in a good direction.

Posted by: scaypgrayce | February 4, 2011 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Ruth - I usually post to pan you or take issue, but not this time. Right on, as we used to say.

However, I can't help but point out how your colleagues, and my former colleagues, in the Fourth Estate have let the Right in general and the Teabaggers in particular get away with all kinds of insane, false, and sometimes violent rhetoric without at least pointing out how they don't know the Constitution from a rat's nether end.

This commentary is at least a small step in a good direction.

Posted by: scaypgrayce | February 4, 2011 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Ruth,

You make a point, but miss the larger context. Yes, as citizens, the Constitution belongs (if you want to characterize it that way) to all of us. However, it is the more the document that provides the framework of governance and the exercise of good citizenship.

Are you a constitutionalist in the context you are willing to abide it? When any branch behaves as though it does not mean what it says, that should be offensive to anyone. Have you really read the Constitution and the Federalist papers?

Some of what folks claim is "interpretation" is laid bare when the writers themselves wrote extensively as to what was "intended/meant". How do you square that with your thinking?

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It is a citizens issue. Take for instance the view of "happiness" or "well Bing". Achieving either at the expense of others is not in the constitution. Yet we have moved towards a Socialist Democracy in pursuit of both.

I cannot find this thinking or intent anywhere. Can you?

Posted by: bill1946 | February 5, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

To make a fine distinction, it is probably right and proper for the government to tell citizens which food they "should" eat, but most probably NOT right and proper to tell them which food they "must" eat. Too often the egotistical among us promulgate a "one size fits all" philosophy that, while satisfying the desire for consistency that is the hobgoblin of the small mind, actually ends up being very disrespectful of individual human rights and freedoms.

In other words, as long as I am not doing harm to myself or others, please allow me the right to be wrong. We consider diversity to be a GOOD thing, don't we?

Posted by: DrZBen | February 5, 2011 8:43 PM | Report abuse

You wrote:
I've been bristling recently at conservatives' dual hijacking: morality and the Constitution as the domain of small-government conservatives.

I'd like them back.

I respond:

Have you ever bothered to READ the US Constitution? Because it IS a "small government" document, at least as applies to teh Federal government. The Federal Government has strictly limited enumerated powers. If you care about the Constitution, then you don't try to give the Federal government ANY power that is not EXPLICITLY stated in the US Constitution.

If you think the Federal Government does not have some power that it SHOULD have, you are free to support a Constitutional Amendment to give it that power.

Supporting having 5 "Justices" rewrite the Constitution to give the Federal Government that power is NOT the action of someone who cares about the US Constitution. But it is what you left wingers repeatedly do.

You wrote:
My second gripe -- the conservative usurpation of the constitutionalist mantle....

I was reminded while reading a quote from Newt Gingrich in Post reporter Amy Gardner's story about the blend of fiscal and social conservatives in the Tea Party movement in Iowa.

"I'm deeply committed to constitutional government," Gardner quoted the former House speaker as saying.

Well, me too. It's my constitution as much as it is Michele Bachmann's. She and I may disagree about its meaning, but I am just as committed to its enduring importance.


I respond:
No, you're not. Because if you were in favor of Constitutional government, then you would understand that there can be a big difference between "laws I think are good" and "laws that are Constitutional."

And, sorry, but no one who actually respects the US Constitution believes that Congress' power to regulate INTERSTATE Commerce gives Congress the right to force individuals to buy Health Insurance from a private company.

What you are "committed to" is the power of "Justices" who agree with you to abuse their position and force your shared beliefs on the rest of us. That's all that ANYONE who claims to believe in a "Living Constitution" is "committed to." The US Constitution is a written document. It LEGITIMATELY changes ONLY when a Constitutional Amendment is passed.

When you are willing to accept that. When you are willing to accept that the Federal Government's powers are strictly limited, and that State Government's powers are rarely limited by the US Constitution (State Constitutions are an entirely different matter), and that whether you like a law has NOTHING to do with whether that law is Constitutional, THEN you can claim that you are actually committed to Constitutional government.

But at that point you will no longer be anywhere near the "mainstream" of the Democrat Party.

Posted by: GregD1 | February 6, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

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