U.S. Constitution: Has Anybody Read It?

Well, as Dutch Reagan would say, “Here we go again.” Every lawmaker these days, apparently, is either protecting or violating the Constitution. And the kerfuffle over Obamacare has forged a large group of pundits, policy wonks and other miscreants who, apparently, are now constitutional legal experts.

Wonder how many have actually read the Constitution? I’ve read the First Amendment. But if I have read the Constitution in total, it would have been in a high school civics class nearly a half-century ago. Yet since we no longer teach civics or most anything else about government in high school, I might be way ahead of most people. Sigh.

So as a public service, here’s a link to the full text of the Constitution. Spoiler alert: it’s more than 140 characters.

In contrast, Hugo Black, the fifth longest serving justice in Supreme Court history, used to keep a pocket-size version of the Constitution with him at all times. Gee. It would be kind of neat to see one of the gasbags on MSNBC lean forward and opine while Associate Justice Black sat across the table. I digress.

Anyway, here’s a preview of what we are going to see and hear during the months until the elections in November: “Why Obamacare Is Unconstitutional, and What Conservatives Should Do About It“:

Remarks by Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

After Republicans took over the House of Representatives, one of their first acts was to overwhelmingly pass a bill repealing ObamaCare. A poll taken afterward found that 22% of Americans thought the monstrous law had been repealed and 26% weren’t sure!  That means only 52% of Americans understood that the repeal bill must also pass the Senate and be signed by the president.

Those are jobs that will have to wait until next January! In the meantime, what can we do?

We need to tell everyone that ObamaCare violates the Constitution down to its very DNA. Let’s start with the individual mandate and the federal government telling us that, beginning in 2014, we must spend our personal money on a private product – a health insurance policy that the CBO says will cost $20,000 a year for a family of four.   Is a Chevy Volt mandate next?

And now we see Secretary Sebelius issuing a rule that violates our constitutionally-protected religious liberty. She says employer health plans must cover, at no charge to patients, contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization. President Obama called  Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops  to tell him the good news that Catholic schools, hospitals, and other institutions have a year to figure out how to comply — a year to figure out how to violate the Church’s fundamental teachings about the dignity of human life. He seemed totally surprised by the torrent of criticism from people who think that the Constitutional protection of religious liberty actually MEANS something.

And then there is the unconstitutional Independent Payment Advisory Board – 15 unelected technocrats who will be making decisions about spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare money – a job explicitly delegated by the Constitution to ELECTED Members of Congress.

Oh, boy. Like I said. We all might want to brush up on the Constitution just to be able to follow the shouting matches on cable TV.

And by the way, Hugo Black was kind of a stickler on the First Amendment.

Black took an absolutist approach to First Amendment jurisprudence, believing the first words of the Amendment that said “Congress shall make no law…” Black rejected the creation of judicial tests for free speech standards, such as the tests for “clear and present danger”, “bad tendency”, “gravity of the evil,” “reasonableness,” or “balancing.” Black would write that the First Amendment is “wholly ‘beyond the reach’ of federal power to abridge… I do not believe that any federal agencies, including Congress and the Court, have power or authority to subordinate speech and press to what they think are ‘more important interests.'”

And Black took a contrary view when Tricky Dick Nixon tried to block the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

Justice Black is often regarded as a leading defender of First Amendment rights such as the freedom of speech and of the press. He refused to accept the doctrine that the freedom of speech could be curtailed on national security grounds. Thus, in New York Times Co. v. United States (1971), he voted to allow newspapers to publish the Pentagon Papers despite the Nixon Administration‘s contention that publication would have security implications. In his concurring opinion, Black stated,

In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. […] The word ‘security’ is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment.
—New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713, 714 (1971).
Black also opined:
The layman’s constitutional view is that what he likes is constitutional and that which he doesn’t like is unconstitutional.
And even that depends, I guess, on whether or not you’ve actually read the Constitution.

One response to “U.S. Constitution: Has Anybody Read It?

  1. Even though we have protection for the press, it doesn’t seem like the press is doing a good job of protecting or informing the governed.

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