We originally posted this in March 2011, but we will update this periodically to showcase the latest in their confusion with the Constitution. If you see items that we should add, feel free to let us know in the comments.
The GOP has made it a priority to mention how much they want judges to follow the Constitution, how much they believe in upholding the Constitution, how they want to make sure lawmakers respect the intent of the founding fathers.
Then they try to destroy it.
That’s no hyperbole, no intentional misrepresentation of their intent. No, the folks on the right say plenty about the Constitution, but in reality, they just think it’s a quaint little piece of paper that’s convenient to refer to occasionally so they can look patriotic.
Think I’m making it up? Below are some of the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Along with them are what the right has done to try to disembowel each Amendment.
UPDATE 8/12/11: Rick Perry goes 2 for 2, with a weak on the Constitution in general. Before getting into the Amendments, Rick Perry showed his “grasp” of the Constitution in an interview for in Newsweek. When asked what the phrase “general welfare” in the Constitution means, Perry said the following :
I don’t think our founding fathers when they were putting the term “general welfare” in there were thinking about a federally operated program of pensions nor a federally operated program of health care. What they clearly said was that those were issues that the states need to address. Not the federal government. I stand very clear on that. From my perspective, the states could substantially better operate those programs if that’s what those states decided to do.
So in your view those things fall outside of general welfare. But what falls inside of it? What did the Founders mean by “general welfare”?
I don’t know if I’m going to sit here and parse down to what the Founding Fathers thought general welfare meant.
But you just said what you thought they didn’t mean by general welfare. So isn’t it fair to ask what they did mean? It’s in the Constitution.
He knows what they didn’t mean, but can’t say what the did mean.
UPDATE 8/3/11: Added Rick Perry’s flip-flop on the 10th Amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This has been a favorite for the right to trample underfoot, or twist in every way possible. This one requires addressing each section, as they have all been targets of attack from the right.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
The first line of attack for the right is to claim that “freedom of religion is not freedom from religion” or that the United States is a “Christian” country. Neither is true. In the first case, freedom of religion means you don’t have to have any religion, and none shall be thrust upon you by the state. That’s where “establishment of religion” comes into play.
The founding fathers were pretty strong on this point, Jefferson in particular. At the time of the writing of the Constitution, there were many religions represented, and many of the original settlers came to the US to escape religious persecution. In fact, Jefferson was strong enough on this (and the right is aware of it) that folks like the Texas Board of Education have been working to re-write textbooks to minimize Jefferson’s importance, so that his views on a secular system of government are not exposed as strongly.
This sentiment was solidified in the Treaty of Tripoli, where it specifically states that the government of the United States is not rooted in the Christian faith. Since this is a treaty between the US and another country, it is a binding law, per another Article VI, Section 2 of the Constitution. This was no mistake. There was discussion as to the inclusion of this piece, and the working of the Treaty was voted on by all members at the time, and voted through unanimously. It was published in the papers of the day. The intent was clear – to declare that the US is not a “Christian” country.
But that’s just half of the first sentence. The “free exercise thereof” has been under attack for the last few weeks because of an Islamic cultural center planned a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center attacks. In this case, folks on the right call it an outrage that a Muslim “mosque” will be built “in the shadow of the World Trade Center”. It has even been called a “monument” and a
“training center” for future attackers and extremists.
“Building this structure on the edge of the battlefield created by radical Islamists is not a celebration of religious pluralism and mutual tolerance; it is a political statement of shocking arrogance and hypocrisy.
We need to have the moral courage to denounce it. It is simply grotesque to erect a mosque at the site of the most visible and powerful symbol of the horrible consequences of radical Islamist ideology. Well-meaning Muslims, with common human sensitivity to the victims’ families, realize they have plenty of other places to gather and worship. But for radical Islamists, the mosque would become an icon of triumph, encouraging them in their challenge to our civilization.”
- Newt Gingrich, July 28, 2010
Note the imagery: “Battlefield”, “radical Islamists”. Here’s some facts about the planned center:
- It can’t be seen from the WTC site. Perhaps, when the Freedom Tower is built, you might see the top of the building from higher floors. But there will be no minarets, no extravagant architecture. It will look like an office building.
- It is planned to be a 13-story building. Next to it, closer to the WTC site, is a 14-story building. This additionally hides the new building from sight.
- It is not on a common path to the site. Tourists are unlikely to pass the building on the way to the site. They will likely be unaware of its existence.
- Already closer? Two cathedrals, and Orthodox Greek church and Trinity Church and cemetery. Also, a mosque. The argument that “they don’t need another mosque this close” is ridiculous on its face. Does there need to be two cathedrals? Or two other, non-Muslim places of worship?
And yet, despite all of this, the folks on the right are falling over each other to decry the building of the community center. They have even suggested a zone, a perimeter around the WTC site within which a mosque cannot be built. Of course, they can’t really tell you whether 4 blocks, 4 miles, or 4 counties is far enough. Because no number will be good enough, no distance far enough.
But no matter the number they come up with, it violates the 1st Amendment. And we’re only on the first sentence.
“or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;”
With the significant exception of Fox News, the right has a more than healthy disdain for the press. Unless it serves their purpose, it is all part of “the liberal media” – a myth of epic proportions. Sharron Angle, running for Senate in Nevada, perhaps spoke what most Republicans think:
“We needed to have the press be our friend… We wanted them to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported…”
Sharron Angle, Fox News interview 8/2/10
And she might be forgiven for thinking that. It’s what her party has worked at to achieve. Control the media, and you control the message. So much for freedom of the press.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Well, this one is abused quite frequently, and most recently, by the Tea Party folks. As a rule, they ignore the first four words.
“A well regulated Militia,”
These folks want to be able to own just about any kind of firepower without telling anyone. They want it a secret that they own a weapon, and you can “pry it from their cold, dead fingers”.
Of course, that’s not what the Second Amendment says. It says that a well regulated militia is essential to the security of a free state. And to that end, the right to bear arms shall not be abridged. What folks on the right want it to mean is that first comes the right to bear arms. Anything else is either a burden or unnecessary, such as the militia part.
Keep in mind, this was created at such a time as there was no conscription, no national force, no Department of Defense. Just citizens. They were a militia, with regular musters.
Some of the more extreme folks want to get around this part by declaring themselves militias. Of course, the “well-regulated” portion then becomes open to interpretation. Are 10 guys running around the woods in Michigan a “well-regulated militia”?
Remember Sharron Angle? She’s even further to the right on this:
“”What is a little bit disconcerting and concerning is the inability for sporting goods stores to keep ammunition in stock… That tells me the nation is arming. What are they arming for if it isn’t that they are so distrustful of their government? They’re afraid they’ll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways?”
- Sharron Angle, to the Reno Gazette Journal, June 2010
“I feel that the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry. This not for someone who’s in the military. This not for law enforcement. This is for us. And in fact when you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical… And you know, I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.”
- Sharron Angle, to conservative talk show host Bill Manders, June 2010
Again, Angle is a Tea Party favorite. Her rhetoric is, at best, ridiculous, and at worst, dangerous. When prospective lawmakers start talking about “Second Amendment remedies” regarding sitting politicians, when they speak of the government for whose office they are running as “tyrannies”, you can see how the 2nd Amendment is being twisted. My guess is that such talk at the time of the founding fathers may have been found treasonous. Instead, she gets the GOP nod.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Here, the southwestern US Republicans, particularly in Arizona, have trampled all over the Constitution. SB1070, the controversial law that had major portions struck down in late July, is a particular problem.
The issue here is with the the requirement that law enforcement officers check the citizenship status of anyone who they have made a legal contact with. The key here is “unreasonable searches and seizures”. If you happen to be in a car when the driver is pulled over, should you be subjected to being required to show your citizenship papers? Should you be detained while the citizenship of all the occupants of the car are verified?
Leading this charge are AZ Gov. Jan Brewer, Senators John Kyl and John McCain, and a whole host of others. To listen to them, it’s an issue of immigration. And of course, that should be enough justification to throw out the 4th Amendment in its entirety.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Yup, they’ve gone after this one too.
After the capture and arrest of the individual who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square earlier this year, the cries became loud and shrill to revoke the rights guaranteed by the 5th Amendment and the Miranda Act. Marco Rubio, Republican candidate in FL, John McCain, and Peter King (R-NY), all denounced the fact that Faizal Shahzad was read his Miranda rights. In fact, they even started talking about revoking citizenship of anyone suspected of having terrorist ties. Once again, if it fits their agenda, throw out the Constitution.
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”
Again, Republicans would abolish this if they could. Under the guise of “terrorism” and “national security”, they are perfectly happy with locking away individuals without trail. When the Obama administration announced it would be working to close the Guantanamo Bay facility and try some of the prisoners as criminals, the right went ballistic. Their claim was that it was “too dangerous”. Their alternative? Keep them locked up without trial. Another example of where the Republicans love the Constitution, right up until it doesn’t advance their interests.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
This is a real favorite of the right. They use it to decry every act the government takes, claiming they violate states rights. And it might be a good argument, right up until they decide to ignore the 10th Amendment. Like they did with – wait for it – SB1070 in Arizona. With this law, they tried to get past the federal government’s ownership of immigration law. This is, in fact, why portions of the law have been stricken in court. The right uses this to argue that the federal government is not doing their job, isn’t interested in fixing immigration, etc., all the while ignoring the fact that they have deliberately violated the 10th Amendment.
Added 8/3/11: Texas Governor Rick Perry, who as of this date has not announced whether he will run for president, is the latest to flip-flop on the 10th Amendment. When New York passed legislation recently to allow same-sex marriages, Perry said he was fine with it. His reasoning was, of course, the 10th Amendment. Since it is not explicitly forbidden under federal law (nor mentioned), Perry said that meant it was up to the states, and he was ok with that. Then came an interview on the Christian Broadcast Network (8/3/11) where Perry reversed himself:
He’s such a believer in states rights that he’s defended state decisions that he fundamentally disagrees with.
But on issues like traditional marriage, which he says are important to the fabric of the nation, he supports amending the constitution to make it the law of the land.
“I support the federal marriage amendment and I also support the same with the issue of abortion. And I also that same process for a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution so Washington will finally get the message of, ‘Hey, quit spending all the money,” Perry explained.
So, he was fine with it, until he decided it was time to amend the Constitution to outlaw it. This is a fairly common tactic of folks who want to use and abuse the “Constitution” arguments. They will tell you up and down that they know what the founding fathers’ intent was in writing the Constitution, unless of course, that section of the Constitution supports something they don’t like. Then they suddenly toss all that fatherly wisdom of the founders out the window and demand a change to the Constitution.
1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Their latest attack is on the 14th Amendment, which gives citizenship to those who are born on US soil. They now say they want to repeal that portion of the 14th Amendment to stop so-called “anchor babies”, children of illegal immigrants. Of course, this ignores the fact that nearly all of us are descended from immigrants. So the question then is: How many of the Republicans who are clamoring for change to the 14th amendment actually come are descendants of immigrants to the US?
Never mind the fact that the concept of “anchor babies” is as unfounded as the “welfare queen” of the 80′s. The argument is contradictory with the other claim, that illegal immigrants hurt the economy by sending money out of the country. Who would they be sending it to if their “anchor family” is here.
Updated 8/6/10: Republicans have a new front, or at least a new battle on an old front – gay marriage. A federal judge struck down Proposition 8, the California law prohibiting gay marriage under the grounds that it violates both the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. This, of course, flies in the face of what conservatives and the right believe is “morally” correct. They like to declare that they arefor protection for all, as long as that doesn’t extend to sexual orientation. At that point, they throw out the Constitution. Whether they try to use this as a wedge issue remains to be seen, but they will certainly speak up – and they won’t be arguing the Constitution. They will have plenty of other reasons to argue against this ruling, but precious few will actually argue that the law is Constitutional.
Again, the Republicans tout the Constitution as the law of the land. Except they can’t stand major portions of it.
So Why Do They Hate The Constitution?
As you can see, Republicans have problems with half of the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, unless it serves their purposes. But they claim to want to instill lawmakers that are strict constructionists and followers of the Constitution. They use that argument in judicial nominations and confirmations. They rail against those who they deem as unwilling to follow the Constitution.
Then they back laws and policies that go against everything that they claim they want to protect. Why?
The answer is fairly simple. The right has become a party concerned with one thing: The preservation of the party. They do not care for the Constitution – to them is is a quaint, antiquated document that gets in the way when they want to raise the hackles of their favorites. When they claim to “protect” the Constitution, they are doing so to wrap themselves in the imprimatur of patriotism, showing their faithful that they are the “true” Americans.
When the Constitution gets in their way, then things become the federal government’s fault, or it’s time to change the Constitution. Forget the founding fathers. Nope, time to change the document they were so vehemently protecting 10 minutes earlier.
It’s all in an attempt to confuse the issues, to change the subject, to fake out everyone else. It’s disingenuous, it’s cynical.
And for now, it’s working.
What needs to be done is that they get called out. That every time they take actions that go against the Constitution, it is pointed out, given a bright spotlight, and the question asked “Why do Republicans hate the Constitution?”