Friday, September 11, 2009

Situational Constitutionalism

In recognition of the anniversary of the 2001 attacks today, I wrote in my Twitter feed and similarly on my facebook status:
Trampling on the protections provided by the Constitution is no way to honor the fallen.
While I intended it to reference those who are wont to say "9/11 changed everything" or some other pap to justify torture, wiretaps, indefinite detention without charge etc. initiated by the Bush administration and--for the most part--wholeheartedly continued by the Obama administration, it dawned on me that some may take it as some sort of backhanded slap at the health care reform plans currently festering in Congress. Well, it wasn't, but since we're on the subject...

I am sick and tired of the Left (I patently refuse to refer to people who work to reestablish the age-old power of the state over people's lives as "progressive") complaining about the unconstitutionality of Bush administration actions while simultaneously holding in contempt those of us who read Article 1,§ 8 of the Constitution and Amendments 9 and 10 of the Bill of Rights as limits upon government action. If the Necessary and Proper, General Welfare, and Commerce clauses are to be read so broadly as to nullify the major safeguards against tyranny (e.g., arbitary seizure and reallocation of wealth and property) enshrined in our Founding documents, then those documents cease to mean anything at all. Explicit directives from the document upon which all federal laws are (meant to be) built are not to be casually tossed aside because legislators or presidents purportedly mean/meant well.

The Left is just as guilty as the Right of situational constitutionalism--standing by the document when its suits their particular policy interests, but ignoring it when the unambiguous meaning of the text prohibits the excessive power the government needs to implement their preferred goals. Either the Constitution grants the power or it does not. If it does not, the government does not legitimately have that power, in spite of what they or anyone else thinks is the "right thing to do."

If you don't like it, change the Constitution. Short of that, simply ignoring the text to play Robin Hood (or Jack Bauer, for that matter) is sickening and ignominious hypocrisy.

Update: Further comment on the Millhiser piece I linked to above, here.

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