Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Political Right Thumping on the Constitution

I love the political right in the US. They are certain about their facts even when they have no facts. They know their Constitution even when they have no clue what is in it. These people know they are right. Well they are. They are politically "right" but they are not right in the sense of being factually correct.

Here is a wonderful example from Brad DeLong in a post on his Grasping Reality with Both Hands blog:
Ian Millhiser and Scott Keyes:
ThinkProgress: GINGRICH: In the American system, if you read the Constitution correctly — this is why I wrote “A Nation Like No Other” — if you read the Federalist Papers correctly, the fact is the Congress can pass a law and can limit the Court’s jurisdiction. It’s written directly in the Constitution. The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton promises, I think it’s Number 78, that the judiciary branch is the weakest of the three branches. There is no Supreme Court in the American Constitution. There’s the court which is the Supreme of the judicial branch, but it’s not supreme over the legislative and executive branch. We now have this entire national elite that wants us to believe that any five lawyers are a Constitutional convention. That is profoundly un-American and profoundly wrong...
What the United States Constitution says:
Article III:

§1. The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

§2. The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;--to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;--to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;--to controversies between two or more states;--between a state and citizens of another state;--between citizens of different states;--between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects. In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make. The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.

§3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.
What Alexander Hamilton wrote:
The Federalist #78: The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a... Constitution... which... [limits] legislative authority; such, for instance, as that it shall pass no bills of attainder, no ex post facto laws, and the like. Limitations of this kind can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts... whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void.... Some perplexity... has arisen from an imagination that the doctrine would imply a superiority of the judiciary to the legislative power.... [E]very act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.... [T]he courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority. The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body.... [T]he Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.

Nor does this conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power. It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both; and that where the will of the legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter rather than the former...
I get a chuckle out of the political right in the US gloating over being "strict Constitutionalists". Yeah, sure. They don't even know what is in the Constitution. That doesn't stop them from being self-assured in their ignorance. They know what they think should be in the Constitution. And when they get elected they run roughshod over the Constitution because they "channel" what the Constitution should be saying and ignore the actual historical document.

That people are fooled by this idiocy is mind-boggling. The political right in the US is simply a bunch of hucksters who know they can treat the American people like rubes and get away with it. They know that by selling "family values" they can get elected and then they deliver tax cut after tax cut to the billionaires and millionaires, who then make sure bribes --- excuse me, "political contributions" -- flow generously to the political right.

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