Time Magazine: We Don’t Need No Stinking Constitution

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“When the chief justice read me the oath,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt said to a speechwriter, “and came to the words ‘support the Constitution of the United States,’ I felt like saying: ‘Yes, but it’s the Constitution as I understand it, flexible enough to meet any new problem of democracy — not the kind of Constitution your court has raised up as a barrier to progress and democracy.'”

FDR’s statement vividly illustrates the Big Divide between (most) Republicans and Democrats, free marketers and collectivists, Milton Friedman and Paul Krugman. It’s the line separating those who believe in the power of individuals from those who believe in the power of government — so long as they’re the ones in power. It’s the line that separates those who believe in the welfare state from those who not only believe that the federal government recklessly spends more than it takes in, but also spends it on things not permitted by the Constitution — and the country is worse off for having done so.

This is the tea party message (to the consternation of Democrats and squishy Republicans): The Constitution means what it says and says what it means. All this Constitution talk produces the inevitable backlash. Joy Behar, the learned Constitutional scholar, asked, “Do you think this Constitution-loving is getting out of hand?”

A Los Angeles Times columnist and I sat on a panel to analyze President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union speech. What, I asked, gives the President authority to place health care under the command and control of the federal government? She replied, that part of the Constitution that says to provide for the domestic tranquility.

She refers to a part of the preamble to the Constitution: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility … establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Many members of this “living, breathing” Constitution school claim authority for things like ObamaCare resides in the “promote the general welfare” part of the preamble. Using the “domestic tranquility” part was a first.

The Father of the Constitution, James Madison, anticipated the preamble-gives-government-permission-to-do-all-sorts-of-things-for-which-it-lacks-authority argument. In 1794, Congress appropriated money for charitable purposes. An incensed Madison said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

Time Magazine’s recent Constitution cover story asks: “Does It Still Matter?” Its answer? Well, yeah, it sort of does, but then again, you know, not so much.

After all, the Founding Fathers could neither foresee computers nor Twitter nor predict that Rep. Anthony Weiner would use both to implode his career. So, really, in the modern day, what’s the relevance of the old document crafted by well-to-do, slave-owning white males?

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  • kateyleigh

    We the people….to ensure domestic tranquility….establish this Constitution…Now where in that does it say we establish a Government to ensure domestic tranquility?

  • jasonz

    the constitution and bill of rights are designed and should be viewed under the umbrella of the declaration of independence. the founders knew you cannot be supported and indepenent..it does not work, never had. all thoes who think the govt should not be held to the constitution are the same ones whining about opression when they are not in charge

  • coyote3

    First place the the "preamble" does not confer any power to anyone, or anything period. All powers must be "enumerated and delegated", and the preamble does not do that. FDR, was a lot of things, including a liar. The Constitution does not raise up barriers to do anything. The Constitution may be amended to give the federal government any power and all power whatsoever, or not. In fact there is a specific procedure for it. All the supporters of a particular idea have to do is pass and constitutional amendment, and get it ratified by enough states.

    • coyote2

      First place the "preamble" indeed confers power to all and everything. All powers are not, and have never been enumerated and delegated. I plead and pray that you understand the reasons behind our constitution. It is so, we the people, won't be taxed as much on everything. I ask that you pray for people being hurt in Austrailia. I recently lost a sincere friend of mine. He happened to run over a chicken and a pig while we were in Australia. He stopped to help the animals and the citizens cut his head off from behind. I hope you reconsider the thoughts you conveyed in your post. You have miserable failed at life. My brother, have you forgotten your roots? We must'nt forget our past. Do you not remember why we sold Sadam back to Kenya? Allow me to explain. Nevermind.

  • http://www.resonoelusono.com/NaturalBornCitizen.htm Alexander Gofen

    Thanks to the author for recalling this shocking statement of FDR:

    "…. the Constitution … flexible enough to meet any new problem of democracy (!?) ; not the kind … as a barrier to progress (?!!)"

    This is exactly the rhetoric of Polit-bureau USSR – and of the modern "progressives"! Already 70 years ago! If nothing else, this alone illustrates how the death wish and the treason of this Republic and of its own class had infected the ruling elite decades ago:

    Alas, there is almost no "divide" between Repoooblicans and Demicans anymore: for both the Constitution stands on the way of their treasonous transformation of the USA into US of UN. They had been violating the Constitution subtly and not so subtly for decades. So now they uttered their wish openly in Time magazine…

    In particular the Constitution stood on their way when they were paving the road for the not yet surfaced future impostor. Some Congressmen understood and didn't like the Constitution so much, that they have attempted to change it years before Obama/Soetoro had emerged:

  • Jarquol Adam Makhoin


  • Carol Santesteban

    We the people.. should help Obama because he is our friend and if we make an effort to help him he will help the newborn babies to grow up and play sports like their fathers. It's only a matter of time until we have no rights at all. I think everyone should fight this because they could tax and making us pay for the air we breathe. I personally wouldn't budge. I don't make all that much money as an employee at Forever&eva After. So please HELP THE CHILDREN!!