Obama vs. the Constitution

You’ve got to admire the insane chutzpah of the Republican Right in their latest, last-ditch rhetorical effort to prove that Barack Obama is unworthy to be our president. They’re trying to argue that Obama somehow opposes the Constitution because he referred to its “negative liberties.”

Of course, as any fool could tell them, the Constitution does consist largely of “negative liberties” — that is, it is largely composed of what the government can’t do. What the Supreme Court can’t do, what the Congress can’t do, what the president can’t do, what the federal government can’t do, what the state governments can’t do. To use this familiar term — used by conservative scholars all the time, in fact — is pure mendacity. But it hasn’t stopped the lying ideologues of the Right from trying to turn it into a major issue.

“This election is not about Obama versus the Republican nominee,” thunders one lunatic. “It is about Obama versus this great republic and its founders, Washington, Adams, Madison, Hamilton, Rush, and Jefferson.” (Wow, Rush helped found the country and went platinum 14 times?)

“Does Mr. Obama support the Constitution as it is written, or does he support amendments to guarantee welfare?” wonders the co-founder of the anti-constitutional Federalist Society in the Wall Street Journal. “The federal courts hang in the balance, and it is the left which is poised to capture them.” (1)

“McCain’s judicial nominees would be far more likely, by light years, than would be Obama’s nominees, to maintain the Constitution’s balance between national and state governments, and its restrictions on Congress’s powers,” declares the American Spectator. Then it goes further, into truly demented territory: “It is likely that no administration in history will be so concerned with maintaining high ethical standards as a McCain administration would.”

“Simply put, the survival of the historic American experiment in representative government will be in serious jeopardy if Barack Obama is our next president,” drones the ever-awful National Review. “Our system of representative government, already under siege, would be lucky to survive an Obama presidency.”

Obama’s presidency will certainly bear watching, as any presidency will. But the basic premise of these attacks — that “left-wing” Democrats like Obama (who is in fact a moderate, despite Republican extremists’ weird conviction that anyone to the left of Joe Lieberman is a Bolshevik) detest the Constitution, while Republicans cherish it — is ludicrous.

Forget McCain and Palin for a minute. This party is still led by a president who has ignored and devalued the Constitution as no other president in our history has. George W. Bush has, in one observer’s words, declared his right “to wage undeclared wars … his right to create military courts, to authorize extraordinary renditions, secret prisons, more severely coercive interrogation, trials with undisclosed evidence, domestic surveillance, and the overriding of congressional oversight in every aspect of government from energy policy to health services.” He can jail citizens at will, order them to be tortured and kept behind bars for years without any charges being presented. The Constitution he dismisses as “a goddamned piece of paper,” a story our “liberal” media resolutely refused to pursue. He has stood before the American people as a usurper of our liberties and a tyrant over this Republic, and only the contemptible cowardice of Democratic leaders (as well as the hypocritical unction of Republican leaders) has kept him from being impeached and sent to prison.

And McCain has never repudiated Bush’s methods — nor, to say the least, have the majority of his ideologue followers, who think executive tyranny all to the good if it counters the power of a liberal Congress. That is more than enough reason to send him and his demagogic running mate into the dustbin of history tomorrow night.

1. One of the odder developments of the past 30 years is the growing assumption that Republicans cherish the Constitution, and Democrats don’t. Things like the Federalist Society (which unambiguously backed Bush’s illegal and unconstitutional reading of the president’s powers) get away with calling themselves things like the Federalist Society (would that be the Federalist of The Federalist Papers or the Federalist Party that proposed the Alien and Sedition Acts, by the way?), and people like Robert Bork get away with declaring that no one has a right to privacy and calling it “strict construction of the Constitution.” All I can say is, it was Obama, not McCain, who named the works of Jefferson and Lincoln, and The Federalist Papers, among his favorite books.


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2 Responses to “Obama vs. the Constitution”

  1. ngoldfarb Says:




  2. Evan Lisull Says:

    Amen. Push comes to shove, I’ll probably argue with the Anti-Federalists, but federalism is a hell of a lot better than centralization.

    Also, any chance that “ngoldfarb” is related to Michael?

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