Washington Post writer Ezra Klein was featured on MSNBC Thursday and used his time to rail against Republicans who want to read the Constitution before the start of the new Congress. That railing included an interesting side bar regarding the document, and comments seemingly suggesting it’s obsolete:
In essence, it seems Klein is saying the Constitution is too old to understand. He echoed that sentiment (and clarified it a little) on his blog on Thursday when talking about a GOP proposal that each new bill reference its authority from the founding document.
“I’m very curious to know what the GOP — or the tea partyers they’re presumably pandering to — think will happen when every piece of legislation requires “a statement from its sponsor outlining where in the Constitution Congress is empowered to enact such legislation,” Klein writes. “What’s the evidence that this will make legislation more, rather than less, constitutional, for whatever your definition of the Constitution is?”
He uses Obamacare, which referenced interstate commerce (Article I, Section 8), as an example of a recent bill that referenced the document but that failed to gain universal appeal, and reiterates the point from his MSNBC appearance:
My friends on the right don’t like to hear this, but the Constitution is not a clear document. Written 100 years ago, when America had 13 states and very different problems, it rarely speaks directly to the questions we ask it. The Second Amendment, for instance, says nothing about keeping a gun in the home if you’ve not signed up with a “well-regulated militia,” but interpreting the Second Amendment broadly has been important to those who want to bear arms. And so they’ve done it.
His conclusion? When it comes to the Constitution, liberals and conservatives “pick and choose their moments of textual fidelity.”
Klein’s comments about the document seem to be a slippery slope: If the document can be anything to anyone at anytime, and if it’s so confusing, why bother with it?
But what he’s missing is that while the document was created long ago, it was drafted to be a forever document, and even included a process to be updated. Far from dealing with “very different problems,” the United States is still tackling taxation, free speech, and religious expression. Those seem quite relevant today.
(H/T: Stephen Gutowski)