An interesting difference in interpretation, you may say. But are there really any guaranteed constitutional protections these days? Not according to Supreme Justice Anthony Scalia, perhaps the court’s most conservative member.
In a recent speech at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Scalia was asked if he believed that the Constitution was a “living document.” His blunt response was, “It’s not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead. And the sad thing is that Scalia is correct. He’s right on the money. For all practical purposes, The United States Constitution is “dead, dead, dead.”
Progressives will argue that in a changing world, there must be a more flexible interpretation of what the founders meant when they wrote the initial document. Is there flexibility in the original document, and shouldn’t it be open to change?
Barack Obama thinks so. In his book, "The Audacity of Hope, the future president clearly says: “I appreciate the temptation on the part of Justice Scalia and others to assume our democracy should be treated as fixed and unwavering; the fundamentalist faith that if the original understanding of the Constitution is followed without question or deviation, and if we remain true to the rules that the Founders set forth, as they intended, then we will be rewarded and all good will flow. Ultimately, though, I have to side with Justice Breyer's view of the Constitution -- that it is not a static but rather a living document, and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world.”
Republican President George Bush seems to be in lockstep with Obama on this matter. Back in 2005, several press reports, including one from Capitol Hill Blue, cited a meeting in the Oval Office with congressional members to discuss renewing several questionable provisions of the Patriot Act. Bush made no bones about his feelings for the Constitution. GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President for his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
"I don't give a g..damn," Bush retorted. "I'm the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way."
"Mr. President," one aide in the meeting said. "There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution."
"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a g..damned piece of paper!"
So much for relying on the views of our founding fathers. Republicans and Democrats alike have cast away any reasonable reference to guaranteed basic protections that supposedly served as the basis for the Bill of Rights. Few seem to be reading the words of Alexander Hamilton who put it this way. “If it be asked, what is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic? The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution.”
Here’s the bottom line. You have no more firm, unwavering constitutional protections. And you want to know who’s to blame? Just take a look in the mirror. Time after time over the last 20 years, American citizens have stood by and watched as presidents and members of Congress have eroded and undermined our basic constitutional liberties. Here are few examples.
Begin with the Patriot Act. Simply put, the Patriot Act is one of the most egregious acts against basic rights and liberties that we have witnessed in our lifetimes. This dastardly unconstitutional law has driven a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least six of the ten original amendments -- the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and the Eighth. If our founding fathers were to witness what congress and the last two presidents have permitted and encouraged regarding our constitutional liberties, they would turn over in their graves.
Conservative columnist John Whitehead put it this way: “In the name of fighting terrorism, government officials are now permitted to monitor religious and political institutions with no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they told anyone that the government had subpoenaed information: monitor conversations between attorneys and clients; search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without showing probable cause, and jail Americans indefinitely without a trial.”
So to all you gun totin’ Second Amendment advocates and you so-called progressive “living and moving” constitutional proponents of government gun regulation, just where have you been? Neither side can site or rely on the Constitution for support. Oh, you might get lucky, and find a judge who will go along with your point of view. Right or wrong, that’s how the system works today. Remember the movie “Law-Abiding Citizen?” The system lets a killer go free. The prosecutor meets with the presiding judge, who calmly looks the prosecutor in the eye, and says: “That’s one of the benefits of being a judge, Mr. Rice. I can do whatever I want.”
And that’s how this whole controversy is going to end up. We witnessed it in Bush v. Gore, and saw it happen in the Supreme Court decision over Obamacare. These judges will make a discretionary decision setting their own parameters, and decide the Second Amendment case by doing “anything they want.” Sadly, the constitution has become irrelevant.
"The Constitution, which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all." George Washington
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com