Framing the Constitution

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It’s already been under siege. Time to bring it…

This week, Time Magazine devotes its cover photo and story to the question of whether the U.S. Constitution still matters. And some facsimile of it is displayed in full color either partially or totally gone through a shredder.

Does it still matter? Planting doubt is part of the strategy. It’s a continuation of the liberal view that America’s founders didn’t quite get it right, or that their values were provincial and relative to their time, which by the way, has changed.

People on the right and left constantly ask what the framers would say about some event that is happening today. What would the framers say about whether the drones over Libya constitute a violation of Article I, Section 8, which gives Congress the power to declare war? Well, since George Washington didn’t even dream that man could fly, much less use a global-positioning satellite to aim a missile, it’s hard to say what he would think.

The thought suddenly occurs that this is similar to the WWJD pop cult. But anyway…

Here’s what they got sort of right:

For eight years under George W. Bush, the nation wrestled with the balance between privacy and security (an issue the framers contended with) while the left portrayed the country as moving toward tyranny. For the past three years under President Obama, we have weighed issues of individual freedom vs. government control while the right has portrayed the country as moving toward a socialist welfare state.

So…

Today’s debates represent conflict, not crisis. Conflict is at the core of our politics, and the Constitution is designed to manage it. There have been few conflicts in American history greater than the internal debates the framers had about the Constitution. For better or for worse — and I would argue that it is for better — the Constitution allows and even encourages deep arguments about the most basic democratic issues. A crisis is when the Constitution breaks down. We’re not in danger of that.

Not entirely true. Especially with a president in the White House who stated, way before he was an official candidate for office, that the Constitution is a “charter of negative liberties.”

I recently came across this article I saved from The American Spectator, quite by providence. It merits application.

“The sense of the famous phrase is simply this: ‘There are truths, and we hold them, and we here lay them down as the basis and inspiration of the American project, this constitutional commonwealth.'” Over and against positivists, Marxists and pragmatists, the Founding Fathers thought that “the life of man in society under government is founded on truths, on a certain body of objective truth, universal in its import, accessible to the reason of man, definable, defensible.”

“If this assertion is denied, the American Proposition is, I think, eviscerated at one stroke,” argues [John Courtney] Murray. “For the pragmatists there are, properly speaking, no truths; there are only results. But the American Proposition rests on the more traditional conviction that there are truths; that they can be known; that they must be held; for, if they are not held, assented to, consented to, worked into the texture of institutions, there can be no hope of founding a true City, in which men may dwell in dignity, peace, unity, justice, well-being, freedom.”

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