Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

Home · Articles · News · Other Opinions · Originally...
. . . .

Originally unconstitutional

Stephen Tuttle - April 19th, 2010
Originally Unconstitutional
We are about to be inundated with “expert” opinions about the U.S.
Constitution. With the announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice John
Paul Stevens and the inevitable fight over whoever President Obama
nominates to replace him, terms like “activist judge” and “strict
constructionist” will be in the news.
Cable talk shows will be awash with folks who pretend to not only know
who the president will appoint but how that nominee will judge a wide
variety of social and legal issues. They are playing a game of
political posturing and they will, for the most part, be full of crap.
The people who claim to have some inherent knowledge of what is and
what is not constitutional have always been something of a mystery.
Real constitutional experts know it’s a fool’s game to try and handicap
what our courts will strike down or uphold as constitutional.
That’s really the point. The constitution itself spells out who gets
to decide – federal appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. The
random opinions of the rest of us don’t really matter. That doesn’t
stop us from endlessly debating specific issues; but in the end those
debates are moot. We never know for sure how any new justice will rule
on anything.
Earl Warren was the Republican governor of California, appointed by
Dwight Eisenhower as a centrist. Justice Stevens was also a
Republican, appointed by Gerald Ford. Neither turned out to be what
they were assumed to be.
None of this will stop us from speculating, of course. Republicans
will decry the appointment of what they will call an activist judge,
someone they claim will make new laws from the bench absent any
Constitutional foundation. They will demand the appointment of a
constructionist who will follow the “original intent” of the framers of
the Constitution.
Whether or not the decision of some federal judge plows new ground and
creates new law is open to interpretation and robust debate. That’s
only fair. But the notion that we can find some obscure quote from one
of the Constitution’s authors in some dusty file, take it out of
context and declare it to be proof of original intent is peculiar at
best. It’s considerably easier to simply read the Constitution.
Intent is pretty much spelled out, in black and white, for all of us to
see. We need not guess.
Given the specifics of the Constitution first ratified and yet to be
amended, we can presume the so-called constructionists don’t really
want to revert to the framer’s original intent.
Slavery, for example, was perfectly legal. For the purposes of
taxation and the apportionment of Representatives, a slave was counted
as three-fifths of a person. This was clearly their original intent
since they spelled it out right there in Article 1, Section 2. Slavery
was not abolished until the 13th Amendment was ratified in 1865, long
after the original authors and their intent were dead. Freed slaves
and African-Americans who were never enslaved weren’t allowed to vote
until the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870.
Women were not allowed to vote in the original document, so we have to
assume our Founders did not want them to. The long fight for womens’
suffrage did not bear fruit until the 19th amendment was ratified in
1920.
The original intent of the Constitution was that we shouldn’t vote for
our U.S. Senators, either. Senators were appointed by state
legislatures until the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913.
Nor did the original document include any of the Bill of Rights – no
freedom of speech or the press or religion or the right to peacefully
assemble or to be free from self-incrimination or free from unreasonable
searches and seizures or any of the rest of what we now take for
granted. Our first Congress, in their wisdom and foresight, offered the
Bill of Rights, which went into force in 1791. But none of it was part
of the original Constitution.
Part of the genius of this document, unlike anything that had ever been
created by any country previously, was the understanding that it could
not be etched in stone and stay forever unchanged. They understood our
country would grow and change and the Constitution by which we are
governed would have to do likewise. Part of the brilliance of the
framers was the understanding this was a living document not welded to
their original intent. They also made sure changing it could not
happen frivolously so creating amendments is difficult, to avoid the
whims of political movements du jour. That explains why we’ve only
seen fit to make changes 27 times in 223 years.
The United States Constitution was unique when first drafted and has
been, over the course of more than two centuries, molded into a
document that is still the standard for free people everywhere. That
there are those who misrepresent it for their own political gain, who
claim knowledge they cannot possess and who impugn the character of
members of our judiciary with whom they don’t agree, dishonor our
Constitution with a cynicism it does not deserve. And, surely, that
was not the original intent of the authors.

Stephen Tuttle is a political consultant who formerly wrote for the
Arizona Republic.


 
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