Letters

Letters 10-20-2014

Doctor Dan? After several email conversations with Rep. Benishek, he has confirmed that he doesn’t have a clue of what he does. Here’s why...

In Favor Of Our Parks [Traverse] City Proposal 1 is a creative way to improve our city parks without using our tax dollars. By using a small portion of our oil and gas royalties from the Brown Bridge Trust Fund, our parks can be improved for our children and grandchildren.

From January 1970 Popular Mechanics: “Drastic climate changes will occur within the next 50 years if the use of fossil fuels keeps rising at current rates.” That warning comes from Eugene K. Peterson of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

Newcomers Might Leave: Recently we had guests from India who came over as students with the plan to stay in America. He has a master’s degree in engineering and she is doing her residency in Chicago and plans to specialize in oncology. They talked very candidly about American politics and said that after observing...

Someone Is You: On Sept 21, I joined the 400,000 who took to the streets of New York in the People’s Climate March, followed by a UN Climate Summit and many speeches. On October 13, the Pentagon issued a report calling climate change a significant threat to national security requiring immediate action. How do we move from marches, speeches and reports to meaningful work on this problem? In NYC I read a sign with a simple answer...

Necessary To Pay: Last fall, Grand Traverse voters authorized a new tax to fix roads. It is good, it is necessary.

The Real Reasons for Wolf Hunt: I have really been surprised that no one has been commenting on the true reason for the wolf hunt. All this effort has not been expended so 23 wolves can be killed each year. Instead this manufactured controversy about the wolf hunt has been very carefully crafted to get Proposal 14-2 passed.

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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