“The Constitution and Tucson” by Clark Judge
The Monday morning column from Clark Judge:
Last week, the new Congress opened with House members, one by one, reading the Constitution into the Congressional Record. Who knew that within days we would be sidling up to a debate on the one part of the document about which Left and Right were supposedly in total agreement.
It all started predictably enough.
In handing out segments of the text for delivery on the House floor, Republican leaders dropped clauses and sections that amendments had superseded. This produced a disdainful editorial from the New York Times. In it, the Times huffed that the Constitution “remains vital precisely because it can be reimagined,” which, of course, the amended out sections demonstrate. The missing sections were amended out, as the Framers intended, not reimagined out by a judiciary that couldn’t quite get the distinction between Article I (Legislative Branch) and Article III (Judicial Branch).
Everyone understood, though, that the parts that the Times wanted to reimagine were those limiting the size and scope of government, the list of powers and prohibitions in Article I, Sections 8 and 9 and the Tenth Amendment. The Left has long advocated a “Living Constitution”, one that would leave the Supreme Court free to sanction ever more inventive excuses for government to assume control of this or that part of the economy. They have wanted a constitution that would allow, not limit, the so-called progressive project in American government.
There remained, of course, one exception to this reinterpretive zeal: the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and press. Even a whisper about reimagining that part of the document instantly turned the “reimagine it” crowd into something like Borkian originalists. At least on that score they could be relied on to stick by the letter and intent of our fundamental law.
But then came the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford in Tucson on Saturday. Within hours charges were emerging from those same quarters that the attack was directly or indirectly a product of the spirited debate of the last election. The angry rhetoric of the Right was the cause, we were told. There needed to be a brake put on this kind of expression.
This morning, the Times even joined in, saying: “[I]t is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge.”
The Tucson shooter resembles a clear type on our national scene. But it is not Tea Party activists who hold peaceful rallies where they famously pick up after themselves when they are done.
Rather, the Tucson shooter looks like a psychological copy of the Columbine shooters. A young man, socially disengaged, paranoid, and psychotic, he read Hitler, stockpiled weapons, and angrily saw himself as the unrecognized superior of the world that so enraged him.
Politics and the tone of politics are beside the point to such a turbulent mind. He fixated on Representative Gifford, just as the Columbine shooters fixated on the administrators, teachers, and students of their school. Such fixations are close to random. The Tucson shooter was expelled from his community college after instructors and the administration grew to fear him, even though he apparently spoke hardly a word in class. They sensed the hurricane gales spinning the windmills of his mind. They became anxious that his final fixation would attach to them.
In still another way, events in Tucson this weekend paralleled those at Columbine, Colorado in April 1999. Outside of the fact of a shooting itself, all of the early media reporting and analysis was wrong. As commentator Michael Ledeen noted in a Sunday FaceBook posting: “We’ve been told that Rep Giffords was dead (NOT), that her attacker was an Afghan vet (NOT), that he was a Tea Party sympathizer (NOT) and that he was a leftist (but he likes Mein Kampf — as well as the Communist Manifesto).”
Everyone knows what is going on with those who so quickly call, either directly or (as with the Times) slyly, for reining back political speech. As Ledeen also wrote in his FaceBook post: “[It] comes from people who can’t win an honest debate, and whose view of the world is demonstrably false. If they want to throw their intellectual weight around, the easy way is to attack their opponents in a very personal and nasty way (the hard way is to rethink their view of the world).”
In this sense, the events of the weekend confirmed the wisdom of the Constitution. Those who tried to exploit a moment of horror to stifle debate demonstrated how urgently we need to have (and they need to participate in and learn from) more debate. If our nation is to overcome its current crises, the Constitution will be our vehicle, not our obstacle.