Those seeking the perfect cautionary tale about the dangers of hyper-partisanship need look no further than the truly disgusting display in the last couple of days by the Democrats and liberals who criticized, ridiculed, mocked and derided the decision to read aloud the nation’s founding document, the Constitution, at the commencement of the new Congress.
Thank goodness seven-year-olds don’t read the New York Times or watch CNN, for they would be left with the impression that one large segment of the American media and political class has a cynical disregard for the document that underlies America’s values and culture, and that made the nation’s astonishing success and achievements possible. What were these people thinking? I hope they were not thinking at all, and that this was just an outburst, a childish, petulant one, of frustration and resentment against the Tea Party-led Republican House majority that will be making Barack Obama’s next two years a living hell. If the sentiments they expressed this week go deeper than that, then I will have to retract my criticism of the culture warriors of conservative talk radio like Monica Crowley and Marl Levin, who rant daily that Democrats and the liberal media actively dislike the essence of the United States.The ranters may be right after all.
I still hold out hopes that the rampant disrespect for the Constitution was only disguised partisan dislike, stunningly stupid and ugly that it was. The New York Times, in its lead editorial yesterday, seemed incapable of comprehending that having the Constitution read in the House was not a private screening for Republicans, but a gesture on behalf of the entire Congress. Do the Republicans think they are the only ones who care about the Constitution?, the Times sneered, calling the ritual meaningless theater. Then the Times repeated the ridiculous complaint that has become popular among some on the Left, that the courts, not the Congress, are responsible for determining what is Constitutional, suggesting, fatuously and incredibly, that the Constitution is not the legitimate concern of the body created by it! Do the Times editors really not see how dumb this argument is? It is like arguing that the courts, not citizens, are responsible for deciding whether personal conduct is illegal of not, so people don’t need to try to avoid breaking the law.
The Times had lots of company, however. New York Congressman Gerald Nadler expressed amazement that Republicans were treating the Constitution like it was “a sacred document.” Gee, imagine that. I don’t think “sacred” is a bad description of the document that has restrained the abuse of government power while protecting such rights as speech, the press, assembly, and worship. Slate editor Dahlia Lithwick was more offensive in an MSNBC interview, in which she repeatedly described the G.O.P. focus on the Constitution as a “fetish.” Hey, what’s this crazy obsession these lawmakers have with the law of the land? Is this nutty, or what? I mean, come on…get over it!
Refocusing elected officials on core constitutional principles isn’t just a good idea, it is an essential act, and if partisan hatred blinds some from recognizing it, it reflects badly on them. Arrogant disregard for the, yes, sacred document has been escalating in recent years, with plenty of culprits in both parties. The excesses of the Patriot Act, G.O.P. efforts to have Congress intervene in the private Terri Schiavo affair, the signing statements used by Presidents Bush and Obama to selectively ignore the provisions of duly-passed laws, the current White House’s delegation of authority to shadowy, unconfirmed “czars,” and the unprecedented requirement in the new health care law forcing citizens to purchase private insurance are examples, and far from the only ones. It is in the interest of all citizens that our leaders be reminded as often as possible that there are limits to their power, and that they owe loyalty and respect to the document—and the principles that are so eloquently articulated within it—that has brought us so far and served us so well.
The leaders and journalists who can’t comprehend this should be looked upon with pity, disapproval and suspicion.The kindest interpretation of their attitude is that they are consumed with partisan bile. If they really have as little respect for the Constitution as they sound, however, they are not just irresponsible, but dangerous.