The highlight of the second day of the 112th Congress was the reading of the Constitution, cover to cover, on the floor of the House of Representatives. Ehhhh, scratch that. It wasn’t read cover to cover. The naughty parts about blacks being 3/5ths of a man were left out. Apparently this spectacle was staged to satisfy the newly relevant Tea Party movement but one question we must ask is did anyone actually learn anything from the reading, things like the government’s prerogative to tax its citizens for example?
In a great interview Wednesday night on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”, Yale Constitutional Professor Akhil Reed Amar gives a quick lesson on the Constitution and the intent of the framers, which lately gets regularly skewed by conservatives with wishful thinking and a strong tendency for revisionist history.
In the interview Amar reminds us that American revolutionaries were not right wing conservatives, but rather “liberal nationalists”. The politics of liberalism is reflected repeatedly in the Constitution and the “let the States do everything” approach was abandoned with the demise of the Articles of Confederation. The amendments further the liberal agenda whether it is the amendments of Lincoln’s Republican administration, or the administrations of the 1920′s (women’s sufferage, income tax), or the 1960′s with the end of poll taxes.
Conservatives make a big deal about how any powers not “expressly” attributed to the federal government fall to the States. Amar pokes a hole in this balloon also. James Madison fought hard to make sure the word “expressly” did NOT appear in the tenth amendment because he understood that the Constitution needed to be a living breathing document that allowed for implied powers of the federal government.
But I digress. Why was today a good start for Speaker of the House John Boehner? Well, the good Speaker read the Preamble to the Constitution and then left the chamber with Eric Cantor in tow, to hold a news conference. That’s right, Boehner didn’t think this suck-up to the Tea Party was worth his time. As Jed Lewison of The Daily Kos points out, this put Fox News in a bit of a quandary. Cover the Constitution reading, or cover Boehner? They opted for Boehner.
The big question right now is was this a deliberate move on Boehner’s part to delegitimize this Tea Party stunt? If so, I say bravo! I’ve already gone on record to say the good old boys won’t let the Tea Party hijack their agenda. I just didn’t think we’d see it manifest this quickly.