Tag Archives: US Constitution

Founders weren’t ‘perfect’

Our nation’s Constitution has become the subject of considerable discussion in recent years as politicians seek ways to sidle up to what they believe the nation’s founders intended when they wrote it.

I never have considered myself to be a constitutional expert. However, I long ago appreciated the brilliant rhetoric the founders used to frame the document that has become the model for much of the rest of the world.

The Constitution’s very first sentence lays down the predicate for what has followed. The founders wrote: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union … “

We’ll stop there. You do realize, I hope, what I believe to be the three most critical words in our governing document: “more perfect Union.”

Our founders knew from the get-go that forming a “perfect Union” was way beyond their reach. They knew that perfection was unattainable.

I mean, we have amended the Constitution 27 times since its ratification in 1789. One of the amendments was enacted to overturn a previous amendment that turned out to be a monumental failure.

The 18th Amendment — ratified on Jan. 16, 1919 — sought to make the production, sale and consumption of liquor illegal. It didn’t take long for politicians to realize the mistake they made. On Dec. 5, 1933, Americans ratified the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment.

Where am I going with this? I am trying to understand what the founders intended  when –having won our nation’s independence after the Revolution — they crafted what I believe to be a “living document” that is subject to change, reform and improvement.

Indeed, the founders likely expected the Constitution to need improvement when they inserted the word “more” just ahead of “perfect” when they signed off on the greatest governing framework in world history.

Those who insist on following “original intent” so many years later, or proclaim themselves to be “constitutional conservatives,” should take heed of what I believe the founders intended.

What does “constitutional conservative’ mean?

Under normal circumstances, I would not blink at a campaign sign that proclaims a politician is running as a “constitutional conservative.”

The current political climate, though, is nothing approaching “normal.”

Suzanne Harp is running in the Republican Party as such a conservative seeking the nomination of her party for the Third Congressional District of North Texas.

What does the term mean these days? Well, I believe most adherents to the term “constitutional conservative” are wedded to the idiocy promoted by Donald J. Trump, who in my view wants to dismantle the Constitution by creating an authoritarian regime.

This bozo has yet to accept that Joe Biden defeated him in the 2020 presidential election. The peaceful transition of power has long been a signature hallmark of the U.S. system as a constitutional republic.

Trump and his followers, therefore, are anti-Constitution. I won’t even call them “conservatives,” because the traditional definition of the term connotes a belief in limited federal power. Trump is vowing to expand the federal law enforcement reach into areas where it doesn’t belong. He says President Biden has “weaponized” the Justice Department. What a crock of sh**! Trump wants to arm the DOJ to do his dirty work in seeking revenge against his political foes.

Therefore, when “constitutional conservatives” like Suzanne Harp make such a declaration, I am alarmed that her understanding of the term merely illustrates the perversion of long-standing political theory.

Ex-POTUS faces legal steamroller

My ego is in check, meaning that I am willing to acknowledge I am wrong far more frequently than I am right.

There. I’ve laid down my predicate for being able to boast just a little on something I said a while ago … which is that Donald Trump’s legal difficulties well might overwhelm his continuing campaign to become president once again.

Trump is facing the real prospect of being declared ineligible to run for president based on a clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says that no one who engages in an insurrection or gives “aid and comfort” to those who do is ineligible to seek public office.

Legal scholars on all sides are coming to the same conclusion: The amendment is clear, that Trump did seek to overthrow the government and he damn sure gave aid and comfort to the job that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The amendment makes no stipulation that says an insurrectionist must be convicted of a crime, only that the he or she participated in the act.

Boy howdy! Trump damn sure did participate.

The 14th Amendment was enacted just after the Civil War. Its aim was to prevent states from seceding and declaring war against the government.

To be clear, this matter is far from settled. There have been lawsuits filed and myriad court battles loom. This matter could up in the laps of the U.S. Supreme Court. I won’t pretend to predict how the SCOTUS would rule on this case. Its members include three Trump nominated justices, along with three other conservatives.

One final note. The calls for disqualification are coming from conservative lawyers and assorted legal scholars along with progressives. Maybe the right-wingers out here among the masses can beat some sense into the skulls of the six conservatives on the nation’s highest court.

Donald Trump, to be abundantly clear, is now engaged in the fight of his life.  I don’t know what y’all might think, but from my North Texas perch, he is looking more and more like a goner.

Is Trump disqualified?

Can it possibly be true that Donald J. Trump’s conduct on 1/6 — his provoking the assault on our government and his giving “aid and comfort” to those who mounted the attack — has disqualified him from seeking the presidency?

That is the view of two highly esteemed legal experts. One of them is a conservative, the other is a liberal. They are, respectively, former U.S. District Judge Michael Luttig and Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe.

The have written an op-ed in which they declare that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution means that Trump is hereby disqualified from seeking the presidency. Period … full stop!

Luttig said that when the amendment was ratified in 1868 — shortly after the Civil War — it made no qualifier to declaring someone ineligible if they knowingly engaged in an insurrection or rebellion. The amendment’s intent was to prevent another war within the United States.

Indeed, at least two congressional leaders — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell — are on record declaring that Trump was responsible for the attack on the government that sought to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Oh, did I mention that Trump lost that election to Joe Biden?

They have been joined, interestingly, by a host of conservative legal scholars who contend that Trump, indeed, should be barred from the presidential ballot because of what he said that day on the Ellipse. He challenged the crowd to take control of the electoral process and stop the certification of what he contends to this day as a “stolen” election.

Two conservative law professors, William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, wrote in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, according to CBS News:

In writing about Trump’s speech from the Ellipse on January 6, 2021, to his supporters who then overran the Capitol, Baude and Paulsen said Trump delivered a “general and specific message” that the election was stolen, calling on the crowd to take immediate action to block the transfer of power before falling silent for hours as the insurrection progressed.

“Trump’s deliberate inaction renders his January 6 speech much more incriminating in hindsight, because it makes it even less plausible (if it was ever plausible) that the crowd’s reaction was all a big mistake or misunderstanding,” they write.

Oh … my … goodness!

When those upon whom you depend for legal support turn on you in this fashion, it seems to me that it’s time to call it quits.

What the 14th omits …

As I read — and re-read — Section 3 of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, I am struck by the absence of a single, simple qualifier that our founders left out of that clause.

It refers to the commission of an “insurrection or rebellion” by someone who might want to return to public office after having pledged to protect the government against such actions.

It states that “No person” shall be a senator, U.S. representative, president or vice president if they violate that oath. Period.

It says nothing about whether that person must be convicted in a court of law to disqualify him from office.

I bring this up because of constitutional scholar chatter that’s making the rounds about whether Donald Trump is qualified to seek the presidency in 2024. Some argue that of course he should be tried in court and have that decision delivered by a jury. Others argue that the Constitution is silent on that issue, therefore, he is disqualified just by an allegation of such an act.

I don’t consider myself to be a constitutional absolutist. I have tended to interpret the founders’ intent a bit more liberally. It is tempting, though, to apply “original intent” to my reading of the 14th Amendment, meaning that if the founders didn’t declare a qualification that it doesn’t exist.

Here is the section in its entirety. You be the judge:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

I do hope we can let the courts decide this matter quickly. My preference is for Trump to be convicted and then barred from public office for the rest of his miserable life.

Cynicism is worrisome

So many of my friends have fallen into a world of acute cynicism, given the state of affairs in our great land.

They wonder if we ever can get back what we seemingly have lost in this Age of Donald J. Trump, which is a shared purpose, a sense of commonality and whether we ever again will be able to reach deep within ourselves to find it.

Some friends have said it’s gone forever. That the Trump cult — the MAGA morons as I have been calling them — has destroyed our national will.

I do not believe that’s the case. I do believe we have it within ourselves to pull our collective heads out of that dark place and find our way into sunlight. How do we do it? I haven’t a single, solitary clue!

I am left to rely on my belief in the Constitution as the sturdiest governing document ever crafted. It isn’t perfect. More work lies ahead, with amendments to be crafted, approved and ratified.

We have been through many crises over the 200-plus years of our national existence. They’ve included warfare, multiple presidential scandals, economic calamity, disease, dark impulses within the souls of many Americans. This thing we’re enduring now is unique in one regard, though: It seems to rest on the political fortunes of one individual.

I will not accept any notion that suggests that a doddering old man who once held the nation’s highest office is strong enough to take this country down.

Cynicism be damned!


Still ‘no!’ on term limits

With all the back and forth about political corruption and calls from prominent pols to enact term limits on members of Congress … my position on that matter remains fundamentally unchanged.

We don’t need mandated term limits for politicians who run for Congress. Indeed, we already have them. They occur every two years for House members and every six years for U.S. senators. They are elections.

I also want to disabuse you of the myth that Congress is overrun by longtime House members and senators who have been in office since The Flood. A Congressional Quarterly study done years ago pointed to a healthy turnover of politicians serving in Congress. The study showed that a tiny minority of lawmakers had been in office for more than, say, three or four terms.

As a practical matter, getting Congress to approve a constitutional amendment mandating term limits is problematic, to be sure. That is what it would take for such a proposal to become law. We have our share of pols who say they favor term limits, then they run for re-election to their umpteenth term. Some of them do so successfully; some do not.

There you have it. Term limits at work in Congress.

I once harbored the notion that we should repeal the 21st Amendment limit presidents to two terms. Enacted in 1951, the amendment was meant to prevent presidents from seeking more than two terms after President Roosevelt was elected to office four times. He died just a few weeks after taking office for his fourth term.

The office does take its toll on the occupant, as FDR’s demise — in his mid-60s — demonstrated. Therefore, keep the 21st Amendment on the books.

Members of Congress, though, do not need to be ordered out of office. The voters will have their say if enough of them think their congressman or woman is doing a lousy job.


14th Amendment stands out

It appears that of all the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the 14th Amendment has emerged as the most discussed, most cited, most argued and arguably the most important of them all.

I’ve been following a host of legal and political battles for a long time. Just lately, though, it seems that the 14th Amendment keeps surfacing from the legal mumbo-jumbo that at times accompanies these discussions.

Let’s ponder a few notions, shall we?

Section 1 makes two important distinctions. One is that anyone born in the United States is granted citizenship upon birth. A Republican presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis, wants to remove that stipulation from the law. Section 1 also says all citizens are entitled to “equal protection under the law.” This clause has come into play in decisions — to cite one example — regarding gay marriage.

Section 3 declares that anyone who participates in sedition or an insurrection shall be denied the opportunity to seek public office at any level in this country. Hmm. Does that one sound familiar? It should. If Donald J. Trump is indicted for allegedly fomenting the insurrection of 1/6 and then is convicted in a trial, he cannot serve in any public office … ever!

Section 4 declares that the nation’s good faith and credit shouldn’t be messed with, giving the lie to the notion by the MAGA morons who sought to deny efforts to increase the nation’s debt ceiling. Failure to honor our debts would have plunged us into economic catastrophe.

All of this is my way of wondering: Do the MAGA cultists know a damn thing about the Constitution, the oaths of office they take to honor and protect it or the penalties they face if they fail to honor their oath?

I must remind them that they take that oath while placing their hand on a holy book. Thus, the oath is sacred, given the religious tenets to which the politicians claim to follow.

The framers didn’t craft the perfect government framework. It’s pretty damn inclusive and those wise men managed to cram many key provisions into a single amendment to the Constitution.

Moreover, if the MAGA nitwits had half a brain, they would understand that “constitutional absolutism” means they follow the document to the letter … or else.


‘Fourth’ was prelim to great main event

Americans today are marking the 247th birthday of this nation’s Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.

Yes, it is a date worth commemorating, worth celebrating and worth honoring. The reality, though, is that this day was a preliminary event to the real thing, which occurred after the American Revolution ended in 1781.

Our Declaration of Independence launched a war that took thousands of American lives. It is a masterful document penned by a man who would become our third U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson. It speaks to the many issues that forced the United States of America to declare its existence … and to go to war with the English Crown.

After the last shots were fired at Yorktown, Va., the hard began. It would take several years. Finally, there emerged a Constitution. The nation’s governing framework was given life.

It is under assault today, which brings me to the point I want to make with utmost pride and vigor.

Which is that the Constitution, i believe fully, is strong enough to withstand these challenges from within our borders. A presidential candidate lost an election three years ago but refused to concede the obvious. He sought to overthrow the government as it sought to certify the results of the 2020 election. He failed only because members of his own political party refused to do his bidding.

They were faithful to the Constitution and the oath they took to honor, defend and protect it.

Our Constitution has withstood many challenges over its more than two centuries of life. I will stand foursquare on my belief it will stand firm against this challenge and — I will hope — against any that arise in the future.


Judicial icon speaks out; pay attention, GOP

Leave it to one of the nation’s great legal minds to offer the bold, brash and unvarnished truth to those who have tossed aside their loyalty to the Constitution in favor of loyalty to a cheap politician.

Michael Luttig is a retired federal judge, a keen conservative legal thinker. He has zeroed in directly on the cult following that Donald J. Trump has developed and is cultivating in his quest for the presidency in 2024.

Listen up, you MAGA morons. He’s telling you the truth.

“If the indictment of Mr. Trump on Espionage Act charges – not to mention his now almost certain indictment for conspiring to obstruct Congress from certifying Mr. Biden as the president on Jan. 6 – fails to shake the Republican Party from its moribund political senses, then it is beyond saving itself. Nor ought it be saved,” Luttig said in a scathing New York Times op-ed published Sunday.

Wow! He’s got plenty more to say.

“No assemblage of politicians except the Republicans would ever conceive of running for the American presidency by running against the Constitution and the rule of law. But that’s exactly what they’re planning,” Luttig wrote.

To be brutally honest, this fealty to Trump — the twice-impeached, twice-indicted for POTUS — boggles my noggin beyond all recognition.

Trump has pledged to select a special counsel whose task will be to root out “the most corrupt president” in history. Trump isn’t talking about himself, although he damn sure should be. Oh, no. He vows to find a prosecutor to go after President Biden. That is the hallmark of a tinhorn dictator.

Judge Luttig isn’t some squishy liberal, some progressive bomb thrower. He is a highly regarded conservative legal expert who is siding with the rule of law and the notion that public officials — starting with the president of the United States — take sacred oaths to protect the Constitution.

He wonders what has become of the party of which he has been a member. “The stewards of the Republican Party have become so inured to their putative leader, they have managed to convince themselves that an indicted and perhaps even convicted Donald Trump is their party’s best hope for the future,” Luttig wrote in his op-ed.

Is anyone out there in MAGA Land going to pay attention?