Thursday, January 06, 2011


It’s the second day of Republican control in the U.S. House of Representatives and I’ve been watching cable news off and on as I move through my house from one task to another. Today, they are reading the U.S. Constitution out loud.

Reading the Constitution is a good thing that one would hope every member of Congress has done before getting elected. It probably isn’t true, but it should be.

The Constitution is not difficult to read. I haven’t memorized it, but I started reading in high school civics class and have returned to it time after time to clarify points through the years. I think it is the finest document ever produced by the minds of human beings.

A lot of people smarter than I am have spent a lot more time than I have reading the Constitution. Being able to read it has never been the problem.

The problem has always been agreeing on what it means and whether it is a living document dedicated to principles and meant to change with the changing times, or whether it is to be read as some read scripture – literally and with no room for compromise.

It has always seemed evident to me that it was meant to be a living document, dedicated to principles and flexible enough for changing times. The Founding Fathers wrote in the means to do just that, but made it difficult to do. It’s worked pretty well.

As of today, Republicans in the House have proposed a rule change that would require the writer of every proposed law to cite the section of the Constitution that supports the proposed law – which brings us back to the point that the reading is not the problem, but agreeing on what it means.

When a member of Congress proposes a new law, presumably he or she believes, at least, that it is permitted by the Constitution. But we can easily have the same section cited by opposing parties with widely differing interpretations.

Before it becomes law, the President has to sign it or veto it. If there is a veto,Congress has to override it before it becomes law. Eventually, the law will be upheld or overturned by the courts. Adding the Constitutional citation to a proposed bill changes nothing. The spectacle going on is for show.

The Founding Fathers didn’t believe all the eggs should be in one basket. That’s why they built in a balance of power.

Also this week, I have watched many the new Representatives stand in front of the cameras and deny that they are politicians, obligated to special interests -- unlike all those who came before them

To those who make these claims, let me say, you became a politician the moment you ran for office and those of us who were paying attention, watched millions of dollars from outside some districts flow in to put you in office.

If you don’t come though for those who see you as obligated to them, two years from now their support will go somewhere else. Of course, you can always tell yourself it’s the lesser of two evils to bend a little because people like you are needed in Congress.

That line of reasoning has worked to salve many a troubled conscience.

If you politicians – Republicans and Democrats -- really want change, stop taking campaign money from those who buy your influence. It won’t happen, though, as long as those with the gold make the rules.

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