President Obama Channels James Madison On The Debt Ceiling

Our political system seems sick. Or, it seems to be broken beyond repair. However one looks at it, our constitutional architecture seems unable to save us from the ravages of a political party gone wild, from politicians with fire in their eyes and torches in their hands.

Yet, this morning I heard a very learned man tell Americans that our system of government was designed to produce—and then fix—what we are seeing today. Jon Meacham, who is among other things a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, said on MSNBC that what Tea Party Republicans are doing is not unprecedented—he cited the old “Southern Democratic caucus” that held up civil rights legislation in the U.S. Senate for part of the twentieth century—and in fact what these Republicans are doing has the posthumous blessings of, uh, James Madison, who would say if you don’t like ’em, “vote ’em out.”

Yikes. If James Madison meant to design a system in which a crazed minority of lawmakers on one side of the Capitol could severely damage the economic well-being of the entire country by forcing the government to default on its obligations, then James Madison was a bit crazed himself.

But no matter what one’s view of Madison or the other Founders is, no matter what one thinks of the design of our system of governance, as the National Journal’s Kristin Roberts points out, we fortunately have a very clear instruction in the Constitution, as it was thankfully amended in 1868, about what to do regarding raising the debt ceiling. Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment reads:

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

Roberts writes:

Have Republicans forgotten that they too must abide by the Constitution?

The document is explicit in its instruction to America’s federally elected officials – make good on the country’s debts. “The validity of the public debt of the United States,” the 14th Amendment states, “shall not be questioned.”

This is not some arcane biblical reference that needs to be translated from scraps of parchment. In fact, its purpose and intent are fairly well documented.

The amendment is the product of a post-Civil War Congress that wanted to be sure the country would not be saddled with Confederate debt, and that the debts of United States would be honored. Then, as now, this promise written into the Constitution offered creditors confidence that lending to America – indeed, investing in America – would be safe.

“Every man who has property in the public funds will feel safer when he sees that the national debt is withdrawn from the power of a Congress to repudiate it and placed under the guardianship of the Constitution than he would feel if it were left at loose ends and subject to the varying majorities which may arise in Congress,” argued Sen. Benjamin Wade, a Republican supporter of the amendment.

Indeed.

Some conservatives these days claim that there’s nothing to this debt ceiling business, that Democrats are just trying to scare everyone (never mind that Ronald Reagan tried to scare everyone too). Some, like a very strange senator named Tom Coburn, pull stunts like tearing up a symbolic credit card on the floor of the Senate, saying, “I think it’s time we quit borrowing money,” as if that’s all there is to it. As if not raising the debt ceiling is like taking the credit card from an irresponsible teenager.

Such ignorance, such dangerous ignorance, should not have a home in the brain of a sitting U.S. senator or any public official. But it does. And such ignorance has infected the American people, who, as a new poll demonstrates, are as confused about the debt ceiling as Tom Coburn is. Get this:

More than twice as many Americans believe lifting the limit means authorizing more borrowing “for future expenditures” than believe it means “paying off the debts [the federal government] has already accumulated”—62 percent to 28 percent, respectively.

The reality is that lifting the debt limit allows the Treasury Department to borrow money to pay for bills that Congress has already rung up.

When one looks at the composition of that 62% of Americans who don’t understand how the debt ceiling works, one finds that Republicans are more ignorant than Democrats:

Nearly three in four Republicans, 73 percent, said the debt limit was for “future expenditures,” but a majority of Democrats, 53 percent, also agreed. Independents, at 62 percent, fell in between the two major parties.

republicans and defaultThink about that. Three out of every four Republicans you meet on the street don’t have the slightest idea what is going on right now. And half the Democrats don’t either. Scarier than all that, though, is that 54% of Republicans polled think the debt ceiling deadline “can pass without major economic consequences.”

Yep, no big deal. A default here, a default there, and pretty soon the economy will get used to all the chaos and Republicans can go back to the echo chamber and tell themselves how brave they were for calling the bluff of Democrats—and economists.

Geeze.

Kristin Roberts notes the obvious that should President Obama unilaterally raise the debt ceiling without congressional authority, Republicans in the House will impeach him. But she makes another point about impeachment that the President should at least abstractly consider:

…others argue that if the House does nothing, and Obama refuses to step in, impeachment would then indeed be appropriate.

“Obama should be impeached if the Congress allows a default and he does nothing,” said Sean Willenz, a Princeton University history professor who has argued the merits of 14th Amendment action. “The president has taken a solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. If he does not act in response to a blatant violation of the Constitution, then he will have violated his oath, and deserve to be impeached.”

Mr. Obama has said more than once that the Fourteen Amendment option that so many liberals and others are urging him to use is not a viable one as far as he is concerned. And because people should know what the President’s mindset is on this serious matter, I will here post his entire response to a question asked of him on Tuesday during his press conference:

QUESTION: Do you think you might have emergency powers that you could use after any default situation?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: 

We have used a lot of our emergency powers. Jack Lew has used extraordinary measures to keep paying our bills over the last several months. But at a certain point, those emergency powers run out, and the clock is ticking. And I do worry that Republicans, but also some Democrats, may think that we’ve got a bunch of other rabbits in our hat. There comes a point in which, if the Treasury cannot hold auctions to sell Treasury bills, we do not have enough money coming in to pay all our bills on time. It’s very straightforward.

And I know there’s been some discussion, for example, about my powers under the 14th Amendment to go ahead and ignore the debt ceiling law. Setting aside the legal analysis, what matters is, is that if you start having a situation in which there’s legal controversy about the U.S. Treasury’s authority to issue debt, the damage will have been done even if that were constitutional, because people wouldn’t be sure. It would be tied up in litigation for a long time. That’s going to make people nervous.

So a lot of the strategies that people have talked about — well, the President can roll out a big coin, or he can resort to some other constitutional measure — what people ignore is that, ultimately, what matters is what do the people who are buying Treasury bills think?

And, again, I’ll just boil it down in very personal terms. If you’re buying a house and you’re not sure whether the seller has title to the house, you’re going to be pretty nervous about buying it. And at minimum, you’d want a much cheaper price to buy that house because you wouldn’t be sure whether or not you’re going to own it at the end. Most of us would just walk away, because no matter how much we like the house, we’d say to ourselves, the last thing I want is to find out after I’ve bought it that I don’t actually own it.

Well, the same thing is true if I’m buying Treasury bills from the U.S. government. And here I am sitting here — what if there’s a Supreme Court case deciding that these aren’t valid, that these aren’t valid legal instruments obligating the U.S. government to pay me? I’m going to be stressed — which means I may not purchase them. And if I do purchase them, I’m going to ask for a big premium.

So there are no magic bullets here. There’s one simple way of doing it, and that is Congress going ahead and voting. And the fact that right now there are votes, I believe, to go ahead and take this drama off the table should at least be tested. Speaker Boehner keeps on saying he doesn’t have the votes for it, and what I’ve said is, put it on the floor, see what happens, and at minimum, let every member of Congress be on record. Let them vote to keep the government open or not, and they can determine where they stand, and defend that vote to their constituencies. And let them vote on whether or not America should pay its bills or not.

And if, in fact, some of these folks really believe that it’s not that big of a deal, they can vote no, and that will be useful information for voters to have. And if it fails, and we do end up defaulting, I think voters should know exactly who voted not to pay our bills so that they can be responsible for the consequences that come with it.

There. You now know for sure what the President thinks about using extraordinary means to do what the Constitution for sure requires Congress to do, if not the President acting alone.

And, I must say, he is being quite Madisonian about it.

What Would Ronaldus Magnus Do?

The segment below from Saint Rachel Maddow pretty much says it all about the irresponsibility of not raising the debt ceiling and how none other than Ronald Reagan dealt with the half-nuts in his own party who thought about using the threat of default as a political instrument in the 1980s. Democrats should talk about this, leftish bloggers should post this, liberal columnists should write about this, until we are safely, if we can get safely, past this artificial, ideologically-inspired crisis.

And by the way, Democrats should dope-slap the next dumb-ass journalist who says John Boehner an Mitch McConnell have “tough jobs.” They don’t. People who shovel asphalt for a living without health insurance have tough jobs. There ain’t a damn thing tough about keeping the country from defaulting, from stopping the ideological terrorists from blowing up the economy.

All Boehner has to do is allow a clean debt-ceiling bill to come to a vote in the House—it will pass with Democratic votes and a handful of sane Republicans—and all McConnell has to do is tell his Tea Party colleagues to STFU and let the bill pass, all the while encouraging yet another handful of sane Republicans to vote with Democrats to overcome a filibuster.

After all, the worst that can happen to either of them—loss of their jobs—is nothing compared to what will happen to the country if the suicide bombers get close enough to the full faith and credit of the United States to blow it up.

And if the two Republican leaders aren’t patriotic enough to risk their government jobs for the well-being of the country, may they be forever cursed with listening to never-ending audio loops of IQ-killing Sarah Palin and Ivy League-deflating Ted Cruz defending Jesus-loving Rush Limbaugh’sgreat time in the Dominican Republic,” compliments of a secret supply of Satan-sanctioned, sausage-swelling, slut-seducing Viagra. Amen.

Watch:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Does Obama Have The Power To Ignore Republicans On The Debt Issue?

Previously, I’ve briefly mentioned the idea that there is another way around the game of chicken that Republicans are playing in Washington relative to the debt ceiling.

Today I am offering, courtesy of MSNBC’s The Last Word, a quick primer—enough to make some of us dangerously opinionated—on the issue of Republican recalcitrance on the debt ceiling issue and how it relates to a provision in the Fourteenth Amendment that could end the controversy.

Of course, ending that controversy by using the so-called “nuclear option” in the Fourteenth Amendment would start another one, possibly involving Republicans trying to impeach the President or other such nonsense, but at least that wouldn’t directly endanger the economic recovery or send interest rates through the roof, which would be the least amount of damage done should August 2 come and go without an agreement.

In any case, the idea—admittedly quite un-Obama-like—embedded in a little-discussed provision in an old constitutional amendment is an intriguing one and I bid you happy speculating as you consider the following: 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Obama’s Presser: Here’s What He Said, Sort Of

In case you missed it, here’s what President Obama said today to various folks (more or less, in my stunningly accurate interpretation) during his press conference, the theme of which was, “Congress, get off your ass and go to work, the middle class is hurting“:

To those worried about jobs: There are plenty of job-creating bills in the congressional hopper right now that I would sign, if only Congress would act.  But speaking of acting, what the hell have you guys been doing?  While I’ve been dealing with Libya and handing over bin Laden to the bottom feeders, the Congress is here one week and gone the next.  Sheesh.  Good work, if you can get it.

To those who don’t want to raise revenues to help alleviate the deficit: Are you nuts? I’ve spent the last two years cutting taxes for ordinary folks, but the millionaires and billionaires and the oil companies and those who flitter about on corporate jets need to cough it up.  Come on, people.

To those who wonder whether Republican leadership will stop the nonsense and make a deal on the debt ceiling: My hope—and I confess at this point it is only a hope—is that despite all the teaparty talk, that eventually “leaders will lead” and do the right thing.  This debt ceiling business is not an abstraction.  It could kill the economy. The August 2 date is real and we won’t have any more “tools” to put off paying our bills.  Get busy.

To those who wonder what Obama’s stand on gay marriage is: Look, obviously I’m changing my mind about that issue but I’m not dumb enough to tell you that today because that’s all that would make news.  I came here to point out that Republicans have to get their act together on the debt ceiling negotiations and stop playing games.

To those worried about the National Labor Relations Board’s decision on Boeing:  Union folks, close your ears for a minute while I toss you under the bus:  The main thing is that as long as Boeing is keeping jobs here in America, nothing else much matters.  Okay, union folks, you can listen in again.

To those worried about over-regulating businesses: Don’t worry.  Businesses always complain about that stuff and we are working on eliminating a lot of previous regulations that we think are unnecessarily hindering business.  Give us a chance to get that done and you will be very, very happy.

To those making a fuss about his Libya policy: Are you kidding me?  Do you want to side with the American-killer, Kaddafi?  There’s no constitutional issue involved because I’m doing exactly what I said I’d do and this is nothing like Vietnam.  Do I look like Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon?

To those who note that Obama didn’t use the word “victory” in his talk about Afghanistan:  Victory?  No way would I use that word, but I will use the word “success.”  And by success I mean giving the Afghanis a chance to defend themselves, whether they ultimately can or not.  I don’t mean turning their country into some kind of Jeffersonian paradise.

To those worried about how we will prosecute future terrorist suspects who are apprehended:  We will deal with those individuals on an individual basis, but the American people should rest assured that our top priority is killing the bastards who want to kill us.

To those concerned about our immigration policy: Nothing has changed.  We need comprehensive reform and we need to pass the DREAM Act. I’m shipping back more undocumented folks than any president in recent memory, so what more do you want from me?  Congress must act. 

To those worried about whether Sasha and Malia are getting their homework done: Look, my kids are more responsible than Republicans in Congress. They don’t wait ’till the last minute, when they know they gotta do something.

To those wondering whether the idea of cutting payroll taxes to stimulate the economy must be part of the debt ceiling agreement: Before I answer this one, I would like for all the Republicans to plug their ears: Hell no, it doesn’t.  I’m willing to wait on the stimulus as long as we get a deal on the debt ceiling. And I’m willing to say so right now, which means, of course, that I have lost my edge in negotiations.  Why the hell did I do that?

To those who want to know if Obama believes he can use the Fourteenth Amendment to get around the debt ceiling limitation statute:  I’m sort of not going to remember that Chuck Todd of NBC News ask me about that one.  Maybe I’ll just surprise you later.

Finally, to the middle class:  I think about you ever minute of every day because I know how desperate some of you are.  I came into this office pledging to fix the problems that plague you and most of the time the Republican leaders in Congress only want to play political games and look only to the near-term.  I’m a long-term sort of guy, and I am willing to make deals that aren’t that popular with the base of my party because I believe that in the long run fixing this economy and getting the deficit under control will serve you the best.

Sabotaging The Economy: Cynicism Or Reality?

The opening segment of last night’s The Rachel Maddow Show was over sixteen minutes long.  It was one of those rare moments in cable television in which a lot was said that needed to be said and it was said by two very smart liberal commentators, St. Rachel and Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation magazine.

The segment chronicled only some of the outrageous Republican hypocrisy evident since the Age of Obama.  We’re talking about policies that Republicans supported until they discovered that President Obama supported them too, including:

Pay-Go legislation, the bi-partisan deficit commission, cap and trade, the individual mandate for health insurance, trying terrorists in federal courts, raising the debt ceiling (done seven times under Bush with substantial Republican votes), a payroll tax holiday for businesses and workers, and the DREAM Act.

Toward the end of the segment, St. Rachel offered two competing explanations for such blatant and shameful duplicity: 

The nice interpretation of Republican hypocrisy:  Republicans are merely opposing things they use to support because President Obama supports them too.

The less nice interpretation of Republican hypocrisy: Republicans are opposing things they use to support because they believe those things will actually work and will improve the economy and thus improve Obama’s chances of reelection.  Therefore, they are sabotaging the economic recovery.

Chris Hayes pointed out that Republicans have,

starved the beast…they have cut taxes; now they’ve got everybody in the deficit-debt panic, and now the welfare state is in their sights…and they understand they’re gonna get one shot at it, and they also understand the only way to kill it is to get a Democratic president to do it.

Bush could not gut Social Security, couldn’t privatize Social Security…Barack Obama can. The only way to go after the big game they are hunting—which is Medicaid and Medicare—that’s the fundamental part of social insurance—is  to get a Democrat to do it.

Hayes also offered “an even more cynical interpretation” than Maddow’s suggestion that Republicans want to “take money out of the economy” at a time when the economy needs it:

HAYES: The one thing that refutes the deficit hysteria—which so benefits the Republicans in their mission to go after Medicare and Medicaid—is the fact that interest rates are at historic lows. So, you can say, “Oh, no one’s gonna lend us money,” and look out there and everyone’s lending us money at historically low rates.

What is the one thing that could screw that up?

MADDOW: Debt ceiling.

HAYES:  Exactly. A partial default, a delay in payments…all of a sudden if you had that you could point and say, “Look, the markets are panicked, the interest rates are up; we really have a debt and deficit problem.” The most cynical, the absolute most cynical interpretation of this is that they want some sort of crisis because that produces in the markets exactly the uncertainty they’ve been claiming was already there but has not manifested until now.

There you have it. A perfectly rational explanation of Republican behavior, particularly regarding the debate over the debt ceiling.

And the one thing that Republicans can do to prove wrong Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow—and top Democrats in the U.S. Senate, who have essentially suggested the same thing—is stop protecting the oil companies and the wealthiest Americans and agree to raise the debt ceiling before all economic hell breaks loose, if the Obama administration is forced to default on our debt payments.*

Here is the complete opening segment from last night’s show:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

_____________________

*There is another possible out, a brief explanation of which can be found here and elsewhere. It involves invoking Section 4 of the 14th Amendment and it would be a very gutsy move by President Obama. In part it reads:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned.

It’s just possible that Obama can ignore the fact that Congress refuses to authorize an increase in the debt ceiling and continue to pay the nation’s bills and its other obligations under the authority of this provision.  Let the fun begin!

Iowa Teenager Speaks The Truth To Homophobes

Last night on The Last Word, Lawrence O’Donnell featured a short segment on the debate in the Iowa House of Representatives over revoking marriage rights for same-sex couples.  The Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2009 and Republicans in the Iowa House are seeking to overturn that decision, using scary arguments like the one advanced by Rep. Rich Anderson:

If we remove the gender requirement for marriage, there is no rational basis to define the number. So we open up the possibility of the constitutional recognition of polygamous relationships. That’s a slippery slope. And I don’t know where the logic is to draw the line. We wouldn’t recognize incestuous relationships between two consenting adult brothers and sisters. That raises up within us disgust, and we can’t accept that. We draw lines. We define marriage.

Polygamy and incest.  Of course that will follow from gay marriages! 

The truth is that one raises issues like polygamy and incest when one can’t explain how the Equal Protection Clause does not equally protect homosexuals who want to get married.  It’s not a matter of law for some conservatives; it’s a matter of fear.

And the truth is that one raises issues like polygamy and incest when one can’t explain why fundamental constitutional rights should be subject to the whims and prejudices of the electorate.  The measure  involves placing a constitutional ban on gay marriage before voters, who presumably would revoke the rights granted to homosexuals under the Constitution.

Even though the proposal to amend the state constitution passed the House with the vote of every single Republican who was present, along with three wayward Democrats, it will have a difficult time getting through the Iowa Senate, which is controlled, for now, by Democrats.

In any case, O’Donnell played (after a brief introduction) an impassioned plea from 19-year-old Zach Wahls, who spoke before the Iowa House and whose elegant and powerful statement everyone needs to hear:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Does Antonin Scalia Have Alzheimer’s?

Whatever Glenn Beck has been smoking the past few years, he must have passed the pipe to Antonin Scalia.

Or maybe it’s just an early sign of Alzheimer’s.  In both cases.

Whatever it is, Scalia has managed to make himself look like a Tea Party nut, which really isn’t that hard for a Republican to do these days.

When asked whether “we’ve gone off in error” by applying the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to both sex discrimination and sexual orientation, the judicial fundamentalist said:

Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that…

I’m not going to bother quoting the rest of his statement, but I will bother to quote the relevant language in the Fourteenth Amendment:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

You may wonder how anyone can misunderstand the words “nor deny any person…the equal protection of the laws.” You may wonder, but not a man who fashions himself an “originalist,” which is just another way of saying he is the Jerry Falwell (Devil rest his soul) of constitutional interpretation.

You see, the Bible says God created the world in six days, science be damned. And the Constitution says women and gays (and by logical extension, Latinos, Jews and female Blacks) don’t have equal protection because those who wrote and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment didn’t particularly have women or gays or Latinos or Jews or female Blacks in mind when they did so.

So, under Scalia’s Falwellian judicial philosophy, if women, and others not originally and explicitly envisioned as deserving equal protection of the law, want that equal protection, they will have to get the legislature to guarantee it. “Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law,” Scalia says.

Never mind that conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger—and all of his colleagues—ruled in 1971 that women were protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. And never mind that here in 21st century America it is just plain silly to construe the Constitution in such a way that eliminates equal protection of the law for more than half of the population.

And never mind that Scalia’s originalist interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment turned to goo when it was politically convenient. As Adam Cohen pointed out:

Justice Scalia doesn’t even have consistency on his side. After all, he has been happy to interpret the equal-protection clause broadly when it fits his purposes. In Bush v. Gore, he joined the majority that stopped the vote recount in Florida in 2000 — because they said equal protection required it. Is there really any reason to believe that the drafters — who, after all, were trying to help black people achieve equality — intended to protect President Bush’s right to have the same procedures for a vote recount in Broward County as he had in Miami-Dade? (If Justice Scalia had been an equal-protection originalist in that case, he would have focused on the many black Floridians whose votes were not counted — not on the white President who wanted to stop counting votes.)

I think this is an appropriate time to remind everyone that Antonin Scalia was nominated to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1986.  He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a remarkably close vote: 98 to 0.

Can anyone today imagine a judicial nominee who is as far to the left as Scalia is to the right getting a seat on the court with a 98-0 vote?  Heck, such a nominee wouldn’t even get all the Democratic votes.

In any case, Scalia was chosen by Reagan for two reasons: he was very young and he didn’t have too many of those tell-tale opinions floating around that would clue us in to his Falwellian fundamentalism.

It’s sort of like if the Falwellian Jerry Falwell wanted to infiltrate the Unitarian Universalist Church, he would have to do so before they discovered he was a uber-Baptist who believed that Unitarians were headed straight for hell.

But for all his talents (his opinions are fun to read), we can now regard Antonin Scalia as, in the best case but still sadly, Glenn Beck with a law degree.  Is Goldline a sponsor of today’s conservatie Supreme Court?

Or, in the worst case, we are observing the first ravages of dementia, as Alzheimer’s sinks its teeth into the brain of a man whose faulty fealty to literalism seemingly knows no bounds.

I say “seemingly” because maybe we are merely observing the behavior of a man who is nothing but a hack for the Republican Party. Here is Adam Cohen again on the Citizens United decision, in which Scalia and is conservative colleagues anthropomorphized corporations:

It is a strange view of the Constitution to say that when it says every “person” must have “equal protection,” it does not protect women, but that freedom of “speech” — something only humans were capable of in 1787 and today — guarantees corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

A strange view, indeed.  But not if you are a Republican.

No Chicken Dances For Sodomites

I know conservatives won’t see it this way, but the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision today in applying the Second Amendment to states and municipalities is a blatant example of selective activism. 

I say “selective” because if the conservatives on the Court—who once again joined together to essentially overturn Chicago’s gun law—had wanted to demonstrate what Jonathan Turley has called, “a more deep-seated jurisprudence,” they could have overturned what is known as the Slaughter-House Cases.

The issue in the 1873 Slaughter-House Cases was,

Whether the 13th and 14th amendments guarantee federal protection of individual rights of all citizens of the United States against discrimination by their own state governments.

The answer in 1873 was NOPE.

The Los Angeles Times summarized the issue today:

In the 19th century, the court limited the reach of the Bill of Rights and said it put limits only on the federal government. Most protections in the Bill of Rights — such as the right to freedom of speech or the right against unreasonable searches — were extended to states and localities in the middle of the 20th century.

Essentially, over the years the Court has not incorporated to the 50 states the entire Bill of Rights, but has retained discretion to apply its protections as it sees fit.

In today’s ruling on the Second Amendment, the Court did not overturn the Slaughter-House Cases, missing a chance for the conservative justices to, again in Jonathan Turley’s words,

…prove that they have a broader vision of individual rights that goes beyond the barrel of a gun.

Well, apparently they don’t.  Justice Sam Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, specifically addressed the Slaughter-House Cases:

We see no need to reconsider that interpretation here. For many decades, the question of the rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment against state infringement has been analyzed under the Due Process Clause of that Amendment and not under the Privileges or Immunities Clause. We therefore decline to disturb the Slaughter House holding.

So, in effect, the conservatives on the Court have selectively incorporated gun rights to all states and municipalities without expanding the reach of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause, and as a result, it still matters where you live, in terms of enjoying Constitutional rights.

Astute readers will ask, why?  Why wouldn’t the Court just go the whole way and make the Bill of Rights—the entire enchilada—applicable in every way to the states and thereby establish once and for all, “a unified base of rights for all citizens“?

Hint: Homosexuality is a SIN.

Huh?

Conservatives fear that if the Court were to overturn the Slaughter-House Cases and make the entire Bill of Rights forever binding on state governments, that future “liberal” courts might discover that homosexuals enjoy equal protection of the law under the Bill of Rights and thus the states would not be able to prohibit those nasty sodomites from doing the Chicken Dance at their wedding receptions.

Now, doesn’t that make conservative sense?

 

[The chicken dancer photo (which is not a picture of a “nasty sodomite” by the way) courtesy of: http://bwunderground.wordpress.com/ and Bush/Alito photo: Reuters]
%d bloggers like this: