Michele Bachmann to Teach Ignorance of the Constitution

Republicans hate history. Have I mentioned that before? I’m pretty certain I have. They also hate the Constitution. How else to explain their utter inability to understand what it is, what it says, and what its purpose is? We are left to conclude that they are either stupid (which I can’t rule out on empirical grounds) or that they oppose and therefore deliberately misrepresent it. Take your pick, I suppose; one isn’t really better than another when it comes to the health of the nation and its people.

Michele Bachmann is a Republican (that’s not her above – it’s the Spanish Infanta, but you’ll understand the photo by the end of this article). Like Sarah Palin she has been touted as a Constitutional expert (by Andrew Napolitano). She has also been touted as a defender of the Constitution (by Bill Kristol). But a problem that emerges is that Bachman doesn’t understand the Constitution (I did say she is a Republican, remember).

She doesn’t know what is in it…

Bachmann: “What provision in the Constitution could you point to to give authority for the actions that have been taken by the Treasury since March of ’08?”

Geithner: “Well, the Congress legislated in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act a range of very important new authorities.”

Bachmann: “What in the Constitution could you point to to give authority to the Treasury’s extraordinary actions that have been taken?”

Geithner: “Every action that the Treasury and the Fed and the FDIC has been using authority granted by this body, the Congress.”

Bachmann: “In the Constitution, what could you point to?”

Geithner: “Under the laws of the land, of course.”

Geithner and Fed Chairman Bernanke’s answers were simple: The Constitution in Article I, Section I grants Congress the right to legislate, and the TARP funds were legislated to give authority to the Treasury.

…or not in it:

From a Washington Times interview (listen to it here ):

“Now ACORN has been named one of the national partners, which will be a recipient again of federal money,” Bachmann said. “And they will be in charge of going door-to-door and collecting data from the American public. This is very concerning because the motherload of all data information will be from the Census. And, of course, we think of the Census as just counting how many people live in your home. Unfortunately, the Census data has become very intricate, very personal (with) a lot of the questions that are asked.

“And I know for my family the only question that we will be answering is how many people are in our home. We won’t be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond that.”

What the Constitution actually says is this:

“Representation and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers … the actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.”

In other words, Bachmann’s supposed Constitutional “requirement” DOES NOT EXIST. In other words, Congress decides what questions will be asked on the census. And in fact, the very first census ever taken, ordained by Congress, asked for more than Bachmann claims could have legally been in there. Dontcha think the Founding Fathers would have known what they put in the Constitution they had just finished writing and ratifying? (here’s where we come back to the Republican hatred of history).

As PolitiFact tells us,

[T]he 1790 Census specifically asked about the number of free white males age 16 and over in order to assess the country’s military and industrial potential. That first Census also asked for the race and gender of household residents, and whether they were free or enslaved.

But none of this has stopped her from saying that she is going to offer classes on the Constitution to members of Congress. She has named who she wants as teachers:

Sean Hannity – a college dropout

David Barton – a “professor” at Glenn Beck University (he has a bachelor’s degree)

Andrew Napolitano – former New Jersey judge and lawyer

None of these people are Constitutional experts. Napolitano thinks that the Census is unconstitutional. He had previously claimed that “the 17th Amendment is the only part of the Constitution that is unconstitutional.” Barton says the interstate system is unconstitutional and apparently is unaware of the First Amendment and freedom of the press (or doesn’t like it on…constitutional grounds?) because he wants more controls placed on the press.

Of course, as we will see below, the census is constitutional. It’s in there.  But it’s no surprise, is it?

The Constitution isn’t very big or very long. It doesn’t use any impossibly difficult words. Is it possible she has never read it? I have. I have a copy here on my desk. I know conservative organizations give copies away as symbols of whatever it is the Republican party is supposed to represent. But it apparently goes unread.

So we are left with this depressing reality. One person who knows nothing about the Constitution (Andrew Napolitano) says that another person who knows nothing about the Constitution (Michele Bachmann) is a Constitutional expert, and the second person (Michele Bachmann) recruits the first person (Andrew Napolitano) as a Constitutional expert to teach members of Congress about something he knows nothing about.

For me, the whole thing is as informative (in a non-informative way) as the infamous discussion about the Spanish Infanta and the Blue Stone of Galveston:

Percy: You know, they do say that the Infanta’s eyes are more beautiful than the famous Stone of Galveston.
Edmund: Mm! … What?
Percy: The famous Stone of Galveston, My Lord.
Edmund: And what’s that, exactly?
Percy: Well, it’s a famous blue stone, and it comes … from Galveston.
Edmund: I see. And what about it?
Percy: Well, My Lord, the Infanta’s eyes are bluer than it, for a start.
Edmund: I see. And have you ever seen this stone?
Percy: (nods) No, not as such, My Lord, but I know a couple of people who have, and they say it’s very very blue indeed.
Edmund: And have these people seen the Infanta’s eyes?
Percy: No, I shouldn’t think so, My Lord.
Edmund: And neither have you, presumably.
Percy: No, My Lord.
Edmund: So, what you’re telling me, Percy, is that something you have never seen is slightly less blue than something else you have never seen.

(From Blackadder I, The Queen of Spain’s Beard, Season 1 Episode 4, 6 July 1983)

This is what we can expert from Michele Bachmann’s Congressional Tea Party Caucus. It’s funny in a British sitcom; not so much in the halls of Congress.

Hrafnkell Haraldsson

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