Jonah Goldberg

Imagine you were asked to protect, uphold and defend the framfra of the United States of America. Or ask yourself, What if you were appointed to faithfully execute the queenestray of the land?

You'd be forgiven if, before holding up your right hand, you asked, "Uh, what's a framfra?" or "Could you explain what a queenestray is?" After all, you wouldn't want to take an oath that required you to kill puppies or watch Carrot Top movies. Mature, sensible people generally don't agree to obligations they don't understand.

But that is precisely what our elected and appointed leaders are asked to do today. When taking office, they swear an oath to protect, defend and enforce the Constitution of the United States. Yet it is becoming more and more difficult to say exactly what that means. Sure, on one level, anybody can read what the Constitution says. But, apparently, knowing what it says doesn't necessarily mean we know what it means.

At least, five justices on the Supreme Court don't know what the Constitution means. Earlier this month, as you no doubt heard, the high court outlawed executions of juveniles under the age of 18. The policy of banning juvenile executions may or may not be sound, but the reasoning that got the justices there was - and I want to be delicate here - un-American.

This isn't a reference to anything so exciting as their patriotism. Rather, their reasoning is literally un-American at times. Justice Anthony Kennedy - who seems to be envious of Justice David Souter's status as the most disappointing Republican appointee - writes, "It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty."

Why? Why is that proper? I truly have no idea.

Perhaps Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg knows? In a speech in 2003, Justice Ginsberg openly expressed her hope that America would discard its "Lone Ranger" attitude when it comes to interpreting - get this - our own Constitution.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor - another perennial contender to unseat Souter in the most disappointing justice category - predicts that we "will find ourselves looking more frequently to the decisions of other constitutional courts." Globalization is creating "one world," she explains, and the future challenge for the court will be to figure out how "our Constitution" "fits into the governing documents of other nations."


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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