Paul Jacob
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James Madison, father of our U.S. Constitution, must be rolling over in his grave. You see, he forgot to put love in it.

By congressional edict, schools and universities across the nation were recently required to spend some time on or around September 17 teaching about the Constitution. That's the date our nation's founding document was ratified back in 1787.

Robert Byrd, West Virginia's Ku Klux Klan leader turned Senator, authored the legislation. Byrd's considered something of a constitutional scholar by his congressional colleagues. (Mobsters, no doubt, thought Al Capone an expert on criminal justice.)

The law mandates any educational institution receiving federal funds (meaning virtually every school imaginable) to acknowledge this anniversary in some manner. One such institution of higher learning, Irene's Myomassology Institute in Southfield, Michigan, was forced to comply because some students training to be tomorrow's masseuses receive federal money. The Institute gave students a flier.

Marlboro College in Vermont held a parade featuring professors dressed up as constitutional articles and amendments. Virginia's James Madison University celebrated with a "We the People" cake and a trivia contest.

Senator Byrd, on a break from his important pork-barreling activities, said he was "pleased" with the enthusiasm of teachers and students. He added, "They seem to be interested in this Constitution more than ever." Yes, nothing like a mandatory law to force people to show genuine enthusiasm.

Now, I embrace the idea of students learning about the Constitution. In fact, I long for the day. I'm no party pooper, either, especially since the ratification of our Constitution is as celebration-worthy an event as any in man's long history.

But instead of a shindig, how about just reading the document?

That goes for students as well as congressmen. It's shorter than most homework assignments and certainly more concise and less encumbered by legalese than the mammoth bills congressmen regularly pass. Also unread.

And, if it doesn't run too much against the grain, even judges could read the Constitution.

Start with the Preamble: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

But please don't stop there. That's what too many politicians and judges eagerly do. They call one phrase used above the "General Welfare Clause" and talk about it endlessly. But it's not a clause at all, really. It is four words in a lofty, flowery opening to the document itself — a document that grants the federal government powers so limited that they can be specifically enumerated.

The Preamble isn't the meat of the Constitution. It's the parsley. It has no force. It certainly cannot trump the document itself. The General Welfare Clause is simply a dime-store excuse by career politicians and liberal judges to ignore constitutional limitations so they can expand government and, in so doing, their own power.

Have you ever heard of the Liberty Clause? The Preamble states that we formed the federal government to "secure the Blessings of Liberty." It's even capitalized more than "general Welfare," for goodness sake. Yet, have you ever heard a politician or a judge oppose federal power because of the Liberty Clause?

Those who find magic language to expand government power, in the Preamble or elsewhere, ignore not only the straightforward meaning of words in the Constitution, but also the whole of the Bill of Rights. The Constitution grants the federal government certain specific powers, while the Bill of Rights guarantees citizens certain freedoms even against the powers granted to government. And the Ninth and Tenth Amendments make it clear that any rights not specifically listed are still "retained by the people," while any powers not specifically "delegated" to the federal government are reserved to the states and the people.

Senator Byrd pushed this legislation to teach about the Constitution. Meanwhile, the Constitution itself, in plain English, has instructions that he could well learn from. Government is supposed to be small enough to fit inside the limits the Constitution helpfully enumerates. Byrd, however, has consistently ignored such limits, and has repeatedly found loopholes in the Constitution big enough to drive trucks full of our tax dollars through.

But you ask: what has love got to do with it?

Oh, yes, I almost forgot. Well, Sharon Alexander's fifth-graders didn't get past the Preamble, either.

In following the federal order to celebrate the Constitution's anniversary, Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, Virginia did what too many federal judges do from the bench, they re-wrote the Constitution.

Actually, in their case, just the Preamble. Their new preamble states that "everybody including kids, pets and adults" is entitled to "electricity, food, water, schools and love."

Our Constitution doesn't talk about love. Why? Because government isn't love. Government is power. Our Constitution is all about limiting that power. Read it when all the parties break up. Read it to your kids, too.

Why wait for an edict from Congress?

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Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.