The day after the House approved the health care bill, a reporter asked White House spokesman Robert Gibbs about the lawsuits some states were threatening against the legislation on the grounds that the provision forcing all Americans to buy health insurance was unconstitutional.
"I think there's pretty longstanding precedent on the constitutionality of this," Gibbs said, without offering any substantive explanation.
Later in the briefing, another reporter pressed Gibbs on the question. "You say there's established law, established precedent," said the reporter. "On what? What is it? What is the established precedent?"
"On the regulation of interstate commerce," said Gibbs.
The reporter then asked how the mandate in question was part of interstate commerce. "Well, that's -- I think, again -- look, I'm not a lawyer, right," said Gibbs.
"And neither am I," said the reporter.
"Right," said Gibbs, "so we're both in a pool where we can't either see or touch the bottom."
Gibbs, of course, has every right to profess ignorance of the Constitution. Who knows, in this instance, he might be telling the truth. But he has no right to denigrate the ability of other Americans to understand the Constitution, and it is fatuous for him to suggest only lawyers can.
George Washington, who presided over the constitutional convention, was no lawyer. He was a farmer and a soldier. Ben Franklin, a delegate to the constitutional convention, was no lawyer. He was a printer and a writer. Most Americans who have fought and died to preserve our way of life were not lawyers. Did these patriots not understand the Constitution?
What part of "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation" does it take a law degree to understand?
Surely, a teacher, a doctor, a mechanic, a network news anchor and perhaps even a member of Congress can understand the words of the 10th Amendment as well as any lawyer can. It says: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
If the Constitution has not delegated to the federal government the power to force Americans to buy health insurance, then Congress and the president do not have that power. Period.