Teaching the Constitution

Posted: Jul 13, 2005 12:00 AM

A long time ago (47 years to be exact) in another culture and when television was in glorious black and white, composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein inaugurated a TV series called "Young People's Concerts." The objective was to teach classical music to children in hopes that when they became adults they would appreciate and even love the genre.

Something like those teaching moments needs to be embraced by President Bush as he nominates candidates for the Supreme Court. Recent generations know less about the Constitution than they do about sex or the latest cultural trend. They know little that is immutable or infallible in this postmodern age in which everything is about feelings and promises seem to be written in disappearing ink.

The president and those who wish to see the Constitution restored to its "original intent" need to reteach it if they are to overcome the liberal orthodoxy expressed by the late Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and echoed recently by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that "the Constitution is what the judges say it is."

Try that at the supermarket. Is a pound what the shopper says it is, or do scales, which rely on a standard, determine a pound's true weight? Would we get away with telling a police officer who pulls us over for speeding, "I decided that 70 miles per hour is 55 for me"?

Why, then, this constantly changing Constitution that is in the minds of liberals to be altered like a suit of clothes to fit the wearer, rather than a document to which all must conform if the general welfare is to be promoted?

It is because those revisionists know they can't use the legislative process to ram through any of their social engineering ideas - from restrictions on free exercise of religion, to abortion, to same-sex "marriage." They know the people (with the possible exception of a majority in Massachusetts) would vote them out of office and so they turn to unelected judges, appointed for life, to do their ideological dirty work for them.

If the Constitution is to again be seen as a finished document that has been refinished in recent years, the president must foreswear any talk of "moderation" and "conciliation" in his choice of court nominees. Truth cannot be moderated. As with ultimate theological issues, when constitutional heretics abound, one gets thin gruel instead of a nourishing robust soup.

All of the talk from liberals, like Senators Charles Schumer and Ted Kennedy, about prenomination meetings between the White House and senators is not heard when a Democrat is president and Democrats control Congress. The president and his party should ignore such blather, along with allegations they are "abusing power." That's the way losers talk.

A Democrat president regularly gives us liberal judges who believe in Darwinian jurisprudence: the evolution of law. The last Democrat to nominate someone to the court who moved rightward was John F. Kennedy. His nominee, Byron White, wrote a powerful dissent in Roe vs. Wade, an extra-constitutional ruling that catered to the dominant me-first philosophy - abortion on demand - instead of fidelity to what the Founders intended to be a stable document, useful for each generation of Americans.

The president owes the country an ideological battle, which he can win if he is willing to fight it. By virtue of his office, he commands attention unavailable to anyone else. He should not only campaign for his nominee(s), he should act like a teacher, quoting the Federalist Papers and the Constitution and making his case that this great document served America well until some judges began tampering with it.

This is a battle worth fighting and worth winning. To restore the value and integrity of the Constitution would not only achieve a political and ideological victory, it would also serve future generations of Americans.

President Bush's opponents would be fighting the words of the Constitution and the intent of the Founders and that is pretty good company for the president to keep.

Leonard Bernstein might not have agreed with the president's politics, but he would have understood the teaching part.

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