Real constitutionalists, please stand up

Posted: Dec 15, 2001 12:00 AM
Liberals, in an effort to recapture political momentum following the terrorist attacks, are portraying themselves as the exclusive guardians of the Constitution. While some of them may even be sincere, let's not share in their delusion. Their claim rests on two premises, which are the flipside of the same coin. One is that the Bush administration is assaulting civil liberties, and the other is that they (liberals) are championing them. Both are misleading – at best. First, our freedoms are not under wholesale assault by the administration, so there is no need for a liberal deliverance. Perhaps they figure if they repeat this canard enough, it will stick – along with the other whoppers they've advanced in the past decade. Their primary grievance concerns President Bush's planned use of military tribunals to try foreign terrorists. If I read one more e-mailer or hear one more leftist pundit arguing that Bush is shredding the Constitution with these tribunals, I'm going to scream. I want to state this one more time in a desperate effort to get through to some of the critics. The Constitution does not require the United States to afford civilian jury trials to foreign terrorists attacking or waging war against the United States. The Constitution never has afforded them these rights. So please quit blindly repeating the politically correct mantra that President Bush is trashing certain constitutional rights when those rights to which you are referring simply do not exist to protect the people whose causes you are mistakenly promoting. How about their assertion that they affirmatively promote constitutional liberties? Let's look at the whole picture. One does not prove his mettle as a constitutionalist and protector of liberty by consistently: selecting only those portions of the Constitution one believes in endorsing and trampling on those parts of the Constitution, such as the Second, Ninth and 10th Amendments, that one finds objectionable; forsaking the principles of order upon which our liberties depend; appointing judges who insist on legislating, and opposing those who adhere to their constitutional role of interpreting the law; obstructing measures designed to strike a reasonable balance between our national security and personal liberties; opposing states' rights and the concept of federalism; undermining the rule of law and the separation of powers. Are these points too distant or abstract for you? Fine. Then I'll give you something current and concrete. Have you heard the latest scandal involving the Democrat-controlled U.S. Civil Rights Commission? (Surely you remember its sham report on the 2000 Florida presidential election, where it conveniently concluded that Florida penalized minority voters in the election despite an incredible dearth of evidence? Or its flagrant abuse of process in failing to give Florida officials time to respond to the report as guaranteed by statute? Or that it withheld its findings from Republican Committee members before releasing them to the press? But we heard not one word in protest of the Commission by liberal Democratic politicians – not one.) Now, the notorious commission is at it again. In January 2000, President Clinton appointed Victoria Wilson to complete the six-year term (that expired on Nov. 29, 2001) of Judge A. Leon Higgenbotham Jr., who died in 1998. President Bush appointed Peter Kirsanow, a Cleveland lawyer, to fill the vacancy, but commission chairwoman Mary Frances Berry refuses to honor the appointment. She maintains that Wilson is entitled to serve an entire six years, even though the appointment under which she serves expressly states that her term expires Nov. 29, 2001. The defiant Berry has announced that she will not seat Kirsanow unless federal marshals compel her. While the left has once again trotted out its liberal law professors to give a distorted interpretation of the controlling statute, intellectually honest people know Berry's position is disingenuous. White House counsel Al Gonzalez has correctly characterized her interpretation as "untenable." No matter. Chairwoman Berry and her Democratic colleagues persist in flouting the rule of law, the separation of powers and common parliamentary decency by their outrageous actions. Yet, again, we hear not a peep from our liberal Democratic constitutionalist friends. Until these self-professed Constitution lovers start truly standing up for constitutional principles, they are just exposing themselves as unclad emperors who protest too much. If they seek redemption for their own many sins against the Constitution during the Clinton years, they could start by stopping this nonsense with the so-called Civil Rights Commission. But, alas, that would require actions consistent with constitutional principles, not mere words.