The thanks of a grateful nation

Posted: Nov 17, 2000 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- The drama of the 2000 presidential election reminds us that it's time someone expressed gratitude to the dedicated public servants who have done so much to educate our children about the U.S. Constitution. For too long, Americans have treated the Constitution like the owner's manual for their automobile -- tucked away in the glove box of their cars -- to be read only during emergencies. But not anymore. Thanks to the hard work of two great teachers, the citizens of this grand and glorious republic have a new appreciation for the extraordinary wisdom of the 39 men who signed our Constitution 213 years ago. Now it's time for us to set aside the anger and hostility of this election, the rancorous partisanship of the last eight years, and thank William Blythe Clinton and Albert Armand Gore for their constitutional tutorial. These men have unstintingly reminded us what a marvelous instrument our Constitution really is and have stopped at nothing to make it interesting and entertaining. They have lent excitement to the dry, and dare we say, tedious words of the Constitution -- to give it life -- and to put it on prime time TV, no less. Think of it. Who, but Bill Clinton, could make Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution as steamy as a Jackie Collins novel? And suddenly all the pundits, even Oprah, were poring over words they might never have read: "The House of Representatives shall ... have the sole power of impeachment." Section 3 of Article I says that "the Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments" and further states that "when the president of the United States is tried, the chief justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present." Great stuff, Bill. Well done. Right from the start, you attracted a harem of eager to assist you in this instructional effort. We all remember Janet "Fireball" Reno's First Amendment lesson to the branch dividians that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble." And Reno's idea of using Elian Gonzalez as a guinea pig in her Fourth Amendment experiment on "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" was nothing short of brilliant. We were all impressed -- even Fidel Castro. And who can forget the collective efforts of the entire Clinton-Gore "teaching team," including Professor Madeleine Albright, in convincing Congress to grant Communist China Permanent Normal Trade Relations. But the real lesson was the way you got Congress to surrender its obligation in Article 1, Section 8 to "regulate commerce with foreign nations" and transfer that responsibility to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats at the World Trade Organization. Now that's a bona fide lesson! There are so many other wonderful examples -- like the way you ignored the clause in Article I, that "the Congress shall have the power ... to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal" when you and Tony Blair bombed the Balkans to rubble to stop "ethnic cleansing." But like a sage mentor, you saved the best for last. It's a tribute to your didactic skill that your best student, Al Gore, found a way to make the Electoral College as exciting as watching O.J. escape in a white Ford Bronco. Thanks to all that Al learned from you, Americans have been up late doing their homework on Article II, Section 1 and the 25th Amendment. They have learned that "each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature there of may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress." And, thanks to your pal Al, and the Gore-Daley machine's attempts to steal the election, a handful of courageous officials in Florida have reminded the American people that the 14th Amendment affords all of us "equal protection" under the law. By the way, we hear that Senator-Elect Hillary (no last name) announced that her first order of business will be to amend this remarkable document so that when she runs for "teacher in chief," she won't have to put up with the messy business of Electoral College votes. Before she's sworn in, you might want to apprise her that tinkering with the Constitution isn't as easy as playing the cattle-futures market. And finally, you and your "team of teachers" have illustrated that it's only because of the 22nd Amendment that the longest running criminal enterprise in the history of the republic will come to an end on Jan. 20, 2001. For that, you have the thanks of a grateful nation.