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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Few Constitutional Lessons for Howard Kurtz

First, I generally like Howard Kurtz. He's nowhere near my favorite pundits but more often than not, he's fairly thoughtful. He's certainly near the top of the so called MSM, of which he is a part of. That said, his latest piece is pure nonsense. Kurtz attempts to tackle the totally manufactured controversy that some are opposing the President because they are racist.

There is no definitive answer, of course, since we are talking about millions of people, from Joe Wilson, the disrespectful congressman who's now raised $700,000 for his "you lie" outburst, to the woman who told Arlen Specter that Obama is trying to transform the US of A "into Russia, into a socialist country."

But I began to suspect that race was a factor for at least some critics when I heard them shouting about "the Constitution" and "taking our country back." Maybe Obama's health-care plan is an awful idea and his budget is way too big, but how exactly is any of this unconstitutional? Clearly, for some folks, there's a deeper rage at the man occupying the White House.

I do think we all need to be careful about tarring the critics with a broad brush. Dissent is an essential element of America's DNA. Civil rights protesters transformed the country. Protesters helped turn the country against the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. The majority of those digging in against Obama's policies sincerely believe that he is moving the country in the wrong direction.

Still, there is an ugly undercurrent out there. Yes, some on the right tried to delegitimize Bill Clinton as well -- remember the garbage linking him to drug trafficking and murder? -- but this is dark and personal in a much more unsettling way. What other president -- with a Hawaii birth certificate, no less -- would be
subjected to conspiratorial doubts about whether he was born in this country?

Kurtz, like everyone that attempts to imply that there is racism in criticism, applies things to those opposing Obama that they don't to those that oppose anyone else. How many people called the Iraq War unconstitutional? How many people called enhanced interrogation techniques illegal?

Now, Kurtz says that nothing that Obama is doing could possibly be construed as unconstitutional and so such criticism smells of racism. Well, let me give Mr. Kurtz a quick constitutional lesson. First, there's no right to health care, and certainly free health care, in the constitution. Second, there's no specific power given to the federal government in the Constitution to provide health care services. There is, however, a tenth amendment which says that anything not specifically stipulated in the Constitution is left to the states. Finally, it is very dubious Constitutionally to force people to get health insurance or be penalized. There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution that gives the federal government that power.

Now, these are not cut and dry issues. Defenders of the president would say that the Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce. Health care, they would argue, is interstate commerce. The debates on these issues will continue, but there are plenty of legitimate arguments to be made that Obamacare doesn't follow the Constitution.

This is an entirely philosophical argument. Way back when, I dissected the roots of conservatism. I said that conservatism started with a strict constructionist view of the Constitution. That reads the Constitution for the words as they are and nothing else. Since there's nothing in the constitution giving the Congress the power to offer health care, a strict constructionist would view Obamacare as unconstitutional. That is a philosophical view of the current political landscape. That's how it should be treated. If this were any other president, no one would ever claim that such opposition wee rooted in racism. Yet, that's exactly what a growing number of media are doing to the opposition to Obama. That's pure nonsense. The folks that believe that Obamacare is unconstitutional have a perfectly reasonable philosophical argument. It's not the only argument but it's a legitimate argument. The right way to counter it is to pick it apart for all its flaws. To call it racist merely cheapens the debate and exposes the other side for their own weakness, and that must be exposed each and every time.


Anonymous said...

What other side? Kurtz is a columnist for the increasingly neoconservative Washington Post.

Second of all, the idea that much of the criticism of Obama is rooted in racism comes from the belief that if it was Bill Clinton or Joe Biden in the Oval Office right now, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

In the end, it is not racist to criticize Obama. However, in light of the many wildly inaccurate and demonstrably false claims made about him, and the almost axiomatic belief in them by many of his rank-and-file critics, you could make a very strong case that his critics believe these claims largely due to their inability to trust a black person in a position of authority.

mike volpe said...

yes, because there was never an inaccurate accusation made against Bush. Listen the Dems, for eight years, claimed that the Bush tax cuts were for the rich only even though every single marginal tax rate was cut and now you have the nerve to proclaim that there's all these false claims. are you serious?

lisa said...

We need a civilian security force,that's just as powerful,just as well funded.
ACORN, Bill Ayers,Jeremiah Wright,Tony Rezko,Rashid Khalidi,Bernadine Dorne,George Soros.
Hmmm I don't think it's the "black" person people don't trust. It's all of the above.