Liberals and the Constitution

Clinton's scandal and his possible impeachment have produced somewhat of a metamorphosis among liberals in and out of Congress. They've become strict constructionists of at least a sentence or two in the Constitution. In trying to save Clinton's presidential hide, they're saying that the "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" language in Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution has a very narrow and precise meaning. They warn us that the Framers of the Constitution would be appalled if today's Americans deviated from the meaning that they had in mind and impeached a president over something as trivial as sex and lies. I'm not sure liberals have any idea of what the Framers had in mind, much less any respect for what they had in mind. One thing for sure is their sudden conversion to strict construction of the "high crimes and misdemeanors" language of the Constitution is nothing less than disingenuous manipulation.

The fact of business is that liberals have open contempt for the Constitution and rule of law except when it suits their purposes. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D. CA) and Congressman Barney Frank (D. MA) are leading proponents of the Framer-intent, strict constructionist interpretation of the Constitution's impeachment language. But ask either one of them, or their colleagues, whether they also espouse the Framer-intent strict construction of, say, the Tenth Amendment that 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." They'll hem and haw a bit feigning constitutional respect but their answer will boil down to a big fat "No".

Lofgren, Frank and their liberal colleagues have contempt for Framer intent of most of our Constitution. I say most but not entirely. Liberals do call for narrow, literal interpretation of the First Amendment that mandates that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging freedom of speech, or of the press or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble . . . ." Liberals support freedom of speech, the press and assembly because it's vital to their agenda of persuasion and organization to restrict other liberties. They'll argue that our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms, or our Fifth Amendment rights against the taking of property, should be restricted and modified in order to promote the public good in a society far more complex than that during the times of our Founders. But they wouldn't apply that same reasoning to free speech, press, and assembly protections. Try it for yourself. Ask a congressional or a news media liberal how should government regulate and control speech and the press in the public interest in today's complex society. They'll concede to no government regulation and control whatsoever.

Liberal support for freedom of speech and the press is simply a temporary expedient. Once they gain full control, freedom of speech and the press will be restricted as have our other freedoms. There's both worldwide and domestic evidence of this process. The most leftist institutions in our country today are colleges and universities. The 1960s hippies are now college presidents, deans and professors. These ex-hippies are the very people who've promoted and sanctioned campus speech codes that violate free speech. They are also the people who turn a blind eye to campus thugs who shout down speakers with whom they disagree and burn entire campus newspaper runs when they publish views they deem offensive.

If there's a silver lining to Clinton's sex and lies scandal, it's the exposure of liberal contempt for constitutional principles and rule of law.

Walter E. Williams


September 18, 1998