WHAT DOES IT MEANS WHEN YOU SAY YOU HAVE "A LIVING CONSTITUTION?" IT MEANS IT'S DEAD | 1999-01-02
The Constitution is very specific about what the Senate is to do once the House of Representatives has impeached the president. The House impeaches, or indicts, and the Senate conducts the trial.
But the usual people, Republican ex-presidents, Democratic liberals, and respectable conservatives, are all saying the Senate doesn't have to conduct a trial. They demand a censure or something. They say that the old, dead words of the Constitution are not binding. That is because those who wrote the old document are dead, and we have a "Living Constitution."
The twentieth century is full of "Living Constitutions."
In 1936, Joseph Stalin promulgated a new Soviet Constitution. In comparison with the words of that Soviet Constitution of 1936, the United States Constitution looks totally undemocratic. The Stalinist Constitution of 1936 contains a ringing endorsement of free speech and a long list of other freedoms. Its guarantees of freedom are absolutely poetic, and perfectly ironclad.
The 1936 Soviet Constitution declares absolute sovereignty for local government, even including the right to secede! Those who have read it are always impressed by the long list of rights that are guaranteed. It also contains repeated assurances of every Soviet citizen's personal safety.
So much for the words. Now for the music.
Before, during, and after 1936, people were snatched from their homes and sent off to die in Siberian work camps, by the TENS OF MILLIONS.
So how did the millions of Stalinists in the United States and Europe justify all that horror and hold up the Stalinist Constitution as an ideal document at the same time?
They pointed out that, while we bourgeois types might think Stalin was doing things his Constitution forbade, that was because we did not understand the Marxist Interpretation of that Constitution.
Yes, that is EXACTLY what they said! Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
You see, the Stalinist Constitution was a "Living Document." That is to say, the government was not bound by the mere verbiage in a document as you or I might understand it. The leaders of the Soviet Union were free to adjust their interpretation of that document to the times and to Marxist Reality.
So after 1936 Stalin continued a slaughter larger than Hitler's. And Stalin's slaughter was no War Crime. It was just as massive IN PEACETIME as it was in wartime!
Speaking of Hitler, one thing most people don't know about him was that his entire Third Reich was perfectly constitutional. The Weimar Constitution of Germany was written right after World War I, and established Germany as a democracy. Until May 8, 1945, the Weimar Constitution was still in force. All of Hitler's actions were conducted under that document.
You see, there was one little provision in the Weimar Constitution which allowed for the indefinite imposition of emergency powers. So Hitler did not nullify the democratic Weimar Constitution when he took power. He merely INTERPRETED it. Using that Constitution, Hitler simply had the Parliament give him absolute emergency powers after the Reichstag Fire.
True, everybody knew that the writers of the Weimar Constitution did not mean for it to justify a permanent dictatorship. But Hitler adjusted the words to his new and modern age.
Let us say that you and I have worked hard together to accumulate some assets. We sit down and make up a very, very serious contract between us for the conduct of business in the future. Obviously, since so much is at stake and it was so hard for us to make this agreement, we make any changes in it very hard. It goes without saying that we are very, very specific about how it can be amended, changed, or, if you like, "interpreted" differently. A few years later, you decide you want more. You get very large, paid thugs to back you up, and you make whatever changes you decide are fair.
So you declare that what we really have is not just a bunch of old dead words on a piece of paper. What we have is "A Living Contract."
I would say that what we now have is no contract at all. I would call you a thug. And I would not appreciate it if someone agreed with you that you were doing the right thing.
And I would think it was crazy if the same people who agreed with you and the other thugs today started getting mad at you for being a thug tomorrow.
It is therefore amusing to hear respectable conservatives accusing Clinton of violating his oath "to protect and defend the Constitution."
WHAT Constitution? Every single respectable conservative has long since agreed that the United States Constitution is nothing but the opinion of nine lawyers sitting in Washington wearing black robes. Nobody can take the idea of a United States Constitution seriously if he goes along with the court's decision to strike down all state antimiscegenation laws, for example.
In striking down state antimiscegenation laws, the Supreme Court declared openly, and once and for all, that any hint of original intent meant nothing whatsoever. To accept that decision is to reject original intent absolutely.
And ALL respectable conservatives not only accept that decision, but try to prove they are more fanatically in favor of it than any liberal who was ever born. Racial intermarriage is critical to liberals, so respectable conservatives do not hesitate to toss the Constitution into the toilet for it.
A "Living Constitution" is sillier than a joke. It is an oxymoron.
And every single respectable conservative demands a "Living Constitution" when it comes to things liberals really want, like racial intermarriage.
It is important to make all these points before one discusses anything to do with this mythical "United States Constitution."
A new wrinkle has developed in the very unfunny joke that calls itself "constitutional law" in the United States. The "dead words" of the old document contain a provision in Article I that makes the Congress the sole judge of the qualifications of its own members. The Congress, for example, may censure its own members.
When the Congress found it couldn't actually impeach Andrew Jackson, as required by the Constitution, it decided to censure him. Jackson pointed out that that was unconstitutional, since it did not give him the right to argue back. More important, it did not carry the enormous gravity of a vote for impeachment.
Censure of its members is part of Congress's job of judging its own members. There is no provision for congress to judge the qualifications of a sitting president, except for impeachment.
Now, congress can DENOUNCE the president. Congress can DENOUNCE the Pope. Congress can denounce Sasquatch if it wants to.
But a censure, in the same sense as censuring a member of congress, is a different matter altogether.