Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dead Sea Scrolls

"Archaeologists excavating the west side of the U.S. Capitol grounds reportedly have stumbled upon a frayed, faded, soiled old parchment, dating to the nation’s earliest days, which they say could have explosive implications for what goes on in the chambers above. Scholars hope the document, which they call “The Constitution,” may hold long-forgotten clues about what motivated the colonists to free themselves from British rule. It may, they say, even be the original blueprint, according to which the former republic was supposed to be organized. The political implications could be explosive, according to those who’ve read it, since it reportedly sets explicit limits on the size and scope of the central government and grants states and individuals a level of autonomy – a level of “freedom” – that is unthinkable today. In a related development, some members of Congress are threatening to open the next session by actually reading this so-called Constitution into the public record, which critics call a subversive, politically-motivated stunt designed to dredge-up old longings for liberty and sow doubts about the now-widely-accepted federalization of everything. It’s an interesting old relic, say most capital city insiders, but irrelevant to how things work in the modern era."

This parody of a (not-so-farfetched?) future news story is prompted by reports that subversives in the U.S. House of Representatives plan to open the 112th Congress by reading the U.S. Constitution, out loud and right in front a everybody, and have instituted new rules requiring that any new bill introduced cite some constitutional authority before the clerk will file it.

The moves, meant to show Tea Partiers that Republicans have gotten their pro-Constitution message, naturally evoke skepticism in certain quarters:

"I think it's entirely cosmetic," said Kevin Gutzman, a history professor at Western Connecticut State University who said he is a conservative libertarian and sympathizes with the tea party. "This is the way the establishment handles grass-roots movements," he added. "They humor people who are not expert or not fully cognizant. And then once they've humored them and those people go away, it's right back to business as usual. It looks like this will be business as usual - except for the half-hour or however long it takes to read the Constitution out loud."

But also enthusiasm:

""It's a big deal," said Brendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns at FreedomWorks. "That's a very basic starting point for all legislation - not only should we do it, can we afford to pay for it, but can we do it?"

Most, like me, probably will adopt a wait-and-see attitude about this renewed reverence for The Constitution. "You can do the talk, but you have to do the walk," one Connecticut Tea Party leader told the Post. "It may be an olive branch," said another. "People are excited to see that our leaders know there's a relevance to the Constitution in the process. But I don't think it will make people any less vigilant in looking at the laws that are being introduced."

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