10 July 2011

Michele Bachmann's "constitutional conservatism"

She may be the rising anti-Romney, but contrary to her campaign tagline, Michele Bachmann is no "constitutional conservative."

For Bachmann, the actual words of the Constitution don't matter, outside of the Second Amendment's right to bear arms, and the Tenth's exhortation that the powers not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states. Perhaps she also likes Article I's commerce clause limitation on Congress, or Article II's commander in chief language.

What I'm certain of is that Bachmann is no big fan of Amendments 1, 4, 5, 6 or 14. If she actually took the time to internalize what those parts of the Constitution actually say, her critique of federal power would sound a lot like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson.

This past week, Bachmann pledged to support an outright ban on all pornography, a position that is patently violative of the First Amendment and Stanley v. Georgia, a 40-year-old case holding that the government cannot regulate the private possession of pornography.

George W. Bush claimed the novel power to break federal wiretapping laws, in obvious violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. Since time immemorial, jurisprudence has required a warrant before the government infringes on one's privacy. But for Bachmann, allowing the president to break the law is allowable under the Orwellian defense of Keeping Us Safe.

I have yet to hear Bachmann bring up the "state secrets" doctrine, extrajudicial assassinations, Jose Padilla or Yaser Hamdi. The plain language of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause notwithstanding, I have never heard Bachmann levy one complaint against the Imperial Executive's war on liberty.

Bachmann further has never levied a Constitution-based complaint against the Bush administration for its myriad violations of the Sixth Amendment's notice, speedy trial, right to counsel or confrontation provisions.

Ironically, Bachmann's "Pledge" also violates the Tenth Amendment which she claims to hold so dearly, in that it usurps the traditional rights of states by pushing a federal gay marriage ban, instead of allowing for federalist, state-by-state self-determination.

Conservatives -- mainly tea-party types -- love to wrap themselves in the flag and wave around copies of the Constitution, but when you dig into what the Constitution actually says, it's quite obvious that if you love the Constitution, you've ceased being a Republican.

Republicans claimed the president has unlimited wartime powers. Republicans claimed the president could break federal law without consequence. Republicans claimed that the president could designate someone an "enemy combatant" and make them disappear. Republicans -- led by John Yoo, championed by Dick Cheney -- crafted the most constitutionally destructive powers in our republic's history. And Republicans, led by Bachmann and the likes of Mike Huckabee, are pushing a "Pledge" that would impose a sweeping set of "family values" on individual states, federalism be damned.

If Michele Bachmann was truly a "constitutional conservative," she would conclude that the type of government championed by the 21st century Republican Party has very little in common with the text of the actual Constitution. Bachmann's critique would not include just President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, but George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales. It would include not only the folly of intervention in Libya, but also the ill-advised war in Iraq. It would include not only Obamacare, but warrantless wiretaps, extrajudicial renditions and yes, a "Pledge" that aggregates federal power.

If Michele Bachmann takes Conor Friedersdorf's advice and runs at Obama from the left -- not only criticizing the Libyan intervention, but also his ridiculous conception of the "state secrets" doctrine, his presidential assassination program and the absurd executive powers he has claimed -- then perhaps I could take her claims of "constitutional conservatism" seriously. As it is, Bachmann has almost as little in common with the Constitution as Obama.

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