Yesterday’s odd couple was a feature of me and my book on the front page of the Sentinel-Tribune (my local paper) and a full-page Hobby Lobby ad on the back. Today, on the Washington Post Op-Ed page, I have a piece on how politicians use the founders, and New Gingrich has a piece… using the founders.
Gingrich’s piece isn’t all bad. Claiming to be debunking five “myths” concerning the founders, Gingrich argues that they didn’t want a secular nation, that they didn’t unanimously support the Revolution, that they weren’t isolationists, that they were partisan, and that they didn’t intend for the Constitution to be a living Constitution. The first assertion is partly on the mark (some did want a secular republic, some a Christian republic, some a tolerant republic—sound familiar?), the next three pretty basic and inarguable. The fifth? Bizarre and misleading. Newt’s an originalist, someone who thinks we should interpret the Constitution according to its original meaning, whatever that might be, as long as it’s in concord with his policy preferences. Of course the founders didn’t think of a living Constitution, but the implication isn’t that they thought their initial ideas inviolate. It’s because they expected amendments to happen (unlike our current political environment, too divided for any amendment to be successful), and they knew that there would be great disagreement over the document (as they did themselves) and they had no expectation that times would change so much or the document would las so long. So in sum, they didn’t think of a living Constitution, any more than they expected net neutrality to be a big issue. But hey, it’s July 4, and Newt’s opinion (if not his interpretation) is as interesting as anyone else’s.
Happy Independence Day!