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The Debate and the Constitution

Allow me to add to the excellent posts by Clark Judge, John Yoo, and many others, to offer my own post-debate ruminations.  As I argue at length over at Manhattan Institute’s Point of Law, the debate revealed a stark contrast between the candidates on the constitutional limits to federal power.  

When asked to define the role of the federal government, Romney said, “look behind us: the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence,” pointing to the stage backdrop which featured excerpts from the founding documents. 

And President Obama?  The president said not a word — not one — about the Constitution: the document that creates and defines the federal government.  The Founders devised a central government whose powers would be “few and defined,” as James Madison put it. Instead of referring to the document which he took an oath to uphold, Mr. Obama said that the role of the federal government is limited only by its “capacity” — a fancy way of saying that Washington can do anything within its brute power. 

The president did his best to prettify the federal power grab with talk of “ladders” and “gateways” by which Washington will impose its definition of success on the nation.  Romney was not doctrinaire — he unfortunately conceded a federal role in education, but at least he emphasized that the main responsibility belongs to state and local governments.

Read the full piece here.    Can’t wait for the VP debate!

  1. Illiniguy

    Speaking of the Constitution, I have to give you a shout out on your Naked Constitution podcasts. The last one was fascinating. The “necessary and proper” discussion is worthy of its own podcast. Great job.

  2. Adam Freedman
    C
    Illiniguy: Speaking of the Constitution, I have to give you a shout out on your Naked Constitution podcasts. The last one was fascinating. The “necessary and proper” discussion is worthy of its own podcast. Great job. · 1 hour ago

    Thanks, I was lucky to get both Paul Rahe and Randy Barnett on the same podcast.    There’s a new episode coming later today, so stay tuned!

  3. DocJay

    Obama has been quoted saying that the Constitution says a lot about what government cannot do but falls short in enumerating what the government can do for you.  This fundamental misunderstanding of our founding document provides great insight in to this man who would be king.   

  4. liberal jim

    Just because Obama believes federal power should only be limited by the number of good ideas politicians can come up with does not mean establishment Republicans, Bush or Romney believe in limited government.  Is it not possible that moderate Mitt knows many of his backers like to hear about the role of the constitution and so he is talking the talk?   If Mitt is elected he will join with establishment Republicans and Democrats and continue the expansion of the Federal government.  True conservatives do not have a horse in this race.

  5. Illiniguy
    liberal jim: True conservatives do not have a horse in this race. · 0 minutes ago

    To the extent that we are able to usher Obama off the stage, we most certainly do have a horse in this race. Better we have a horse we can train to the bridle of the Constitution than the feral variety we have now.

  6. DocJay
    Illiniguy

    liberal jim: True conservatives do not have a horse in this race. · 0 minutes ago

    To the extent that we are able to usher Obama off the stage, we most certainly do have a horse in this race. Better we have a horse we can train to the bridle of the Constitution than the feral variety we have now. · 9 minutes ago

    I agree, conservatives like me will dramatically alter how we deal with the world depending on the result.   My horse is Romney and he’s running down the middle of the straightaway rather than the outside right.  So be it.

  7. KC Mulville

    Conservatives see government, especially the federal government, as only one factor in society, but Obama sees it as the only factor.

    Obama doesn’t want government to be the referee; he wants government to play the game. He reads the tenth amendment exactly backwards, i.e.,  anything the constitution doesn’t expressly forbid is fair game. 

    For a golfer, he hasn’t learned the lesson of golf – which is, the ball will go farther when you hit it properly, not just when you hit it hard.