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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!