They Read The Constitution – But Do They Comprehend It?

There’s a story in the news today that the Republicans decided to have the House of Representatives read out loud the Constitution.    That’s nice, although I’m of the opinion that they should have already been more than familiar with it.  Given how much the Republicans have been sobbing, moaning, and screaming the past two years about “restoring the Constitution,” and saying it needs to defended, you’d think they’d have it down pat by now.

Well, if you’d think that, you’d be wrong.  They may be reading the Constitution, but from everything they’ve been saying, and running on, it’s apparent they don’t comprehend it.  At least, that’s the conclusion I have to draw after watching them misinterpret various clauses, demand that others be repealed, and do a song-and-dance about what “original intent” was, when a quick fact check through the founding fathers writings would show that … the original intent wasn’t what the Republicans say it was.  In other words, they’re treating the Constitution with all the respect of a used dishrag.

Let’s look at some recent examples, shall we?  We have Lindsey Graham, George Will, and a number of other conservatives out there pounding the meme that the 14’th Amendment has been “misinterpreted” when it comes to birthright citizenship.   The formal name for it is jus soli, or “law of soil” – you are automatically a citizen (a natural-born citizen, in fact) if you are born here in this country.    Well, the writers of the 14’th Amendment didn’t really mean that, did they?  Well, as it turns out, yes.  Yes they did.  As a matter of fact, that’s been pretty much the “common law” of the land since the beginning.   If you’re born here,  unless your parents are diplomats or members of an invading army, you’re a citizen.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  Your parents don’t have to be citizens, either.   Lindsey Graham should know better, since technically he’s a lawyer.  Obviously in his case, he’s pandering to the base instead of explaining it.

There is the battle over the Islamic Center in New York City.   Conservatives, and a number of Republican lawmakers have been in the forefront of attacking the building proposal.  It turns out that apparently the First Amendment, according to them, doesn’t apply to Moslems.   Some of them aren’t sure about it applying to all Christians, come right down to it.   I can also point to their attacks on the 16th(income tax) and the 17th (direct election of Senators) Amendments.  It turns out that they don’t like them at all.  Some of them aren’t even sure what the 20’th Amendment says.

What it comes down to is that for a political party which tends to claim to want to hold to the Constitution, to “restore it,” they seem to have remarkably little capability to understand it.  They prefer to pick-and-choose which parts they want to support, while cheerfully ditching it if it doesn’t match up with their ideology.  They’re reading it out loud today?  Good.  Will they comprehend what they’re reading?  I doubt it.

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21 Comments

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21 responses to “They Read The Constitution – But Do They Comprehend It?

  1. Liberal Librarian

    I may be in a minority, but the first two days of GOP control of the house has been an exercise in hilarity. Americans have notoriously short memories, but maybe a two year interregnum is what the electorate needs to remind them as to why the GOP should not be handed the keys to any part of government, at least the GOP as it’s constituted at present. And, again, there’s still Pres. Obama and a seemingly more coherent Senate Democratic caucus. Fun time are ahead, I think.

    • I think that when they put Michele Bachmann on the Intelligence Committee, it was a demonstration that they’re blind to irony. Or that Bachmann and Intelligence are mutually exclusive. To me, the amusing part is that they’re mostly doing this as a stunt – I noticed that they left out certain parts relating to slavery – and honestly, they don’t seem to grasp that there’s things in there that they’ve been saying aren’t, or don’t say what they’ve been saying it does. It ought to be interesting, because now they don’t have an excuse. 😉

    • TrumpDog

      I may be in a minority, but the first two days of GOP control of the house has been an exercise in hilarity.

      I’m with you.

      I know it sucks for the Republicans to be majority, but this is actually a great opportunity for the Democrats to highlight the crazy and hypocritical positions of the GOP.
      The bungling and inept acts they’ve demonstarted so early on is an extra, entertainment laden bonus.
      I’ve also enjoyed a lot of the media finally giving the Republicans the type of attention they deserve.
      I’m actually looking forward to holding the GOP’s feet to the fire for a change.

    • Aquagranny911

      You are not in the minority at all. When I heard that they were beginning their ‘rein’ reading the entire (?) Constitution (and I understand that they did mess that ‘entire’ part up) I ROTFL! I thought, “this ought to be fun for days.”

      But this is laughing through tears. These people should be the core of our government, elected by us to do the business of government. Instead many are ignorant, posturing clowns who are outing themselves and they don’t even realize this.

  2. I would think that for the sake of symbolism, they should have kept the slavery bits in, and had black member of Congress read those. That would be a sign that we have been able to improve on the original constitution.

    • Good idea. If you’re going to read it, it’s helpful to read all of it, even the parts that today we’d say were horrific.

    • Eric

      That is the second time I have seen this suggested on blogs, and as an African American, I do wish they would have had John Lewis read those parts, especially the one where we were regarded as 3/5ths of a person.

  3. sjterrid

    I have a silly question, since they really have no idea what is in the constitution, can they be impeached? They are responsible for making laws in this country. The Supreme Court was given powers to interpret if a law is constitutional or not (unfortunately we have the Roberts’ Court ). Since it’s clear they feel they have the power to do anything they want shows they have no idea how to govern or could care less.
    Great post by the way.

    • Sorry, no, I don’t think they can be impeached. Unfortunately. I’d rather that instead of reading it out loud, they’d have had constitutional and history scholars in to explain what each part meant. 😀

    • Aquagranny911

      sjterrid, I only wish they could be recalled like defective autos or other products that malfunction.

      We are stuck with the worst of the worst unless people get out for better candidates and realize that what they see is what they get and the product can’t be returned for a refund.

  4. Nathan Katungi

    Fantastic post Norbrook! Since Republicans claim to be Christians, may be the only way to reach them is to use biblical language: “Founding Fathers, please forgive the right wingers/teabaggers because, though they can read, they do not know, nor do they understand, what they read.” By the way, I hope they read the entire Fourteenth Amendment, and especially Section 2, which calls for a reduction of a state’s congressional representation if any adult males are denied the right to vote. With all their efforts to disenfranchise people, and especially African Americans and Hispanics, may be it is time that we start fighting for the enforcement of Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

  5. Snudel

    Here’s a nerdy take on the reading of the Constitution. It reminded me of an old Star Trek episode in which the remnants of a US-like society treated the text of the Constitution as a holy document, to be mumbled ritualistically by a chieftain who didn’t even know the meaning of the words. A look-up on Wikipedia tells me the episode was “The Omega Glory.”

  6. Well, I’ve always said, if a person feels compelled to wave around a Constitution and read it to everyone they can find, any chance they can find, all that proves is that they’re trying to make people believe they actually follow the Constitution when they have no real interest in doing so.

    They just hope that if they yell it loud enough, people will just assume that whatever they support is in line with the constitution, whether it actually is or not.

  7. Aquagranny911

    Another great diary Norbrook and OT, I read your diary on the autism/vaccine debunking. I wanted to comment there but I think I forgot my password so couldn’t sign on. You do good work, Kiddo!

    Anyway, these clowns playing at politics in our Congress are not impressing the average person with their beginning session. I was at a bodega yesterday where conversation often turns to politics and opinions were sassy, salty and very amusing!

    • Thank you. 🙂 You can ask for it to be sent to you again – it’s under “site admin.” I have very scant patience with people who ignore scientific evidence, be they climate change deniers or anti-vaccine people. My opinion of people who fake their data like Wakefield did is unprintable.