31 Dec 2010

The Constitution and Ezra Klein


Liberals love playing Gotcha! They are always pouncing and then piling onto anyone of prominence who lets slip a statement capable of being interpreted as an expression of politically incorrect opinions.

Haley Barbour was recently targeted, and nearly obliterated by the incoming liberal barrage, after he was so indiscreet as to speak positively of white citizens’ councils in segregation-era Mississippi (for resisting the Ku Klux Klan) and for remembering life in his hometown, when he was young, as “not so bad.”

Amusingly, yesterday, liberal WaPo pundit Ezra Klein came similarly a-cropper and, I’d say, rather more deservingly.

Via Steve Gutowski:

This commentator, who is considered so intellectual that his fellow journalists refer to him as a “wonk,” informs MSNBC that he believes “it (The US Constitution) has no binding power on anything.” Its “text is confusing because it was written more than a hundred years ago.” Besides which, “What people believe it says differs from person to person, and differs depending on what they want to get done.”


If we are to believe Ezra Klein, the Constitution is first of all impotent and irrelevant, and secondly indeterminate and meaningless.

I think Mr. Klein demonstrates perfectly the end product of contemporary elite education, as practiced at his own UC Santa Cruz and UCLA just as it is practiced at Yale and Harvard. There are no facts, merely differing opinions. Even the US Constitution, a readily available document written in the same language spoken today, capable of being read without resort to a dictionary, the well-known product of an abundantly-documented tradition of political philosophy, and with respect to which same the design and drafting and compromises and debate are all well recorded, has for Mr. Klein no fixed or determinative meaning whatever.

Ezra Klein obviously was saying exactly what he really thinks. The inadvertence of his statement consisted of the fact that a majority of Americans really do think the Constitution is both binding and scrutable entirely slipped his mind. That was perfectly understandable. It was clearly one of those moments of liberal fugue, resembling Pauline Kael’s expression of astonishment that Richard Nixon has actually won the 1972 election when she knew personally no one who had voted for him. Like Ms. Kael, Ezra Klein probably knows no one who considers the US Constitution actually binding or immune to interpretation into anything the liberal heart desires.

In Ezra Klein’s community, there are no fixed meanings to texts, meaning is conferred by the reader. There is also no Constitutional right answer, politics is a contest decided by numbers achieved by the glibbest arguments and the most noise.

To absurd reactionaries like myself, the US Constitution and the principles of the Liberal political philosophy of the framers are a fixed political compass. To Mr. Klein and his ilk, there is really also a determinative political compass and fixed truth. But in his case, the established text is not to be found in a 100+ year old document like the Constitution. It can be read daily in the opinion columns and between the lines of news stories in the establishment media. It is the consensus of the bien pensant elite that is the unmoving Pole Star of liberal politics. You will no more ever find Ezra Klein opposing that consensus than you would have ever found Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan proposing that the US Constitution simply be ignored.


Stung by widespread mockery, Klein replied, contending that he meant that the reading of the Constitution was not binding, but reiterating his view that no particular interpretation need necessarily pertain.

It’s also, I noted, a completely nonbinding act: It doesn’t impose a particular interpretation of the Constitution on legislators, and will have no practical impact on how they legislate.

The rather toxic implication of this proposal is that one side respects the Constitution and the other doesn’t. That’s bunk, of course: It’s arguments over how the Constitution should be understood, not arguments over whether it should be followed, that cleave American politics. The Constitution was written more than 223 years ago, and despite the confidence various people have in their interpretation of the text, smart scholars of good faith continue to disagree about it.


Young Ezra was, in return, well and truly mocked by Iowahawk.

One Feedback on "The Constitution and Ezra Klein"


I wonder if Mr. Klein has looked at the title of his home. Some of the ownership transfers go back so far that they can really have no fixed meaning. Ergo, anyone whose opinion might be that his property belongs to them should be accommodated, don’t you think?


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