Reading it is one thing, honoring it is another

READING IT IS ONE THING, HONORING IT IS ANOTHER…. I can appreciate political theatrics as much as the next guy, but this stunt, as reported by the conservative Washington Times, seems rather pointless.

The Constitution frequently gets lip service in Congress, but House Republicans next year will make sure it gets a lot more than that — the new rules the incoming majority party proposed this week call for a full reading of the country’s founding document on the floor of the House on Jan. 6.

The goal, backers said, is to underscore the limited-government rules the Founders imposed on Congress — and to try to bring some of those principles back into everyday legislating.

The reading proposal was pushed by far-right Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who apparently got the idea from even-further-right state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R-Va.).

I don’t doubt that several members who participate in the exercise will feel better about themselves, but there’s no real point to this. Jonathan Bernstein, with an item dripping in sarcasm, noted the other day:

[R]eading the Constitution out loud will guarantee that no new legislation will violate our basic charter. After all, it’s well known that the Constitution is clear and unambiguous at all points, and that previous violations of it have been caused by a combination of ignorance and indifference. Once it’s read on the House floor, that problem will be solved.

Look, this stuff is proven to work. Younger readers may not realize it, but in the Carter and Reagan years the House was just full of treasonous subversives — a problem entirely solved by saying the Pledge of Allegiance to open all House sessions since fall 1988.

That’s entirely right, but I’d go a little further. The point of the reading, I suspect, is to reinforce a larger argument that right-wing Republicans would like the public to believe: they are the Constitution’s true champions. They want to read it out loud as a demonstration of the GOP’s love of the document, while sticking it to those rascally liberals and their unconstitutional agenda.

But there’s a problem with this: it’s crazy. We’re talking about a House Republican caucus with leaders who support allowing states to overturn federal laws they don’t like.

In recent years, congressional Republicans haven’t just endorsed bizarre legal concepts; they’ve advocated constitutional concepts that were discredited generations ago.

Worse, they have ambitious plans to shuffle the constitutional deck more to their liking. During the campaign, we heard from a variety of bizarre candidates, many of whom won, who talked about scrapping the 17th Amendment, repealing the 16th Amendment, getting rid of at least one part of the 14th Amendment, “restoring” the “original” 13th Amendment, and proposing dozens of new amendments.

Similarly, these same officials intend to radically transform the country as we currently know it, identifying bedrocks of society, and declaring them not just wrong, but literally unconstitutional. Two weeks ago, one of these so-called “Constitutional conservatives” publicly called for “censoring” major media outlets he doesn’t like.

For these guys to somehow claim they’ve cornered the market on constitutional fealty is ridiculous, and arguably, backwards.