Congress Discovers the Constitution!

RANCHO SANTA FE, CA., January 5, 2011 – The Majority Leadership of the 112th Congress is “going where no Congress has gone before” by reading the actual Constitution and all of its Amendments into the Congressional Record.  It obviously has taken a page from my book, The National Platform of Common Sense (page 61 to be exact).  You see, if you serve in Congress, you have to take the following oath:

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

The ACLU need not be concerned as I’m sure that devout atheists will be allowed to “affirm” that they will “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” rather than being forced to “swear” to God or invoke His help.  Of course, that will all occur after Congress is brought to session with its opening prayer.  I guess you can say, “Amen,” for that tradition.

Common sense tells us that if our Congressmen are going to swear (or affirm) to uphold the Constitution, they should at least be familiar with it.  In The National Platform of Common Sense, I call for them to be tested on it.  Can you imagine what a political catastrophe that would be?

Yet, many political pundits are assailing the reading of the Constitution as political grandstanding.  Ezra Klein, a staff writer for The Washington Post and an MSNBC Contributor, recently portrayed the reading as “a gimmick” and stated, “The issue with the Constitution is that the text is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago and what people believe it says differs from person to person and differs depending upon what they want to get done.”  Perhaps Mr. Klein and the other naysayers are correct.  They are, after all, objective journalists.

The Constitution is actually over 223 years old, so the issue of archaic language may present an even greater obstacle than Mr. Klein suggests.  Let’s see:  “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  Hmmmm … other than the spelling of “defence,” the language appears to be reasonably clear.

Maybe it’s the language in Article I to which he was referring.  “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”  No, that seems clear as well.

How about Article II?  “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice-President chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows …”  Actually, that seems to be unambiguous as well.  It must be Article III that’s confusing!

Article III begins:  “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.”   Now, I’m confused.  I seem to be able to understand Article III as well, and as I look through the rest of the Constitution, I don’t see any particular problems.

If it’s not the age of the Constitution and our perceived inability to understand it that emasculates its power, what can it be?  I think Mr. Klein put his finger on the real culprit when he said, “what people believe it says … differs depending upon what they want to get done.”  He’s absolutely right … or should I say “left” (I don’t want to offend anyone).  The problem with the Constitution isn’t what it says; the problem is how people interpret it “depending upon what they want to get done.”  I rather doubt that this is what the Framers had in mind.

This is where human frailty and the “Seven Deadly Sins” enter into the equation:  Pride; Greed; Envy; Anger; Lust; Gluttony; and Sloth.  If you choose to filter the Constitution through the prism of these “sins” to support your own selfish interests, it’s easy to see how the Constitution might lose its relevance.  It would appear that many of our career politicians have elevated this to an art form.

However, Speaker-designate Boehner is proposing a new rule that will require Congressional Members to submit a statement that defines the constitutional basis for any bill they wish to introduce.  The political heretic even wants bills that come from the Senate to be reviewed in this same regard by the Chairman of the House Committee of Jurisdiction.  What’s he trying to do … get everyone to honor their oath?  Let’s call for his impeachment or, at least, his censure!  So what if he hasn’t even cheated on his taxes?  If he had, he’d probably be a member of the Cabinet.  The man is a menace to the political process as we know it!

To resolve this issue once and for all, I obviously must step into the fray.  With the power vested in me as The Common Sense Czar, I do hereby ordain that from this day forward the Constitution shall be read into the record on the first day of each new Congress and that it shall remain the law of the land.  And when The National Platform of Common Sense is fully adopted, prepare to hear the phrase, “Now, take out a piece of paper … we’re going to have a little test.”


T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.


This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, The Common Sense Czar, in the Communities Section of The Washington Times