Thursday, January 06, 2011

Reading the Constitution

The House of Representatives, as one of the first acts of the current congress read the text of the Constitution into the record this morning.   These kinds of ceremonial events are seen as either a way to set the tone for the session or as a waste of time.  One can figure out who thought what.

But perhaps the most idiotic comment of the day went to Keith Olberman.   I hesitated about whether to credit his absurdity since his dwindling audience makes him even less of a household name than he once was (although MSNBC does confirm that the six people in East Murgatroid, IA still watch him.

Olberman wondered aloud about whether the exercise would include reading of the 3/5 Clause.   In the original Constitution there was a clause which temporarily allowed slaves to be counted as 3/5 of a person in the decennial reapportionment.  Evidently, Mr. Olberman, who often claims to cite constitutional authority for his blatherings, has never bothered to read the document.  In Article V it states "The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate."

I restate that because as a result of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, the 3/5 clause was excised from the Constitution.   When one reads a Constitution into the record presumably they would read a current version.  But evidently Mr. Olberman does not realize that.   He thinks the "living Constitution" (a term coined by Saul Padover) is one where he can interpret the meaning by fiat.  Actually Mr Olberman our Constitution is living because we can amend it; but only using the process in Article V.

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