Jonathan Chait

The Short, Happy Life Of Constitutional Conservatism

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This is a bit of a legislative stunt, but it's a revealing one:

More remarkable was the House vote on a motion offered by the Democrats, which sought to recommit the bill with instructions to add language ensuring that surveillances would only be conducted in compliance with the U.S. Constitution.

That motion lost on a 186-234 vote.

All 234 "no" votes came from Republicans, including two dozen members who minutes later would vote against extension of the surveillance authorities.

Remember "Constitutional conservatism"? I'll let Charles Krauthammer refresh your memory:

What originalism is to jurisprudence, constitutionalism is to governance: a call for restraint rooted in constitutional text. Constitutionalism as a political philosophy represents a reformed, self-regulating conservatism that bases its call for minimalist government - for reining in the willfulness of presidents and legislatures - in the words and meaning of the Constitution. ...

Some liberals are already disdaining the new constitutionalism, denigrating the document's relevance and sneering at its public recitation. They sneer at their political peril. In choosing to focus on a majestic document that bears both study and recitation, the reformed conservatism of the Obama era has found itself not just a symbol but an anchor.

Right, this is total crap. The whole theory is nothing more than a slogan justifying uninhibited right-wing judicial activism. If you're not even willing to approve a rote formulation requiring compliance with the Constitution, you don't care about the Constitution at all except as a weapon to advance your agenda.

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