Beck Deconstruction, part two

(Continued from Beck Deconstruction Part One)

BECK: Give me a definition of what a progressive really is.

All you have to do is Google it, Mr. Beck. Oh wait – Google wasn’t in the Constitution, so you can’t use it.

R.J. PESTRITTO, “AMERICAN PROGRESSIVISM” AUTHOR: Well, Glenn, to me, progressivism is all about moving beyond the Constitution, getting beyond the bedrock principles of the American founding.

Yes, to you, that’s what progressivism is about. But the millions of people who are healthy thanks to the Pure Food and Drug Act and Meat Inspection Act would probably beg to differ.

The progressives detested the ideas behind the Declaration of Independence because they enshrined the idea of individual God-given rights and the end of government.

The end of government? Mr. Pestritto, you should read the Declaration of Independence before you guess as to its meaning.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

– United States Declaration of Independence

Altering the government to effect “Safety and Happiness”? That seems almost… progressive!

They detested the Constitution, because the Constitution put limits on the national government, which were designed to uphold those rights.

Would an example be too much to ask for here? If all progressives detested the Constitution, then you must be able to give an example of at least one widely known, public progressive legislator who “detested the Constitution.”

COLLEEN SHEEHAN, AUTHOR, “JAMES MADISON”: One of the biggest problems today is this idea of the, quote, “Living Constitution.”

Definitely – that’s one of the BIGGEST PROBLEMS TODAY. World hunger? Oppression? Even just in the United States, poverty, AIDS, cancer, violent crime, fraud, domestic violence? Nothing on the “Living Constitution.”

BECK: Yes, yes, yes.

SHEEHAN: But that doesn’t mean that the Constitution is still alive in our minds and hearts. What it means is the Constitution means anything the judges on the Supreme Court want it to mean, which is —

provided for in the Constitution itself.

The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority; — to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; — to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; — to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; — to controversies between two or more states; — between a state and citizens of another state; — between citizens of different states; — between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

– United States Constitution, Article III, Section 2

Also, the members of the Supreme Court body are most commonly called “justices,” not “judges.”

which absolutely undermines the whole idea of popular sovereignty and free government. The reason the critical intent of the Constitution is critically important is because the people have spoken.

Yes. “The critical intent of the Constitution is critically important,” though that could have been phrased more elegantly. Contrary to conservative belief, the vast majority of legislators on both sides of the aisle, both during the Progressive Era and now, agree with this.


BECK: Progressives really are the bane of the Constitution’s existence. They view the Constitution as living, breathing document that evolves. Well, OK, sounds like an interesting idea, but is that what our Founders had in mind?

No, our founders wanted to keep the Constitution exactly how it was. That’s why they didn’t include an amendment process. Oh, wait…

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.

– United States Constitution, Article V


SUBTITLE: Constitution: A living document? Yes, but —

The following argument is amusing for its incoherence. Yes, Mr. Barton makes a second appearance.

BARTON: You know, a lot of folks today, progressives — progressives and social evolutionists look at and say, well, the Constitution is flawed. It didn’t take so many things into consideration. It needs to reflect a living document, living breathing, we the people.

I mean, who cares what they wanted 200 years ago? It’s got to be a living, breathing document that reflects what we the people want.

You know, they’ve just made the Founding Fathers’ point. That’s what the Constitution is. A living, breathing document, but the point that is different from the Founding Fathers and progressives is, who is in charge of the evolution of the Constitution?

The Constitution says that we know things will change and times will change and people will want different things. That’s why we’re giving you Article V of the Constitution that allows the people to evolve the Constitution. You have to have two-third of the House and two-third of the Senate agree to an amendment and three-fourths of the state have to ratify it.

So, any change made in the Constitution, we the people made it. We’re the ones that want it and we’re the ones that ratified it. We the people said, you know, there’s no term limits on president of the Constitution, but we want term limits on president.

The Constitution did not abolish slavery, but we did in the 13th, 14th, 15th Amendment.

See, we evolved the Constitution 27 times and it’s always because we the people wanted to make a change.

It seems as though Mr. Barton is alternately representing and denigrating a deranged progressive strawman.

But by Mr. Pestritto’s definition of progressivism, you too are a progressive, Mr. Barton. You too think that the Constitution should be amended, and that many historical amendments had the right motivation. You agree that slavery should stay abolished, that the 13th amendment was beneficial. (Also, the 14th and 15th amendments did not “abolish slavery”, as it was already abolished by the 13th.)

The problem with progressives is they want themselves to evolve the Constitution and tell the people what the values should be. Most of the things that people that are progressives want the courts to do are totally out of line with the people.

After all this mindless drivel, we finally get to the real issue. This isn’t about the Constitution at all! This is about the specific legislative changes progressives want to make – you agree in all cases with the mainstream progressive interpretation that the Constitution can and should be changed by the Article V amendment process when doing so is morally imperative, you just disagree on the specific circumstances in which it is necessary. You, Mr. Barton, have corrupted the debate.

There are amendments that have come through that haven’t necessarily been the best for the country, and the 17th and 16th amendment are two of those.

This is completely unrelated to Mr. Beck’s thesis, that progressives have somehow forsaken the Constitution. The 16th and 17th amendments were ratified in a completely legal manner, in accordance with Article V of the Constitution itself.

As a matter of fact, there’s a great little poster out that says “1913, The Worst Year Ever.” And you look and you go, well, that’s when we got 16th Amendment with progressive income tax authorization;

“Worst Year Ever.” That would include 1862, correct? The national income tax, folks – worse than the Battles of Shiloh, Seven Days, and Antietam combined.

that’s when we get the 17th Amendment which abolished the election of senators by the state;

The 17th amendment abolished the election of senators by state legislatures. They are now elected directly by the people. How exactly is this “out of line with the people”?

that’s when we got Woodrow Wilson inaugurated president.

Mr. Barton, are you familiar with Wilson’s Fourteen Points, an idealistic vision of geopolitics still used today? Are you aware that Woodrow Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize?



BECK: How many people before we called you to say, hey, you want to come to the show, how many people here could say, oh, yes, the 17th Amendment, I know what that is?

Two or three. You don’t count, because you’re doing Constitutional things. Nobody.

How many really know what it is now, the 17th Amendment?


I’m sorry, readers, I tried to be civil, but this show is a farce.

This is amazing. Like all bad things, it started in 1913 — Woodrow Wilson yet again. He supported this. Immediately now when I see Woodrow Wilson, I immediately know — bad thing.

“Yet again”? You haven’t really mentioned much else.

You can be quite certain that something is not going to have a good outcome if Woodrow Wilson was involved.

I know, right? It’s not like he WON WORLD WAR I or anything.

Before 1913, U.S. senators were appointed by the state legislature.

This is not, in general, true – Senators were elected differently by every state. There was no national protocol for exactly how election took place, resulting in numerous controversies. This was a major motivation for the 17th amendment in the first place. Even before 1913, more than half of the states had implemented some form of direct election legislation.

Madison said that the House of Representatives would always be national institution because the people would be directly elected by the people, but the Senate, the Senate, he said, will derive its power from the state.

Here is the idea: you have — you have the senators be representatives of the state interest, kind of like a lobbyist for the state. You’d think progressives would like that. The 17th Amendment changed that and instituted a direct popular election of United States senators.

Two senators — right there. Two Senates — the United States Senate shall be comprised of two senators from each state elected by the people. OK?

Yes, this is perfectly okay. Two senators from each state elected by the people – there’s nothing wrong with this. I honestly don’t understand why you’re so mad about it.

Why did they do this? Well, they wanted to take the direct representation out. They wanted to make sure that the states didn’t have the direct representation.

Do you know what “direct representation” means? You advocate government in the hands of the people. You hate it when anything is “totally out of line with the people.”

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years…

– United States Constitution, 17th Amendment

What is wrong with this?

Let me you an example of 17th Amendment coming into play right now, today. Obama’s health care bill would have never seen the light of day. A lot of things that they do in Washington would never seen the light of day.

Why? Because it wouldn’t be in the interest of your state.

This claim is dubious at best, and revisionist at worst. Remember that over half the states already had popular Senate elections – the 17th amendment was less of a practical than an ideal change.

Even if this statement were true, that doesn’t mean the 17th amendment is somehow undesirable – if the 13th amendment (outlawing of slavery) was not ratified, Obama’s health care bill, and Obama himself, “would have never seen the light of day”, but surely you still agree with its premise?


BECK: We know that Wilson was one of the worst defenders of the Constitution in the 20th century. But he’s had company. Judge Andrew Napolitano has his thoughts.

Don’t be misled into thinking that Andrew Napolitano is still an actual judge. He’s now Fox News’ judicial analyst.


SUBTITLE: Twentieth century Constitution offenders.

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, HOST, “FREEDOM WATCH” ON FBN: The 20th century is a disaster for the Constitution, in large measure because of the way it began with Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, the way it moved up through FDR. The three of them together demonstrating public and privately utter contempt for natural laws,

This sounds very frightening, but what is a “natural law”? Is it a scientific law, like that of gravity? No, it’s a narrow-minded moral law that means basically “anything Mr. Napolitano thinks should be a law.” Though he tries later, he can’t pin actual Constitutional, federal, or state charges on either Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, or Franklin Roosevelt, so he’s reduced to charging them with breaking “natural laws” instead.

and the concept that individuals have natural rights that the government can’t interfere with, and the concept that the Constitution was written to keep the government off the people’s backs.

The Constitution guaranteed few rights for the people in its original seven articles. It is the Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment that most protect the rights of citizens, and it should be the case that the Constitution protects rights. But that’s not how it was written.

Teddy Roosevelt, his cousin Franklin Roosevelt and their mentor Woodrow Wilson basically ushered in periods of government in which the government took the position that it could write any law, regulate any behavior, tax any event, and seek any goal whether authorized or permitted by the Constitution or not.

Instead, Wilson appointed the influential Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court, who championed and indeed invented the “right to privacy”.

SUBTITLE: How did Wilson violate the Constitution?

NAPOLITANO: Wilson entered — brought an era to the federal government in which the federal government would have a personal relationship with individuals, nowhere authorized in the Constitution, and would basically tell them how to live, what water they could drink and what food they could — they could consume, even what words they could utter during wartime. Wilson’s Justice Department actually prosecuted a man in New Jersey for playing Beethoven’s music in public and another man in Ohio for reading the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, on the public street corner, fearing that that would cause people to criticize the government.

Indeed, laws in many communities prohibited playing music of German composers such as Bach and Beethoven during World War I, a precursor to such nonsensical jingoism as “freedom fries”, and sedition laws which regularly arise in wartime did once more. This had nothing to do with Wilson himself, however.

FDR ushered in an era of central economic planning, much along the lines of his colleague at the time running the Soviet Union whom he referred to as “Uncle Joe” — of course, one of the most murderous thugs in history, Joe Stalin. FDR admired Joe Stalin. FDR admired Benito Mussolini, who is the fascist dictator of Italy at the time. And the two of them, Stalin and Mussolini, had a tremendous amount of government control over the economy which FDR envied.

To have a more nuanced and correct understanding of the relationships between the Allied World War II leaders, read this review of their complete correspondence. Mr. Napolitano childishly exaggerates the complicated diplomatic situation during wartime.

He understood very little of economics himself, but he had a lot of government folks who did around him, persuaded him that there would be more prosperity and more equality in the country if the economy could be centrally planned from Washington, D.C. This attitude defies the Constitution because there’s no authority in the Constitution for the Congress to take money from one person and give to another.

No authority, Mr. Napolitano? I thought you were supposed to be a legal scholar.

The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.

– United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8

Believe it or not, this still isn’t the end of the show. More to come.#



One response to “Beck Deconstruction, part two

  1. Pingback: Beck Deconstruction, part three « Il Piano

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