Sunday, October 2


First off, please read this comprehensive post on Congressman David Dreier (R-CA) by Frank Laughter of "Common Sense Junction" before reading along any further. And do listen to the audio link that Frank provides of the referenced interview. It's important that you do.

That completed, and if you didn't click on Frank's link to mine from Thursday of last week, than kindly read it, too, as background for the additional comments on Congressman Dreier I'll be making this morning.

Thank you!

Now then, and as information, ACSOL readers should know that I watched in its entirety the David Dreier segment on Fox's "Hannity and Colmes" show that Mr. Laughter points to in his post. I, too, was taken aback by the suggestion of Congressman Dreier that the "traditional conservative" approach in this country to the United States Constitution is one that takes a dim view of amending it and that such a reluctance is entirely consistent with the viewpoints of James Madison -- one of the three authors of "The Federalist."

In point of fact, in "The Federalist No. 43," authored by Madison, he wrote:

That useful alterations will be suggested by experience, could not but be forseen. It was requisite, therefore, that a mode for introducing them should be provided. The mode preferred by the convention seems to be stamped with every mark of propriety. It guards equally against that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too mutable; and that extreme difficulty, which might perpetuate its discovered faults.

David Dreier is a cum laude graduate of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, a prestigious, independent, private liberal arts college that "educates leaders in business and public affairs," and which has long been noted for the strength of its Political Science Department and the quality of that department's faculty, many of whom in the college's formative years were disciples of Leo Straus and the "Chicago School" of government, among them Dr. Martin Diamond and Dr. Harry Jaffa. And Mr. Dreier continued on to earn a Masters in American Government at the Claremont Graduate School, which, as with CMC, is a part of the Claremont Colleges -- a cluster-college concept modeled after Cambridge.

I can tell you from firsthand experience (I majored in Political Science at CMC) that students there are well-grounded in the founding documents, "The Federalist," Tocqueville's "Democracy In America," and the political philosophers on whom this nation's Founding Fathers cut their intellectual teeth. So I think Congressman Dreier is being more than a bit disingenuous in claiming that there is a direct correlation between "traditional conservatism" (which he never defines for us) and his expressed reluctance to vote in favor of any Constitutional amendments. Worse was his choice to reinforce that oft-repeated reluctance by pointing to Madison.

Since its ratification in 1789, "over 10,000 Constitutional amendments have been introduced in Congress." And in the past several decades, amendments have been introduced at the rate of approximately 100 - 200 per year. To be sure, and in keeping with Madison's view that the amendment process should be such that the Constitution not become too "mutable," few ever clear the hurdles necessary for ratification. Indeed, most never go beyond Congressional committees. Indeed, there have been only 27 Constitutional amendments ever ratified in our nation's history in a process that clearly achieved Madison's and the Founders' aims.

Congressman Dreier was clever to slyly draw parallels between "traditional conservatism" and his patently disingenuous, Madison-grounded reluctance to amend the Constitution, because no doubt very few viewers of Hannity & Colmes know of Madison's writings any more than they understand the United States Constitution and its history. The Christian Law Association provides the following insights in that regard:

According to various surveys taken of the American people in recent years, 95% of them could not correctly answer basic questions about the Constitution:

  • 84% of Americans confuse the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence and think it is the Constitution that says: "all men are created equal." That phrase is actually found in the Declaration of Independence, the document by which our Founding Fathers declared their independence from England and their dependence on God.
  • 83% of Americans admit that they know only "some" or "very little" about the specifics of the Constitution. Even many American lawyers would have to admit their own ignorance of the document, if they were to be honest in their response.
  • 62% of Americans cannot name all three branches of the Federal government—the executive, legislative and judicial.
  • 24% of Americans cannot name a single right guaranteed by the First Amendment. Freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly are the major ones included.
  • 20% of Americans do not know the Constitution prescribes that the President is also the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces.

But back to David Dreier. I find the following comment, published at the Claremont Institue's Web site back in February, 2004, illuminating, as it cites yet another time in which the House Rules Committee chairman made pronouncements about the amendment process without being crystal clear about his reasons and motives. Indeed, his disinclination to amend the Constitution seems more political gambit, than substantive aversion:

The past 3 days have taught that the first hurdle in the way of a marriage amendment is not Democratic opposition, but the visceral anti-amendment mood of certain conservatives and conservo-libertarians. Again and again I listen for reasons, but I have yet to hear a single persuasive reason not to amend in this case. Just today, I heard Congressman David Dreier describe, but not explain, his position on the FMA. While he said he wouldn't stifle the amendment in Rules Committee if House leadership wanted it reported out, he also said he'd vote against it on the floor. Why? As long as he talked, Dreier never really said why. It really was more like a mood--one simply doesn't amend the Constitution. He equated the present fight with other, less weighty and ill-advised matters such as the flag burning amendment. Dreier wanted already-enacted legislation such as the federal Defense of Marriage Act to play itself out in the courts.

We don't have the time on this issue. "Play itself out" is nonsense. This stuff has already played itself out. While there's no case yet on the federal DOMA, doubters should re-read Casey, Lawrence and Goodridge. Anyone who has ears to hear can tell where the Supreme Court is headed.

Civilization is at stake. And this is not merely a slippery slope... THIS is the deathdrop. An abyss we hover over. Shall we cast about for lifelines from... judges??? Judges??? The ones who began this mess? The one thing post-Lawrence judges CAN be counted on to do is expand homosexual privileges. We ought to face these sorts of facts, including this other one, that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor cannot be counted on to deliver us from evil, but CAN be counted on these days to deliver us into it.

Well, the O'Conner issue will have resolved itself soon enough, but the Dreier issue will remain. Indeed, it is more than a tad irritating to have a moderate House leader masquerading as a traditional conservative. One thing Frank Laughter didn't mention in his post on Dreier's segment on Hannity & Colmes was the brief, personal exchange between Sean Hannity and the Congressman, in which Mr. Dreier made much of an upcoming scheduled appearance with Sean at a U.S.-Mexico border venue, the implication being that Dreier would be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Sean Hannity, arguing on behalf of tighter border security and immigration reform. What a ruse! Do you think Dreier is looking for some rub-off effect from conservative Sean Hannity?

As I covered in my post of last Thursday, Dreier only did an about face, toughening his stance on immigration issues, when he nearly lost re-election to the House in the 2004 race because popular, southern California radio station personalities (the "John and Ken Show") nailed Dreier's open borders' hide to a wall and exposed his anything but conservative voting record on immigration-related legislation. That race was a shock to Dreier's system.

In prepared testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in September, 2003, Congressman Dreier talked about (and in a far different context than President Bush's proposed amendment banning gay marriage, which Dreier opposes) the amendment process as a last resort.

The Framers of the Constitution did their job well. The Congress and the Nation have amended the Constitution but 27 times (including the Bill of Rights' 10 amendments) in 216 years.

Today you will consider the need for a constitutional amendment to change for the first time in those 216 years the manner by which Members of the House are empowered by the public to serve as their representatives to the Congress.

As I have discussed with Hon. Robert Michel, our former House Republican Leader and a member of the Continuity of Government Commission, a Constitutional amendment should be a last resort. Indeed, I believe a Constitutional amendment would be premature until Congress determines that there are no other ways to resolve these issues through its procedures, rules, or public laws.

You'll find no such view in anything the Framers wrote or argued. I checked and could not find anything approximating that point of view in Charles L. Mee, Jr.'s esteemed work, "The Genius of the People" -- a detailed account of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. And I should add that many historians of American history and political scientists would argue that the United States Constitution was itself tantamount to an amendment to the Articles of Confederation that preceded it. Think about that for a moment.

Good thing Congressman Dreier wasn't an 18th century Framer. His brand of "traditional conservatism" might have gotten in the way of Article V.

POSTSCRIPT: I'm a Pro-Life blogger and, upon reflection, I think it important that I offer kudos to Congressman Dreier for his excellent voting record on abortion-related legislation before the House. He supports the sanctity of human life. For that, I am grateful. To clarify, my issues with him are vis-a-vis border security and his expressed opinions regarding Constitutional amendments.