Friday, January 07, 2011

The New York Times needs to read the Constitution 

The editors of the NYT are a little too pompous for their own good. From an editorial ("Pomp, and Little Circumstance") mocking the Republicans for reading the Constitution on the floor of the house, we get this (bold emphasis added):

[I]t is a presumptuous and self-righteous act, suggesting that [Republicans] alone understand the true meaning of a text that the founders wisely left open to generations of reinterpretation. Certainly the Republican leadership is not trying to suggest that African-Americans still be counted as three-fifths of a person.

Presumably not, since the unamended Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution did not provide "that African-Americans still be counted as three-fifths of a person." Rather, it provided that:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Obviously, the "all other Persons" that are the subject of the three-fifths clause are Persons who are not "free" other than "Indians not taxed." Most if not all such people were "African-Americans," but free African-Americans counted as a "free Person." And never mind that the point of the provision was to limit the power of the slave states. The New York Times has misrepresented both the words and the meaning of the Constitution, hilariously living up to the conservative caricature of the liberal attitude toward that document.

One is forced to wonder whether the editors were being intellectually dishonest to make a point of propaganda against the Republicans, or whether they were unintentionally proving that, indeed, liberals such as themselves need to brush up on the Constitution. What would be the third explanation?

CWCID: James Taranto.


By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Fri Jan 07, 05:43:00 PM:

Presumably they're going to read the Amendments too. The 13th, 14th and 15th undercut the snide position of the NYT, dontcha think?  

By Blogger Stephen, at Fri Jan 07, 10:09:00 PM:

A third explanation might be both of the above. They do not want facts to get in the way of their argument.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Fri Jan 07, 11:38:00 PM:

They mock Christopher Colombus
They mock the Pledge of Allegiance
The mock the Boy Scouts
They mock the military
They mock parenthood
They mock religion
They mock marriage
They mock the right to bear arms
They mock life itself at the point of conception

Why are we so surprised that they mock the US Constitution???  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 08, 05:43:00 AM:

Is it worth pointing out that the dicument read in the House was the US Constitution, which the members of congress are sworn to abide by -- not a history lession on that document? These days, probably not...

"Being intellectually dishonest to make a point of propaganda"? This is a trick question, right?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 08, 12:37:00 PM:

the founders wisely left open to generations of reinterpretation

That's an outright lie by NYT. The founders left the constitution open to amendment, not reinterpretation.  

By Blogger clint, at Sun Jan 09, 03:38:00 PM:

There's also the small detail that the "three-fifths" line no longer appears in the Constitution. (It was edited out by section 2 of the 14th amendment.)

House Republicans didn't read the historical document -- they read the current version of the U.S. Constitution, the one by which they are legally empowered and constrained.

That was the whole point, which apparently went right over the heads of the editors of the N.Y. Times.  

By Blogger Kelly, at Mon Jan 10, 11:27:00 PM:

Stephan is close. What matters is not the argument but the Narrative, beside which actual facts are unimportant if not embarrassingly geeky.  

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