One of the characteristics of online communication seems to be a tendency to discard many of the restraints that exist during the normal course of other types of interactions. Be they in-person or over the telephone, more traditional forms of communication are marked by a general willingness to act in a courteous and non-offensive manner, often resulting in some degree of self-censorship. In the virtual world, however, restraints are often abandoned entirely. This results in some rather extreme rhetoric which may be entertaining at times, but is often nothing more. Given this, I generally try to eschew going overboard both in what I type in this space and in what I consume as a reader of online material.
The words tend to get particularly extreme in online discussions of the main stream media (MSM). I'm sure if you took the time you could find online resources blaming the MSM for just about everything from kidnapping the Lindbergh baby to lunar eclipses to tooth decay. Because of this, I always try to take online criticism of the MSM with a very large grain of salt.
Pause here for your own grain of salt. If your doctor has advised you to limit your salt intake, please reach for the salt substitute of your choice.
I recently came across two items from major media outlets that had me shaking my head.
The first item is from NBC's website and it listed as being "From NBC’s Pete Williams". Pete is the NBC Justice correspondent. To be fair to Pete, the article has someone else's byline so maybe listing him at the top is just name-dropping.
Regardless, the article discusses the possibility that the Supreme Court of the United States will hear any of the cases involving challenges to Barak Obama's qualification to be President. The allegation being that Obama is not a natural born citizen, and is therefore ineligible for the office of president. No doubt that for some readers of this blog, this is the first you will have heard of the issue. That in itself may be a critique of the media, but I digress. This post is not about whether or not Obama is constitutionally qualified to be President. If you are curious, you can check on that here, here, or here.
Here is Mr. Williams handicapping the chances that the cases will actually come before the Court (emphasis added):
The justices are unlikely to take up these cases for a host of reasons, not the least of which is the invitation to overturn the results of an election in which more than 66 million Americans voted for Obama. An equally high hurdle is the issue of whether Berg or Donofrio have the legal right to sue claiming a violation of the Constitution.
When explaining why the Court will not hear the cases Mr. Williams gives primacy of place to the fact that 66 million Americans voted for Obama. The history of jurisprudence has witnessed some wild legal defenses, but has a lawyer ever resorted to arguing that 66 million people can't be wrong before the Supreme Court?
I can only hope that this is just sloppy writing and that Williams is simply injecting his own thinking in the report. The fact that a reporter who covers justice issues for a living thinks nothing of setting aside the founding document of the nation just because of how Americans voted (even millions of Americans) would be laughable if it wasn't so scary.
Discarding the prescriptions set forth in our Constitution simply because popular sentiment dictates otherwise is a horrible idea. It is more than that, it is the end of the republic. (How's that for overheated rhetoric?)
He does tack a plausible legal argument on to his argument. Even though he calls it an "equally high hurdle" it comes off as more of an afterthought. Reinforcing that the real reason this allegation shouldn't be taken seriously is that a lot of people already voted for Obama.
Next we come to New York Times columnist Tom Friedman discussing how to respond to our current economic conditions in his November 22nd column:
If I had my druthers right now we would convene a special session of Congress, amend the Constitution and move up the inauguration from Jan. 20 to Thanksgiving Day. Forget the inaugural balls; we can’t afford them. Forget the grandstands; we don’t need them. Just get me a Supreme Court justice and a Bible, and let’s swear in Barack Obama right now — by choice — with the same haste we did — by necessity — with L.B.J. in the back of Air Force One.
Now George W. Bush may be the lamest of lame ducks, but he is not dead. Moving inauguration day in response to a financial disaster of our own making seems incredibly foolish. I guess this suggestion should not be surprising since inauguration day was moved up to its current date in response to the Great Depression and much of the response to the current crisis espoused by those in Washington involves aping the movements of FDR's administration.
Alas, amending the constitution is not a realistic option. Friedman continues:
Unfortunately, it would take too long for a majority of states to ratify such an amendment. What we can do now, though, said the Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein, co-author of “The Broken Branch,” is “ask President Bush to appoint Tim Geithner, Barack Obama’s proposed Treasury secretary, immediately.” Make him a Bush appointment and let him take over next week. This is not a knock on Hank Paulson. It’s simply that we can’t afford two months of transition where the markets don’t know who is in charge or where we’re going. At the same time, Congress should remain in permanent session to pass any needed legislation.
It is bad enough that we have a President that has almost become invisible, one that we can no longer affect through our vote, but turning our economic well-being to an unelected bureaucrat could in no way be described as democratic. Never mind the fact that Mr. Geithner has been deeply involved in the government's response to the economic crisis thus far from his position as head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Mr. Friedman seems to suggest that ascending to Secretary of the Treasury will make all of his decision making better.
I wonder if it dawned on Mr. Friedman that there might be a reason why the Constitution can't be amended overnight? Maybe those Founding Fathers were on to something there.
The fact that neither of these members of the Washington media seem the slightest bit interested in deferring to our national charter, or even stopping to consider what it says, is a chilling example of just how muddled our nation's thinking has become.
I realize this is no ordinary time, that things are tough and economic insecurity is widespread and unsettling. We would be better served though, to let our Constitution protect us intact, covering a hole in our leaky roof rather than shredding it just to build a fire. The problem with fire is that it may dwindle and extinguish without ever providing any warmth or it could spread uncontrolled, engulfing and ultimately destroying a shelter that has served us well.