Sunday, June 04, 2006

Rushing Towards a Constitutional Crisis

Rushing Towards a Constitutional Crisis
By Gary Hart and Joyce Appleby

We are in the midst of a political crisis that goes right to the heart of our constitutional government. Yet, without a depression or civil war on the horizon, we have been slow to respond to this threat to the future of our democracy

The Founding Fathers made interpreting the Constitution easy.

Gouverneur Morris, the delegate tasked with polishing its prose, preferred clear expression. Where the framers wished to be specific, he made the document transparent. Where they preferred to be vague, he produced felicitous phrases like the famous "necessary and proper clause." Where they utterly failed to anticipate a development like the emergence of political parties, there was an amendment process that could separate the elections of president and vice president, as did the 12th.
However easy to interpret, sustaining a consensus around any particular interpretation of the Constitution has proved more difficult. Our Supreme Court justices have never failed to fill up their docket. Against this background of successive and contending interpretations of the Constitution, it's important to distinguish between differences of opinion and a crisis. The differences arise over how to apply the Constitution in specific cases. When a development threatens the heart of our Constitution, a crisis looms. And it does so now with a president who explicitly and consistently works to extend his power in a way that upsets the balance of authority among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government....