Constitutional Conservatives should sit down this day and write a “thank you” letter to Rep. Anthony Weiner (NY-9th) for proving, once again, that size matters.
Rep. Weiner, through his scandalous, adulterous, perverted, deceptive, and slanderous behavior, dramatized the wisdom of the Constitutional doctrines of enumerated powers and checks and balances more effectively than any think-tank white paper, talk show rant, or polemical essay could do.
Like the prophet Isaiah, walking about naked to foreshadow the coming exile of the Egyptians and the folly of Israel’s trust in her opportunistic ally, Rep. Weiner’s self-disclosure has graphically illustrated the need for smaller, limited government.
However, while Rep. Weiner should become a poster-child for the battle against large, centralized, unaccountable, bureaucratic government, he must not become an isolated exception. He’s not a freak. He’s the norm.
You see, the great risk to the Right in the midst of this sumptuous feast of Schadenfreude is that we would see it merely as Weiner’s problem, or as simply indicative of the moral vacuity of the Democrats or of the Left. It’s much more important than that. Weiner has a handicap that is shared by every lawmaker, and every voter.
Weiner is not an aberration. He typifies Congress, because he is human. And for that reason, we must move rapidly to restrain his ilk from the dangers posed by their restless, reckless, covert humanity … and by ours.
There’s nothing like a Constitutional Convention to convince men of the need to check the power of government, and to strictly limit its scope. When 55 men from 12 states migrated to Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, they came face-to-face with the major problem of governance — how to protect the governed from their governors, and from themselves. How can one craft an energetic national government without trampling the sovereignty of the states or the rights of the people? How does one create an elected legislature that would resist the wild sweep of popular passions — the prime danger of democracy?
The debates (and dinner-table discussions at nearby City Tavern) were vigorous, and reflected not only timeless principles, but also interest-group agendas and personal needs. No angels floated just above the wooden floor of the Assembly Room that summer. These were men — extraordinary, brilliant men in many cases — yet, they were men.
To speak of what “the founders believed,” you have to speak broadly, ideologically, not monolithically. But one thing they knew, to a man, was that they were sinful men. And even those who trusted in their own rectitude, attributed depravity to others. So with each codicil of the Constitution they labored to answer the question: What would weasels do? And then they built a barrier against that tendency.
Today, as we ask “What did Weiner do?”, keep in mind that he, too, is merely a man, susceptible to the temptations to which all flesh may fall prey.
Remember, if not for Weiner’s blunder (broadcasting a private message), his perversion and deception might have remained secret for years.
Like the FBI Abscam video of the late Rep. Jack Murtha toying coyly with a bribe offer, this incident should alert us to the constant covert cloud of whispering Washington. Muffled by the mahogany, or muted by the roar of the Learjet — what we don’t hear has greater impact than what’s on C-SPAN.
Weinergate tells a cautionary tale. Men are weak, wily, wicked. Don’t give them any more power over you than absolutely necessary, and then surround those to whom you delegate authority with high walls, coils of razor wire, large snarling dogs, guard towers, and brilliant spotlights. (Of course, you could simply substitute a plain reading of, and adherence to, the U.S. Constitution.)
President Obama once bemoaned the fact that the Warren Court still saw the Constitution as “a charter of negative liberties,” a document that says “what the federal government can’t do to you.”
Mr. Obama longed for a constitution that would specify what the government “must do on your behalf.” Predictably, he wants to centralize control of our housing, banking, health care, automobile, petroleum, education, charity, and other formerly free enterprises.
As smart as Mr. Obama may be, the dullest wit in the convention of 1787 and the subsequent state-by-state ratifying conventions would put him to shame. They knew that because power is so tempting, and the concentrated consequences of transgression so devastating, we should not put all of our eggs in one basket.
By restraining the federal government to a few, specific functions, and setting it up with checks and balances, and yes, negative liberties, we mitigate the harmful effects of human nature. Smaller government is also easier to monitor, and error and evil harder to hide.
The Utopian dreams of the Left perpetually die on the altar of human frailty.
Nevertheless, they always assume that the world could be a better place if only the proper people were in charge — people like us, who would not be vulnerable to corruption or ignorance. This, in itself, is part of our human frailty — the arrogance of seeing ourselves as better than others, beyond corruption, immune to temptation.
Despite the bombast and rhetorical certitude of some in the conservative political entertainment business, the reality is that Constitutional conservatism is a humbling ideology. It is the tacit admission that, “I can’t be trusted, and so I must be constrained, limited in my authority and monitored by the public, to keep me honest. I must have the fear of electoral loss, and of legal jeopardy, continually over me, in case my personal morality should fail.”
Rep. Weiner’s “tweet seen round the world” should bolster the case for stripping the federal government of its extraconstitutional junk, for your protection.