Last week Kurt Schlichter wrote an article titled Time for Ron Paul Fans to Support the Constitution. Schlichter’s argument, which has been answered satirically here and more seriously here, is essentially that Ron Paul’s primary supporters need to stop holding grudges and having hurt feelings and vote for Mitt Romney. In the article he makes the incredible claim that a vote for Romney is a vote to defend the Constitution.
I disagree with Schlichter on two counts. First, the whole Constitution thing, which I will get to in a moment. But the general tone of Schlichter, and Glenn Beck, and pretty much anyone who talks about Ron Paul supporters is incredibly condescending and completely misses the point. Schlichter’s main idea is that Ron Paul people are a bunch of babies who are throwing a fit because they can’t get their way and have their perfect “Ayn Rand hero.” In Schlichter’s eyes, Paul supporters are not so much principled as we are stubbornly childish.
Schlichter doesn’t understand that Ron Paul’s supporters’ lack of support for the Republican candidate isn’t because he’s not Ron Paul, but because he is Mitt Romney. This is proof that he has likely never had a meaningful conversation with a Ron Paul supporter. But beyond the tone of the article, Schlichter’s most befuddling claim is that a vote for Romney is a vote for the Constitution.
President Obama’s constitutional offenses aside, let’s examine Romney’s position on a variety of issues to see if we can determine if this is true.
The bailouts and stimulus packages of 2008 and 2009 were seen at the time as the events that created the Tea Party, which had at its core a return to the rule of the Constitution. Critics correctly pointed out that not only does government spending not correct economic downturns, but that there was also no constitutional basis for the government intervening in the economy, no matter the circumstances.
Where did Mitt Romney stand? In 2009 he said, “All of these measures are meant to confront the current economic peril. Properly guided, Washington could in fact speed the recovery. So far, some of the actions it has taken will help, and some will hurt. But we can be certain that the American economy will recover.” In 2010 Romney said of TARP, “It was the right thing to do.”
To his credit, Romney opposed the auto bailouts, but his running mate supported them. Conservatives love to criticize President Obama for unconstitutionally interfering in the economy, yet the Republicans they support also favor this type of action.
The Drug War
Regardless of your opinions about drug use or the wisdom of government prohibition of drugs, it is undeniable that there is no constitutional authority for a federal drug war. When we look back at the federal prohibition of alcohol from 1920-1933, which was essentially based on the same philosophy as the war on drugs, it is interesting to note that the government of that period felt that they needed to pass a constitutional amendment before they had the authority to implement the policy. No such amendment exists for the current federal drug policy.
Mitt Romney, just like Barack Obama, favors continuing to interfere with the states’ constitutional right to determine drug policy for themselves.
Government Health Care
Romney’s support for government-run health care while governor of Massachusetts is well known, although it is not itself unconstitutional. The beauty of the Constitution is that states are free to pursue their own policies. However, even as Romney runs on an anti-Obamacare platform, he still doesn’t understand the primary reason why Obamacare is problematic, namely that it is an unconstitutional intrusion into the people’s business.
Romney has been running on “Repeal and Replace”, although exactly what it would be replaced with is uncertain. Anything less than privatization of health care would be unconstitutional, and yet as recently as two weeks ago Romney said, “Of course there are a number of things that I like in health-care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with preexisting conditions can get coverage.”
It is clear that Romney does not understand that the Federal Government has no authority to interfere with health care, nor does he seem to get that this government interference will always create more problems than it seeks to solve.
The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act bestows unconstitutional powers on the president, giving him the right to indefinitely detain, without trial, anyone accused of aiding terrorists regardless of any evidence against them. Some conservatives rightly criticized President Obama for signing this legislation, citing its obvious unconstitutionality.
Romney has unequivocally said that he would also have signed this legislation. He has also supported the idea that the President of the United States can order the killing of an American citizen who is merely accused of being dangerous saying that it “absolutely” is an appropriate use of presidential authority. Exactly how this view can be squared with the Constitution’s limits on the executive branch, much less the rest of the Federal Government, is well beyond anything I can comprehend.
The Patriot Act, signed into law in 2001, is one the most disappointing events for “constitutional conservatives” who believe that Republicans will defend the Constitution. The Patriot Act violates several parts of the Bill of Rights, the Fourth Amendment foremost among them. In his book, The Constitution in Exile, Andrew Napolitano wrote, “The Patriot Act has allowed the government to circumvent completely the Fourth Amendment requirement of a search warrant in order to obtain information to be used against an individual in a criminal prosecution.”
Romney, like the rest of big-government, Constitution-hating Washington, has fallen in line in supporting it.
Presidential War Powers
Earlier this year Leon Panetta drew intense criticism from the right for saying of the president’s war powers, “Our goal would be to seek international permission. And we would come to the Congress and inform you and determine how best to approach this, whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress.”
These notions go against what James Madison said, which was that “The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the Legislature the power of declaring a state of war.”
Mitt Romney, however, agrees much more with Leon Panetta than he does James Madison. Romney has said of the war powers question that he, as president, would “let the lawyers sort out” what was the correct manner to go to war. More recently he has said, “I don’t believe at this stage if I’m president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force.”
If it is an affront to the Constitution for Obama to ignore Congress in using military force, so too is it for Romney to do the same.
I have already pointed out that Romney, or at least his campaign, cannot follow the rules within their own party. While this is not itself a violation of the Constitution, it does give us an insight into how Romney views rules and restraints on his own desires. It would be incredibly foolish to expect that Romney and the people he surrounds himself with would behave any differently while in power than they do when they are seeking it.
I understand the argument for voting for Romney because he’s not as bad as Obama and, although I don’t agree with it, if people feel that is their best strategy then they are free to pursue it. But in doing so nobody should bestow on Romney characteristics that he clearly doesn’t have, especially not that of being a champion of the Constitution. Conservatives who vote for Romney should be honest with themselves about who he is and, more importantly, who he’s not.
They should also reconsider being condescending and belligerent to erstwhile Ron Paul supporters who won’t fall in line. They should remember that it is we who supported the guy that actually has consistently defended the Constitution throughout his career. To condemn us as culpable for any further damage that befalls the Constitution is to grossly misapply blame.
The problems that we find ourselves saddled with as a country do not exist because there are a few people who care too much about the Constitution. They exist because there are too many who care too little.