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Joseph Sobran’s
Washington Watch

The K-Word’s Debut

(Reprinted from the issue of August 23, 2007)

Capitol Bldg, Washington Watch logo 
for The K-Word's DebutJudith Warner, defending late-term feticide in The New York Times, complains that it “could become legally risky for doctors to use digoxin — a cardiac drug — to kill the fetus up to one day in advance of the procedure.”

Well, blow me down! This is the first time I have ever seen anyone in the Paper of Record use the word “kill” to describe what abortion does. Next thing you know, they’ll be calling those dead things “babies.”

Paul Is a Four-Letter Word

Speaking of taboos, the allegedly conservative Washington Times continues to ignore the one and only conservative seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. It appears as if the Times’s Bushite editor, Wesley Pruden, has banned any mention of Paul in the paper’s pages.

Instead, the Times goes on slanting the news to create the impression that the United States is winning the war in Iraq. This is also the theme sung by its roster of commentators.

Maybe so. Maybe the surge is finally working! But all this ceaseless optimism is getting mighty fishy. First Saddam Hussein was a serious threat to us because of all those nuclear weapons; but once he was toppled, democracy was going to sprout irresistibly across the Muslim world.

Read Joe Sobran's columns by e-mail!Well, “mission accomplished,” and the Iraqi people voted with purpled fingers; and time and again we were told that the turning point had finally come; just as we’re being assured again today that the most formidable and expensive military in history is at last whipping the stateless insurgents.

Only Ron Paul is raising the most basic question of all, the one even the “anti-war” Democrats won’t touch, namely, Why should we be in the Middle East in the first place? Or, to put it another way, if “we win,” what on earth do we win?

Funny that we never talk about conquest anymore. Today it’s known as defense.

What Happened to Our Constitution?

Regnery’s Politically Incorrect Guides, despite their coy titles, are an excellent series of correctives to liberal propaganda. I’d be tempted to call the latest, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, by Kevin Gutzman, one of the most inspired, if only the other volumes I’ve seen weren’t so hard to top.

How to discuss this book without gushing superlatives? I find it even better than its advance praise announced. I’ve studied this subject for most of my adult life, and I can hardly imagine a better book of its kind — fearless, incisive, going straight for the intellectual jugular.

Gutzman contends that the American judiciary, legal establishment, law schools, and media have completely misled the public about the meaning and history of the U.S. Constitution, substituting case law — the accumulated opinions of the courts — for the simple truth. Flimsy “precedent” has usurped the place of history, fact, reason, and even logic. So precedents take precedence, as it were, over the actual words of the Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court winds up treating its own rulings — in Roe v. Wade, for example — as more authoritative than the Constitution itself. No wonder the public is confused: The whole system is incoherent and — well, “corrupt” is a mild term for it. The Constitution becomes whatever the courts say it is. This is a recipe for unbridled, arbitrary power, such as we are already experiencing.

Gutzman puts his finger on the key issue: state sovereignty. Abraham Lincoln falsely said that the states had never been sovereign, even under the Articles of Confederation — a lie plainly refuted by the second of the articles: “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence....” Mark you that: “retains”! So much for “Honest Abe.” (And he was honest, in little things. Like Shakespeare’s Honest Iago, he saved his whoppers for large matters.)

Unless the states retain their sovereignty, including the ultimate right to secede, there is no real check on “federal” tyranny. The whim of a Court majority can literally mean violent death for millions. If even one state had been able to threaten secession over Roe, the Court would never have dared to foist such a monstrous ruling on us. Yet nobody even proposed impeaching those who had usurped the states’ most basic right: the right to protect innocence from violence.

Gutzman’s conclusion is gloomy, but I find it hard to see how he can be accused of undue pessimism; to me it seems simple realism. I reached the same conclusion long ago and see no way around it, no “solution” except for the remote possibility that a stupid and sinful populace and its equally depraved rulers will have a massive conversion. This is about as likely as President Bush’s suddenly speaking in Miltonic periods, Johnsonian paragraphs, and Chestertonian epigrams.

When it comes to the U.S. Constitution, idiocy has been institutionalized so thoroughly that any hope for a return to reason seems like sheer fantasy. Gutzman shows that the truth can still be known and uttered, but not that it has any hope of prevailing in any future we can foresee.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2007 by The Wanderer,
the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867
Reprinted with permission
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