Tuesday, May 24, 2005

What a joke

Times reports that two old geezers (Robert C. Byrd, 87, a West Virginia Democrat and John W. Warner, 78, a Virginia Republican) spent the night shteiging over Federalist #66 in an effort to divine Alexanders Hamilton's original intent, on the filibuster question.

What a joke.

(1) "Original intent" is a chimera.

(2) There's no reliable way to read the mind of people who lived 200 years ago

(3) Anyway, the founders didn't speak in one monolithic voice. You might be able to convolute Hamilton, in #66, to support the Dems position, but perhaps I can convolute Jay, in a decision he wrote during his tenure on the Supreme Court to support the GOP?

(4) And why do we care about the opinion of men who thought that slavery was a good idea? That a black man constituted 3/4 of a white man? That a woman couldn't vote? The founders weren't prophets. They had no way of anticipating the challenges of our age. Why should their antiquated views be binding on us?

(5) Most importantly, when 21st century politicians talk about "original intent" they're almost always playing the cynical and partisan game of projecting their biases on to the founding fathers. They don't care what the Founders really thought. The object of the original intent game isn't to divine the true intentions of the Founders. The object is to find a way to recruit the Founders as a defender of your own cherished beliefs.