Voices of Reason and Restraint
I’ve occasionally been accused of being too hard on conservatives in this column. Some have even asserted that I hate conservatives. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Some of my best friends are conservatives.
What I’m against, and what I mock on a regular basis, are people who use the mantle of “conservatism” as a cover for meanness, selfishness and bigotry, people for whom so-called “conservatism” isn’t about what you believe, it’s about whom you hate. I actually go out of my way to look for reasonable, rational, non-insane conservatives. I’m pleased to say, the hunting has been pretty good recently.
One thing conservatives profess to love is the Constitution. Remember the brouhaha when Supreme Court nominee (now Justice) Elena Kagan quoted her mentor, Thurgood Marshall, in saying that the Constitution, as originally drafted, was “defective” because it recognized and legitimized slavery? You’d have thought she’d advocated setting fire to the original document and replacing it with Mao’s Little Red Book. Yes, some conservatives sure do love that Constitution — until its protections start being applied to someone who looks, prays, loves or thinks differently from them. Freedom of religion? Right to private property? Not for Muslims in Manhattan, bucko! Right to counsel? Shut up, you Islamofascist sympathizers, and bring on the waterboard!
A recent example of conservative disdain for the Constitution arose over the 14th Amendment’s definition of a citizen as anyone “born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”
That really grinds some conservatives’ gears when it’s applied to the children of people here illegally. They really hate the idea of those rotten little brown “anchor babies” being citizens, to the point where some Republican senators have called for at least partially repealing the 14th Amendment.
That got to be too much for former CNN newsman Lou Dobbs. It would be hard to find someone more hard-line on illegal immigration than Dobbs, who’s characterized it as “an invasion.”
But he recently went on Fox said: “The idea that anchor babies somehow require changing the 14th amendment, I part ways with the senators on that because I believe the 14th Amendment, particularly in its due process and equal protection clauses, is so important. It lays the foundation for the entire Bill of Rights being applied to the states.”
Another conservative who suddenly managed to turn up sane was Ted Olson, former solicitor general under George W. Bush and no one’s definition of a bleeding heart liberal.
After a federal judge struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriage, I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of the attorneys who had argued the case for the plaintiffs was none other than Olson. He afterward went on “Fox News Sunday” and proceeded to calmly demolish Chris Wallace’s argument that the judge had created some kind of “new right” for gays and lesbians.
Olson pointed out that the right to marry a person of your choice has long been defined as a fundamental right, “part of liberty, privacy, association and spirituality guaranteed to each individual under the Constitution.” Pressed on the issue of so-called “judicial activism,” Olson responded that it’s a “judicial responsibility” to overturn laws that violate the Constitution, no matter how many people may have voted for them. “Would you want Fox News’ right to report be submitted to a vote?” he asked Wallace.
One conservative writer and blogger I read regularly is David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush and the author of several books on conservatism, including “Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again.” Frum recently responded to an editorial in The National Review condemning the falsely named “Ground Zero Mosque” by using the same sort of rigorous application of the Constitution that conservatives claim to be so fond of (but so rarely adhere to).
“I remain skeptical that the sponsors of this mosque are quite as benign as they have been represented,” he said,
“... but the rights guaranteed by the Constitution do not belong only to nice people. And whatever we may wonder about the mosque promoters, we should also remember the mosque’s users: the thousands of Muslims who work in lower Manhattan, every single one of whom is as entitled to pray as any member of Marble Presbyterian or Temple Emanuel.”
Sane conservatives: They’re out there. They don’t get the same press coverage as the nutballs, birthers and death-panel fabulists do, and to tell you the truth, they’re not nearly as much fun to write about. But they’re willing to be fair, and so am I. At least this week.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage.
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