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Paul Hayden

Bachmann Knows Her Constitution

July 4, 2011

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has proven once more that she is no lightweight in the contest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. But you are not likely to hear that view from any of the vacuous talking heads on the network news. It doesn’t fit their template.

Bachmann is currently neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney among likely Iowa GOP voters. She has made a professional case for herself, and shown that she has the stuff to take on Barack Obama in next year’s campaign. But the more viable she shows herself to be, the more reviled she will be by the professional left, which continues to make fun of her no matter what she does, much the same as they have done for the last three years with Sarah Palin. They call her “stupid” and worse.

Of course, most of the national media tend to chime right in with their usual inane non-analysis, the kind they always reserve for conservatives they fear and, hence, despise. I predict that they will attack, malign and mock the Minnesota congresswoman for being “inconsistent” or “hypocritical” or “talking out of both sides of her mouth.”

The venue was Fox News Sunday. Host Chris Wallace's questions were designed to make him appear tough on the Republican candidate, but his demeanor seemed deliberately obtuse. The issue was same-sex marriage, and the question from Wallace was whether Rep. Bachmann favored the right of states to pass their own laws regarding marriage or a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man with one woman.

Bachmann said she supported both, which Wallace admitted confused him. He pressed her again to make a choice. Again she stated the constitutional answer.

"States have, under the 10th Amendment, the right to pass any law they like," she said. "Also, federal officials at the federal level have the right to also put forth a constitutional amendment."

She is absolutely correct. Under our federalist system, states have the right of self-governance and self-determination. The people of the individual states, either directly or through the votes of their elected representatives, have the right to pass laws and to amend their state constitutions in any way they see fit. If what they pass is at odds with the U.S. Constitution, the federal courts will rule on the matter, theoretically striking down that which is unconstitutional and affirming that which is consistent with the founding documents.

By the same token, Congress can put forth amendments to U.S. Constitution, such as the proposed amendment regarding marriage. The threshold is high for passage of any such amendment, requiring two-thirds of the Congress and three-fourths of the state legislatures to approve it. That is why it has only happened seventeen times in our nation’s history since the original Bill of Rights was passed, giving us a total of twenty-seven amendments.

Consequently, Michele Bachmann's view is entirely consistent with the intent of the Founders and with the ingenious system they gave us. But don’t look for the rest of the media to understand that fact any better than Chris Wallace did. They see American political life broken down into two camps: those on the urbane, progressive left, who support the enlightened, 21st century view that the federal government should run everything, and the unsophisticated rubes who support the outdated 19th century belief in state’s rights.

They will never understand the consistency of a Michele Bachmann, who knows that the intent of the Founders was that both should have their role in this great American experiment. We can only hope that her conservative base does not react with an abrupt jerk at the knee without seriously analyzing how refreshing and constitutionally correct her answer really was.

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Copyright ©2011 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.