Maybe now more than any other time in our Nation’s history, strict adherence to the Constitution and our country’s founding documents is in vogue. As a conservative, this is a welcomed development. Yet, over the past few months, I’ve grown a bit frustrated with the “Constitution or Bust” crowd who rail against anything that is not clearly stated in the Constitution.
It’s one thing when a candidate like Republican Statehouse candidate Tom Shaw pulls the Constitution out of his pocket and says that it gives him the right to carry a firearm. Shaw is correct, the Constitution does grant us the right to own firearms, but Congress has imposed some restrictions, such as that it’s illegal for a convicted felon to be in procession of a firearm. Then, there are others who believe that, if it’s not explicitly written in the Constitution, then the government has over stepped its bounds.
My frustration with the later brand of constitutionalist was elevated at CPAC last week. As I was voting in CPAC’s straw poll, the man standing next to me took issue with the three choices to the question that asked about your core beliefs and ideology. The man filling out his ballot next to me was upset that getting back to the basics of the Constitution was not an option.
Eighty percent of those who voted in the straw poll said that their most important goal is to promote individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government and its intrusion into the lives of its citizens. The other options were promoting traditional values by protecting marriage and protecting the life of the unborn or guaranteeing a safe and secure America regardless of the cost to the government. While “Constitution” was not an option, I think the answer he was looking for was option number one.
Back here in Iowa, 3rd District Congressional candidate Dave Funk has attacked one of his Republican opponents for saying that the Constitution says that the federal government should be in charge of education. Funk is correct in pointing out that the Constitution doesn’t say anything about federal control of education, but his attack on Jim Gibbons is sloppy and not true.
When asked about the role the federal government plays in education, Gibbons said, “Find for me where in the Constitution does it say that the federal government is in charge of education.” Funk’s press release claimed that Gibbons said, “It[’]s fine for me where the Constitution says that the federal government should be in charge of education.” What a difference a few words can make.
The Gibbons interview was done in a restaurant so the audio isn’t the best, but for the Funk campaign to send out a press release that misquotes Gibbons is wrong. It’s also surprising that someone on Gibbons’ campaign didn’t catch the error and set the record straight immediately. The worst thing that can happen to a campaign is making an attack that isn’t accurate. Had Gibbons fired back, Funk’s campaign would have looked really foolish.
Funk’s press release stated that Gibbons’ comments reflect “a sense of confusion,” but it is ultimately Mr. Funk who is either hard of hearing, confused, or was a little too eager to pull the trigger on one of his opponents. Funk’s and Gibbons’ positions on education are similar. Both agree that education is a state and local issue.
While I am sympathetic to strict constructionist candidates like Funk, we must also realize that the federal government does have its hand in education. The federal government provides for things like Pell grants and allows people to deduct the interest they pay on college loans from their taxes. So when Mr. Funk says, “The federal government has no business sticking its nose in the local classroom[,] and we don’t need anyone in Congress who thinks it has the authority to do so.” Does it mean that he would support the repeal of something like student loan interest deductibility? I hope not.
Like it or not, our Constitution was ratified with a Necessary and Proper Clause that allows Congress to do all sorts of things. Some of these things are very important. For example, I’m sure Mr. Funk is okay with the federal government regulating our country’s air space. Our founding fathers could have never foreseen air travel, but thanks this clause, our country wasn’t confronted with a constitutional crisis once the Wright brothers took to the skies.
My point it this. While it is a good thing to limit the size and scope of government, we must remain reasonable in our attempts to shrink government. Programs like social security are about to bankrupt our country, but as an investor in the program, you can be sure that I will want to at least get my money back out of it. That is why many of us supported the push for individual accounts.
While our Constitution should guide the policies for which we advocate, I’m not necessarily looking for a congressional candidate who’s the strictest constitutionalist in the race. I’m looking for a candidate who will consistently and reasonably work to find ways to shrink the size and scope of government.
I don’t think that is asking too much.
Q: No Child Left Behind, what are your thought on federal role in, in education?
A: Ah, You know, I, I think that you got to leave, leave that up, in the most optimum situation, I mean, find for me where the, the, the constitution says that the federal government should be in charge of education. Now, I understand testing, benchmarks, and standards, um, but, you know, a lot of that can be accomplished at the state level. I, I’m concerned, like, I’m concerned, you know, like with what Jonathan Nar-Narcisse has been saying with regard to our, our graduation rates and, uh, uh, it appear that we got some sort of a, a brain drain going on, but that, those things mostly have to be attacked at the state level, and at the local level, you know, uh, but, you know you can’t – bigger is not necessarily better. You came from a, a small school and mo- moved to a larger school. You know kind of what that’s like.
A: You can kind of get lost in the system.
A: And, and along those lines, you know, we’ve got, you know, I’ve got no problem with some, uh, uh, the right to organize labor, right, but when you’re, you’re sitting across from somebody who doesn’t have any vested interest in keeping costs down, that’s an issue.
The audio of the interview can be found here.
The portion on education is around the 19 minute mark.
Photos by Dave Davidson
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