A Citizen Congress Could Restore Constitution

May/​June 1996 • Policy Report

The prospect of a presidential campaign featuring Bill Clinton andBob Dole is, to understate the case, an unpleasant one. Neither manhas a commitment to limited government or the ideals on which theUnited States was founded. Both are career politicians, opposed toreal term limits and unflinching in their willingness to usegovernment to intervene in the affairs of civil society.

President Clinton, it seems to me, is openly contemptuous of theAmerican people. When public criticism of the apparent duplicity ofthe First Lady was growing late last year, the president said, “I saidbefore and I’ll say again, if everybody in the country had thecharacter that my wife has, we’d be a better place to live.” Now,leaving aside the issue of Hillary Clinton’s character, no matter howstellar it might be, it is wholly inappropriate and remarkablyinsulting for the president of the United States to make such acomment about the American people.

Even more insulting, however, was the president’s state of theunion address in which he announced with a straight face that “theera of big government is over.” That from a president who wouldincrease spending over the next seven years by some $4 trillionmore than during the previous seven years; who tried to turnone‐​seventh of the national economy over to the federalgovernment; who has not proposed eliminating a single cabinetpost, major agency, or program; and who, in that very speech,proposed giving $1,000 of taxpayers’ money to every high schoolvaledictorian in the nation.

In the face of such hypocrisy the Republicans might be expected toput forward a candidate of principle who would point out theabsurdity of Clinton’s claiming that the era of big government isover. But, no, the GOP offers up lifetime politician Bob Dole, whohad this to say when asked by U.S.A. Today why he wants to bepresident: “I think maybe, maybe, I’m trying to think of the wordhere, a coming together, maybe. I won’t say it’s my time, but maybesomeone like myself who has the background, when we have theproblems I think they can be solved — a sort of coming together tomake it work. You get into the vision. My vision is what I’ve justsaid.”

Well, we’ve come a long way since Jefferson, haven’t we? Thequestion is, Why? Why has our presidential system generatedthese individuals as major presidential candidates over the pastthree elections: George Bush, Michael Dukakis, George Bush, RossPerot, Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, and Bill Clinton?

One answer is that professional politicians dominate the politicallandscape. Political careerists tend to be disdainful of constitutionalconstraints on their ability to “run” the country. It’s safe to venture,for instance, that the constitutional authority for effectively turninghealth care over to the federal government is an issue that neverentered lifetime politician Bill Clinton’s mind. Watching 35‐​yearlegislator Bob Dole pull out his copy of the Tenth Amendment is ajoke — there’s not a single New Deal abridgment of the TenthAmendment on which Senator Dole hasn’t signed off.

Even Newt Gingrich is fond of citing his “futurist” gurus Alvin andHeidi Toffler’s claim that the Constitution was fine for the SecondWave but clearly not appropriate for the Third Wave we areexperiencing today.

But the truth is, if taken seriously, the Constitution is a greatdocument that will do very nicely, thank you, in the Third, Fourth,Fifth or Whatever Wave a free society generates. Article I, Section8, lists the delegated, enumerated, and therefore limited powers ofCongress. Only a conscious misreading of the commerce clauseand the general welfare clause has allowed the true intent of theFramers to be ignored.

The Constitution was not meant to be divined by scholars on high​.It was meant to be clearly understood by the intelligent layman.Term limits will give us the kind of citizen legislators who willbreathe new life into the Constitution and its role in limiting thepowers of the federal government.

Along the way we will also find candidates for president of theUnited States who are worthy of the office.

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