Weak Constitution

Barack Obama is (rightly) taking a beating for his politically expedient moves to the center after campaigning in the primary for a new kind of politics that was, in part, free of guile.

Doug Kennedy and Dahlia Lithwick at Slate are the latest to weigh in with “Obama Veers To The Right, But Does He Need To Take The Constitution With Him?

The piece opens like this:

“Barack Obama’s rightward drift in recent weeks has hardly gone unnoticed or unrewarded. What’s most fascinating about his efforts to appeal to the American center is the extent to which Obama, as a constitutional law professor and Harvard Law Review president, has repeatedly chosen the Bill of Rights as his vehicle for doing so. It’s not an overstatement to say that in the past month Obama has tugged the First, Second, Fourth, and Eighth amendments to the center.

“Not a day goes by, it seems, without a constitutional wink to the right on guns (he thinks there is an individual right to own one), the wall of separation between church and state (he thinks it can be lowered), the Fourth Amendment prohibition on warrantless wiretapping (he’s changed his position on FISA), and on the death penalty for noncapital child rape cases (he thinks it’s constitutional) as well as a possible shift this week on the right to abortion (which could further limit the reach of Roe v. Wade). Such accommodations are not all unexpected. Some of these positions (like his stance on capital punishment) have long been a part of his unorthodox constitutional thinking. Others (such as the hair-splitting on guns) are politically expedient. Nor are such nuanced views unwelcome. Obama is well aware that the ways in which liberals talk about the Constitution are sometimes mired in 1960s mushiness and feel-goodery that no longer resonates with the American public.

“But Obama appears to be compromising on the wrong constitutional issues while backing away from fights on the right ones.”


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