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Friday, April 2, 2010

The Declaration and the Constitution

Fox reports:

In a video posted on You Tube, Adam Sharp of the St. Louis Tea Party asked Rep. Phil Hare which part of the Constitution authorizes the government to mandate that all Americans buy a private product such as health insurance. The Illinois Democrat replied, "I don't worry about the Constitution on this."

"Jackpot, brother," Sharp said.

Hare cringed in disgust and said, "Oh please. What I care more about, I care more about the people dying every day who don't have health care."

"You care more about that than the U.S. Constitution that you swore to uphold?" Sharp shouted back.

When an observer pointed out that those words come from the Declaration of Independence, Hare said, "Doesn't matter to me. Either one."

In attributing "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to the Constitution, Representative Hare made a common mistake. Here are a few of many examples from The Congressional Record:

  • Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), May 18, 2009: "The question of whether one is ever able to take the innocent life of another intentionally lies at the root of not only Catholic doctrine, but lies at the root of the Judeo-Christian tradition which has given voice to the Constitution where it says we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, with life being the first of those three."
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), January 29, 2009: "I don't see how anybody can vote against an amendment that protects the life of the unborn child after having read the Constitution about its great desire to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
  • Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS), May 13, 2004: "Finally, I encourage all Americans to take this opportunity to rededicate themselves to the ideals set forth in our Constitution that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
  • Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D-OR), January 28, 1998: Our brave men and women in law enforcement are a well ordered militia. They must be the ones to preserve law and order to keep our streets safe. The Constitution guarantees life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Presidents have made the mistake, too. In proclaiming Citizenship Day and Constitution Week in 1982, President Reagan wrote:

The Constitution provides the structure of our federal system and a system of checks and balances that applies equally to each branch of government, to relations between the states and the Federal Government, and, as importantly, to each of us. It protects the rights of all Americans to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and limits governmental authority to ensure these liberties are faithfully protected-both by and from the state.