In (Partial) Defense of Ezra Klein
By now even Kalahari Bushmen no doubt know how Ezra Klein shot himself in the foot in his mouth a last week:
Speaking of the House GOP’s plan to read the full text of the Constitution aloud, Mr. Klein said:
You can say two things about it. One, it has no binding power on anything. And two, the issue of the Constitution is not that people don’t read the text and think they’re following. The issue of the Constitution is that the text is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago….
The ensuing dogpile, with which I will assume everyone reading this blog is already familiar, mainly focused on the second “thing.” And not without cause.* But from the very start, a lot of people on the right misconstrued or read badly-crafted paraphrases of his first “thing” as being that the Constitution is not legally binding, causing a another huge pile-on that was not deserved. In fact, the first place I read his comments was on a blog which had paraphrased the “binding” portion of the comment as a lead-in to the “over 100 years old” portion.
Today, even Victor Davis Hanson joined in, misquoting Mr. Klein as having asserted that the Constitution itself, rather than the act of reading it aloud on the House floor has “no binding power on anything.” The error is not essential to his larger point, but it is nevertheless distressing.
There’s plenty of reason to ridicule Klein for the silliness of saying that people can’t understand the Founding document because it’s old. But, trivial though it is, his point that reading it aloud has no legal effect was indeed right. I don’t like it when things my allies say are misquoted and attacked; it’s no better when my allies do it. Obviously Mr. Klein doesn’t appreciate the purpose of the gesture, but that’s no reason to put words in his mouth and slag him for them.
UPDATE (James Joyner): Dodd is now the forth OTB front pager to comment on this. See previous posts:
- Ezra Klein: Understanding The Constitution Is Hard (Doug Mataconis)
- Constitution: An Invitation to Struggle (James Joyner)
- A Simple Example of Constitutional Interpretation (Steven Taylor)
* Incidentally, I do know what Mr. Klein was actually trying to say about the Constitution’s age making it hard to understand. As Mr. Hanson noted, it’s pure sophistry. But that’s beside the point.