latest constitutional protection proposal
by PAT MURPHY
vote-addicted senators always looking ahead to the next election have
discovered an inexpensive, if not unscrupulous, way to harvest media
attention and a few votes from grateful pleaders of narrow issues.
cost of their gimmickry is to their political integrity and the good name
of earnest colleagues who revere statesmanship rather than one-upmanship.
Propose a willy-nilly change in the U.S. Constitution to heal whatever
they believe ails a bloc of constituents.
checked several years ago, something like 180 amendments to the U.S.
Constitution had been proposed over previous years, many variations on the
same topics. The last one voted out of Congress to the states for
ratification was the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972, but was declared dead
in 1982 after failing to be approved by 38 states.
one has popped up — not surprisingly supported by President George W.
Bush, who desperately needs the sweet scent of populism in a White House
where the odor of Enron, Global Crossing and Arthur Andersen still hangs
heavy in the air like the rot.
proposal would guarantee "victims rights" by adding this wording
to the Constitution — "The rights of victims of violent crime,
being capable of protection without denying the constitutional rights of
those accused of victimizing them, are hereby established and shall not be
denied by any state or the United States."
So what are
the "rights of victims of violent crimes"?
explain the vague wording means that courts would be obliged to notify
victims of violent crime when a criminal is sentenced or appears at a
parole hearing so they can sound off about their suffering.
by the Senate, ratification would need the approval of at least 38 states.
ask, do President Bush and the principal sponsors, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.,
and Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., believe this issue is grave enough to
monkey with the Constitution?
they claim, some state judges are indifferent to rights of crime victims.
That’s hardly big thinking. Instead, it reveals what obsesses Washington
— trying to amend the Constitution to resolve prickly issues involving
school prayer, abortion, gun rights, desecration of the U.S. flag, tax
exemptions for corporations and heaven knows what other special pleadings.
seems to be a lost virtue. Some senators with a yen for the frivolous
would reduce the grandeur and vision the U.S. Constitution to little more
than a menu of cheap lawyerly gimmicks to accommodate single-issue causes.
laws or court rules could just as easily satisfy rights of crime victims.
But that routine approach lacks media appeal. Using a sledgehammer to deal
with a fly achieves political drama for these senators.
authors and backers cynically know that a constitutional amendment in all
probability will fail, and they’ll either be retired or dead by the time
it meanders through the ratification process.
meantime, they reap the benefits of appearing to be noble crusaders.
recent constitutional amendments are ultra-conservatives who seethe at
Supreme Court rulings that interpret the Constitution’s meaning rather
than on the basis of what they call "strict constructionist"
"strict constructionists" were ever to reign absolutely on the
high court, every variation of every social, economic, political and
technological problem would have to be defined and imbedded in the
Constitution to prevent any interpretation of what the Framers meant more
than 200 years ago.
the U.S. Constitution would be wordier than the U.S. tax code. And we all
know how confusing, complicated and overbearing that is.