Something kind of interesting happened today in America’s great debate forum, the U.S. Senate.
Instead of the usual long-winded staff-prepared speeches that we’ve all come to expect from most of that chamber’s gasbags, we instead got a bit of constitutional textual analysis and commentary from the junior Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. Here’s the transcript of Cruz, courtesy of ABC News (there are some obvious errors in transcription; I’ve indicated my corrections with brackets):
Cruz: [It] seems to me that all of us should begin as our foundational document [w]ith the constitution. And the Second Amendment in the bill of rights provides — the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
The term the right of the people, when the framers included in the bill of rights they used it as a term of art — That same phrase the right of the people is found in the First Amendment — The right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition their government for redress of grievances[; I]t’s also found in the Fourth Amendment the right of the people to be free [f]rom unreasonable searches and seizures.
And and the question that I would pose [t]o the senior senator from California is [would she] deem it consistent with the bill of rights [f]or congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment [i]n the context of the [F]irst or Fourth Amendment[--] namely [,w]ould she consider it constitutional for congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books [a]nd shall not apply to the books that [C]ongress has deemed [o]utside the protection of the bill of rights[. L]ikewise[,] would] she think that the fourth amendment’s protection against such searches and seizures [c]ould properly apply only to the following specified individuals[, a]nd not to the individuals [t]hat congress [has] deemed [o]utside the protection of the [Bill of Rights]?
It’s a smart bit of textual analysis to note the consistency of language used in the First, Second, and Fourth Amendments in identifying “the people” and it’s a pretty interesting question that Sen. Cruz raises — surely worthy of substantive followup in America’s great debating forum!
Instead, Sen. Feinstein decided mostly to emote:
Feinstein: Let me just make a couple of points in response. One I’m not a sixth [grader] Senator[, I've] been on this committee for twenty years. I was a mayor for nine years[.] I walked [in,] I saw people shot[.] I’ve looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons[. I've] seen the bullets that implode. In [S]andy [H]ook youngsters were dismembered.
Look there are other weapons. [?] I’m not a lawyer[,] but after twenty years I’[ve] been up close and personal to the constitution.
I have great respect for [it]. This doesn’t mean that weapons of war[...] and the Heller decision [c]learly points out three exceptions[,] two of which are pertinent here. And [so] you know[, it's fine you want to] lecture me on the constitution. I appreciate [it. J]ust know I’ve been here for a long time.
So, in response to Sen. Cruz’s substantive questions, Sen. Feinstein’s initial response it to make it about herself, then to emote rather than address his substantive points, then to mumble something about the Heller decision (a substantive point might have been made here, but wasn’t really), and then back around to taking Sen. Cruz’s comments personally instead of addressing them substantively.
It will be interesting to see how this is covered over the next 24 hours. I’m sure many political journalists (of the left-leaning, emoting school themselves!) will laud the senior senator from California for dressing down the brash young ideologue from Texas.
It’s really a shame that Sen. Cruz didn’t make his point a little more clearly for them by offering an amendment that would,say, prohibit certain “dangerous” words under the First Amendment, but now I’m likely putting myself at risk of being called an ideologue.