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Fatal attraction

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Conservatives who claim to love the Constitution are forever wanting to change the Constitution. One might almost question the sincerity of their affection.

Congressional Republicans have tried repeatedly — and will again — to limit free speech by means of an amendment that would allow Congress to ban the burning or other "desecration" of the American flag. They would let Michele Bachmann rewrite James Madison, and they've won House of Representatives approval of this proposal on several occasions. Fortunately, a more sober-minded, Democratic-majority Senate has declined go along.

The Tea Baggers have barrels of bad ideas and one of the worst is their balanced-budget amendment, but since the Baggers run the Republican Party now, this scheme too gets taken seriously. The proposed amendment would require a balanced federal budget every year, cap federal spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product, prohibit any tax increase without a two-thirds majority of Congress, and prohibit any increase in the national debt without a three-fifths majority.

If the amendment was adopted, the government would be unable to respond to emergency, whether military invasion, natural disaster or economic downtown. The central government was paralyzed just that way under the Articles of Confederation, and that was a big reason for the adoption of the Constitution — so that the government could raise revenue. The Founders considered and rejected restraints such as those now urged by right-wing radicals. (Who are not strong on American history, obviously. One of the Republican presidential candidates, Herman Cain, confused the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence throughout a speech announcing his candidacy. Bachmann and Sarah Palin have demonstrated broad ignorance of America's past too.)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, yet another spooky Republican presidential hopeful, has announced his support of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages nationwide. Though Perry purports to believe in states' rights, he'd strip states of the right to legalize same-sex marriages, as a few of them have done.

Perry may actually see more in the Constitution that he doesn't like than he does. Certainly the business about separating church and state can't sit well with him. Just last weekend he was hosting what he called a national day of prayer in Houston, he and like-minded others praying and preaching up a storm. All this was done in partnership with the fundamentalist American Family Association, a Tupelo, Miss., group that opposes abortion and gay rights and believes that the First Amendment's freedom of religion applies only to Christians.

The U.S. Constitution, that noble document, must be protected from friends such as Perry and his kind. It barely survived the last Texas president.


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