Antonin Scalia

What's That You're Playing With In Your Pocket?


Once upon a time it was a dark and stormy night, and quicker than you can say Jack Robinson, the ink-stained wretches of the fourth estate, who are ordinarily as proud as peacocks about their gift of gab, were at sixes and sevens, hoping against hope to find a new political cliché that was not as old as the hills. Sad to report, the cupboard was bare, and so the readers were silent as a mouse as the ladies and gentlemen of the press for the umpteenth time trotted out…The Old Constitution-In-the-Pocket Trick:

For years, [vice-presidential chief of staff David S.] Addington has carried a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket; taped onto the back are photocopies of extra statutes that detail the legal procedures for Presidential succession in times of national emergency.

New Yorker, July 3, 2006

Chris Berry, president of WMAL, the local ABC radio affiliate, has carried a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution with him…

Roll Call, June 26, 2006

[U.S. Sen Christopher J.] Dodd's understanding of, and commitment to, the values upon which our country was built and the role of the various branches of government is so profound that he regularly carries a copy of the Constitution in his pocket.

Hartford Courant, May 26, 2006

Known to carry a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket, [attorney James] Brosnahan is guided by a firm belief that all are entitled to legal counsel and has taken on some of the nation's most controversial cases.

San Francisco State University, April 24, 2006

Majodina says that her son now carries a copy of the [South African] constitution in his pocket.

Business Day, 26 May 2006

[Sen. Chuck] Schumer waves around his pocket Constitution…

Blog commenter, January 10, 2006

Captain Ian Fishback, a devout Christian who, like Senator Robert Byrd, always carries a copy of the Constitution in his pocket.

Vanity Fair, January, 2006

[Utah Property Rights Association president Bob Fisher] carries a copy of the Constitution in his pocket.

Salt Lake Tribune, July 4, 2005

With a Bible in his hand and a copy of the Constitution in his pocket, Russell Kanning challenged airport security and was arrested at a security checkpoint at Manchester Airport while trying to board a flight.

Manchester Union Leader, June 12, 2005

For Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), their pocket copy of the Constitution signed by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) on 5/25/05 is "the ultimate sign of their new status as the chamber's lead Democratic dealmakers."

National Journal, June 6, 2005

"There was not a single day of his professional life," said Seton Hall law school dean Patrick E. Hobbs, "when [Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr.] didn't carry a copy of the Constitution in his pocket."

The Washington Post, May 8, 2005

Senator Byrd, who keeps a copy of the Constitution in his pocket…

National Constitution Center, April 29, 2005

But DeLay waved a pocket copy of the Constitution Sunday afternoon as he called the congressional intervention perfectly legitimate.

Orlando Sentinel, March 21, 2005

On World News Tonight on August 8, ABC News reported that its late anchor, Peter Jennings, always carried a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket and had ordered 100 copies to hand out.

Cato Institute

After pulling a copy of the Constitution from his pocket, [Sen. Harry Reid] told reporters that the Senate's "advice and consent" role must be respected.

National Journal, February 12, 2005

[Justice Antonin Scalia] started reaching in his pocket for his copy of the constitution.

Jonathan Goodman's Political Commentary, June 22, 2004

But the primary text for all of [Sen. Sam Ervin's] political sermons was the dog-eared copy of the Constitution that he kept in his jacket pocket.

Journal of Church and State, June 22, 2003

A more equitable solution would be to instruct police chiefs in First Amendment law for everyone—and tuck a copy of the Constitution in the uniform pocket of every officer deployed to assure that the city and the First Amendment stay open.

Nat Hentoff, November 4, 2002

Remember when presidential hopeless Bob Dole bumbled along the 1996 campaign trail, patting his breast pocket, saying he stowed a copy of the 10th Amendment inside?

Joel Miller, April 12, 2002

[CBS producer Fred W. Friendly] often offered visitors a compact copy of the Constitution from his jacket pocket.

Columbia University Record, March 27, 1998

[Justice Hugo Black] would whip his tattered copy of the Constitution from his coat pocket, flip through it to a particular passage and then, in a high voice, read the passage con vivace.

Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel Warrior by Howard Ball. Oxford University Press, 1996

"In some ways they have been terribly wronged, there's no question about it," [Colorado state Sen. Charles] Duke said after one session, a copy of the Constitution poking out of his shirt like a pocket protector.

Rocky Mountain News, May 19, 1996

"What [county-supremacy movement leader] Dick Carver basically does is carry a copy of the Constitution in his pocket, and he just whips it out and waves it around when you ask what's the authority for the county-supremacy ordinances."

Time, October 23, 1995

John W. Marshall has carried it with him throughout his 15 years as a law enforcement officer: a pocket-size copy of the U.S. Constitution.

The Washington Post, February 23, 1995

Once accused of putting himself above the Constitution, [Oliver North] now carries a copy of the Constitution in his suit pocket and brags that he has "the hide of an armadillo."

The New York Times, January 28, 1994

To answer the Senators' challenge, [George Herbert Walker] Bush actually took a copy of the Constitution out of his jacket pocket and reminded the legislators that although it gives them the right to declare war, it also names him as Commander in Chief.

Time, November 26, 1990

[Assistant attorney general William Bradford Reynolds] carries a copy of the Constitution in his breast pocket.

The Washington Post, January 10, 1988

Order your pocket constitution today.


NEXT: The 52-Year-Old Virgin?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Times must be-a changin’.

    CATO use to give them away. But I don’t normally carry it. Afraid the fuzz might confiscate it.

  2. Is this the post that killed the server?

    Oh, I have one of those Cato Constitutions but I’ve never had cause to whip it out.

  3. Keeping it in your pocket, and actually reading (comprehending) it, are two different things, I guess. But there is no need to worry about it now; it has expired.

  4. All these legislators’ carrying around their pocket Constitutions doesn’t seem to result in very Constitutional legislation.

    Perhaps they would better recognize the limitations of their powers if someone produced a large-print page containing only Article I, Section 8, and stapled it to the backs of their coats.

  5. So, with all these copies in circulation, has any assassination attempt ever been thwarted because the bullet struck the copy of the Constitution in the intended victim’s pocket?

    “Lodged right in the 2nd Amendment… The irony…”

    I have a vest-pocket copy of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Probably handier for the average citizen these days…

  6. I too keep a Cato Dn’C on my person, most of the time.

    I wonder how many pocket Constitutions are not printed by Cato?

    I personally find it heartening, that so many keep a copy with them. If only more of them would uphold it even when, make that especially when, they are highly motivated to do otherwise. Right up there on my list of shitty things politicians and judges do, is when they swear an oath to uphold the constitution knowing full well they will gleefully wipe their ass with it whenever it suits them.

  7. Don’t make me use this thing man…I’m not messin around…I’ll use it, I will I tell ya.

  8. I used to keep one in my pocket, but the banana I have in there kept leaking juice on it.

  9. I would hope some sort of osmosis would take place, but I guess not?

  10. Each page of those pocket constitutuons should be stamped in red letters: VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW OR JUDICIAL FIAT!

  11. My stars!!! I’ll be damned if that post didn’t beat the band.

  12. “Excuse me while I whip this out.”

  13. This is encouraging. Maybe some of these people will read the damn thing soon.

  14. Cockstitution In My Pocket

  15. I used to get so many of them tucked in with CATO fundraising letters, that I’d leave a copy behind in hotel rooms I stay in.

  16. Funny how none of them keep the Constitution as a linkable hypertext .pdf document on thier PDA, Blackberry, cellphone, or good old fashioned PC.

    How about the “We the People” preamble Schoolhouse Rock tune as a ringtone? Or Kirk’s recitation from the Omega Glory?

  17. Hell – these bastards aren’t American enough for me. I went ahead and had the damn thing tattooed all over my body. We ran out of room, so I left off a few amendments. Oh well, some of them don’t matter anyway.

  18. Funny how none of them keep the Constitution as a linkable hypertext .pdf document on thier PDA, Blackberry, cellphone, or good old fashioned PC.

    How about the “We the People” preamble Schoolhouse Rock tune as a ringtone? Or Kirk’s recitation from the Omega Glory?

    Yes, I think every session of Congress should begin with a reading of the E Plebnista. Then the leaders of our tribe will always remain mindful of these holy words and their meaning.

  19. Kind of reminds me of the Bible… everyone keeps a copy. Nobody bothers to actually read or follow it.

  20. I thought they were just happy to see me.

  21. Someone should come out with a pocket version of the federal register and the tax code.

  22. Yeah, it’s funny how many of my liberal friends have CATO pocket constitutions. Apparently they all have “crazy libertarian uncles” (in this case the quotes mean a direct quote from one such liberal friend) who gave them a copy.

  23. Isn’t it amazing how so many liberals carry a living breathing document in their pocket?

  24. Interesting. Some of the later posts get back to Warren’s question. Does anyone besides CATO distribute a pocket constitution? I’ve also got several of them lying around, but I find it hard to believe that Chuck Schumer and Chris Dodd got theirs from the same source. I’ve certainly never seen one in book store, although I admit I haven’t looked very hard.

  25. Good God, I got the idea after the first six dozen examples. What, did someone have some free LEXIS time?

  26. Answering my own question through the magic of the internet, it appears that an organization called the National Center for Constitutional Studies does also distribute a pocket sized constitution in more of a pamphlet form. It features a particularly stilted looking portrait of George Washington on the cover and, judging by the back cover, appears to have been designed for grade-schoolers. It made me smile imagining Chuck Schumer pulling that out of his pocket and waving it around in front of a group of reporters, but, if you can take random blog comments as fact, I must assume he had one custom made on the taxpayers’ dime.

  27. Addington’s must be like the Jefferson Bible, with everything cut out that isn’t compatible with running the nation as a dictatorship.

  28. Perhaps they would better recognize the limitations of their powers if someone produced a large-print page containing only Article I, Section 8, and stapled it to the backs of their coats.

    Or better yet, staple it to all DC hookers’ chests.

  29. A simple search for “pocket constitution” reveals that a few publishers sell pocket-sized editions of the U.S. Constitution.

  30. For everyone bragging about the piles of pocket-sized constitutions, I’ve got a deal for you – mail me one, and I’ll send you the extra “I am IJ” bumper sticker I have lying around (looks like the European country-code stickers).

    Email me if you’re interested.

  31. Barney Fife keeps one in his pocket…right next to his bullet. Gawd, the punchlines practically write themselves. Is that a Constitution in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?

    BTW: I notice Cato is also hawking the Constitution in espanol. Don’t they know them damn immy-grant furriners ain’t got no rights…

  32. Jim Walsh:

    I’m unable to find any Cato writings proposing English as the national language, but I do see many writings in favor of more immigration. If there was a point you were trying to make, it slipped by me.

  33. BTW: I notice Cato is also hawking the Constitution in espanol. Don’t they know them damn immy-grant furriners ain’t got no rights…

    I saw that, too. It’d be fun to stir up some real nativist shit by distributing copies at the border.

  34. Yeah, sure, they all have the Constitution in their pockets. And what a pity it is most of their heads are too far up their asses to read the thing.

    On a somewhat side note, can anybody explain why it would be constitutional for the government to tell citizens where they can and cannot go in their heads (ie, prohibition of drug use)?

  35. Don’t they have a pocket copy of the tax code?

  36. I’ve got the US constitution on my PDA. Check out Project Gutenberg. Lots of other historic documents, too.

  37. Tax code would have to be an electronic document. No other way to get it a pocket (or maybe even on one desk)

  38. Of the Americans listed, excepting the Justices mentioned, the only one I believe *might* really have done this is Rodino. The rest are full of shit.

    “Oh, and tell them I always carry a copy of the Constitution in my pocket. It’ll make it seem like I care more about American… stuff, or something”, Senator Shitfuck instructed his press lackey.

  39. Senator Byrd, who keeps a copy of the Constitution in his pocket…

    Of course he does. It comes in handy when burning crosses on people’s lawns, and there’s no kindling handy.


  40. Which one of those guys said:

    “If I run out of toilet paper, I wipe my ass on it.”

  41. What a complete frackin’ waste of space, which pushed more interesting topics off the main page. What 3 or 4 examples aren’t enough? I wanted to see more debate over on libertarians for adults only and the child ward of the state topics – when do parental actions in choice of medicines become child abuse issues? But nooooo, someone appeared to have a case of poster’s diarrhea. Oh well.

  42. In addition to Cato, the government itself prints and distributes a copy of the Constitution. Probably printed by the GPO, I think it’s available through LoC.

    Funny thing, though, is that, unlike Cato’s, the government version omits the Preamble to the Bill of Rights. Can’t imagine what they’d have against language like:

    The conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.

  43. Russ R,

    In the case of the Bible, thank reason.


    Why doesn’t the Cato Institute have a bust of Cato on its website?

  44. Yeah, preferably as portrayed by Bruce Lee in the Green Hornet TV show.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.