Why Conservatives Should Stop Asking GOP Contenders About Constitutional Amendments


Michael Barone responds to the Rick Perry kerfuffle

The Constitution gives the president no role whatever in amending the Constitution. Article V provides two methods for amending the Constitution: two-thirds of both houses of Congress can submit an amendment for ratification by three-quarters of the states, or two-thirds of the state legislatures can call a constitutional convention, whose products must also be ratified by three-quarters of the states. Nothing about the president there at all. He or she has no more power to amend the Constitution than any other citizen eligible to vote for members of Congress.

Nevertheless we hear demands from conservatives that presidential candidates, declared or potential, endorse constitutional amendments. The latest example is the demand by some conservatives that Texas Governor Rick Perry endorse the Family Marriage Amendment, which would prohibit same-sex marriage from being recognized by any state. And we hear repeated calls for presidential candidates to endorse a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Leave aside, for a moment, the merits of these amendments (if anyone cares, I'm against both). Why does it matter whether a presidential candidate or for that matter a president favors a constitutional amendment? 

Barone concludes that "presidential candidates' views on constitutional amendments are irrelevant and should be treated as such." Debate moderators take heed! 

NEXT: Now We See the Conflict Inherent in the System

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  1. Barone concludes that “presidential candidates’ views on constitutional amendments are irrelevant and should be treated as such.”

    But Michelle Bachmann is teh crazy!

  2. The state isn’t being constrained by the limits in the U.S. Constitution, anyway, so why bother expending energy on it in any way, presidential candidate or not?

    1. plus the constitution is a liberal reform of govt

      1. Classica liberal, yes.

  3. What’s really sad is that any candidate who responded to such a question by saying “The President doesn’t have any role whatsoever under the Constitution for amendments. Let’s talk about what the President actually can do,” would be treated as a kook and a crank.

    1. Yup. The best answer any candidate has given to a question so far was Herman Cain when he said in response to the question of what he would do about Afghanistan something to the effect of “I don’t know because I don’t have access to the intelligence of the facts to make an informed decision”. Yet, that answer is pointed to as evidence that he is not a serious person. WTF?

      1. The emperor, as the incarnation of god on earth, is supposed to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. Rational human beings are clearly underqualified.

        1. You don’t have to go quite that far (though clearly for some that isn’t even enough). The President must be the rightful ruler lest our fields turn to barren wastelands. The Lion King details this myth quite nicely – and a vast slice of humanity believes in it without a second thought.

      2. No, see, managing existing wars is actually something the president does. As Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. So, not really the same at all.

        1. I think John was commenting more on the general phenomenon of candidates being expected to have a detailed opinion/position/plan on every concievable matter, regardless of whether it falls within their purview or whether it is reasonable for them to claim expertise on the subject.

      3. Of course when Cain opined on freedom of religion he removed all doubt about his incompetence.

    2. Yup. See Ron Paul.

  4. What is this “Constitution” of which you speak?

    1. It was written thousands of years ago and in a language no one speaks anymore. Don’t worry about it.

      1. Your face is so punchable

        1. Isn’t there a word for that?

          Ah. The google fetched it for me: backpfeifengesicht.

          Those Germans and their hilariously specific, mean-spirited vocabulary. I could just cuddle them all.

    2. I read about this Constitution thing in history class. Once upon a time it was the framework for the Federal Government. It had a list of things the Federal Government could not do. It had a list of rights that the people were supposed to have called “The Bill of Rights”.

    3. It’s the toilet paper they use in Washington.

    4. It was a document written by evil rich white racists with the sole purpose of persecuting everyone else. Then along came St. FDR to free us from its shackles. Didn’t you people learn anything in goodthink civics class?

    5. It’s a wooden ship in Boston.

  5. Hasn’t Ron Paul (and, indirectly, Gary Johnson, perhaps) been the only presidential candidate to explain on several occasions that he’s not going to fuck with shit the president has no power over?

    1. Which explains why most people don’t have any idea who those crackpots are.

  6. I agree that the Constitution gives the president no role in passing amendments, but it seems to be a pretty big stretch to go from that (100% accurate) observation to the position that candidates’ views about the desirability of various proposed amendments is irrelevant. Such questions would seem to provide, at minimum, insight into what kinds of federal judges a candidate is likely to appoint if elected. Presidents can also certainly lobby Congress for passage of particular amendments more effectively than most private individuals.

    1. Well stated, and I concur. Thanks for dropping by!

    2. A President’s view of the Constitution also matters when it comes time for him to decide which parts of it he wants to follow and which parts he wants to ignore. There’s been a lot of ignoring going on lately, throughout the Federal Government. I mean, how many “czars” do we have now?

      1. So many czars. But think how many animated movies with talking bats we’ll enjoy after the revolution.

  7. What about the bully pulpit? That’s got to have some influence on the discussion, even if they have no direct participation in the process.

    1. True. But then, perhaps given the power the executive branch has accumulated over the years, presidents shouldn’t be using the bully pulpit so much (same for congress but the topic here is the president).

      1. Don’t worry. After Obama, nobody will listen to what the president has to say for a while.

    2. I don’t like bullies.

  8. Why do you hate Abraham Lincoln, Mr Riggs? 🙂

  9. So then… if that question came up in a debate… One should answer by addressing FIRST that the President has no constitutional authority on the matter, and then stating their position on the issue?

    1. One should answer by addressing FIRST that the President has no constitutional authority on the matter, and then stating their position on the issue? shutting the fuck up.


      1. One should answer by addressing FIRST that the President has no constitutional authority on the matter, and then stating their position on the issue? shutting the fuck up. rambling on for 20 minutes without clearly stating anything.


        He’s trying to get elected, after all…

  10. I prefer the snap history quiz questions.

    “Compare and contrast the unconstitutional executive activities of Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Barack Obama.” [500 words or more]

    1. But but but. Louisiana! She was so pretty. And cheap. Cheap and pretty! Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have been all over that.

  11. Another thing: shouldn’t we be happy that people are talking about constitutional amendments at all, instead of pure fiat?

  12. Oh, almost forgot:


    *throws gun to Riggs*

  13. Such questions would seem to provide, at minimum, insight into what kinds of federal judges a candidate is likely to appoint if elected.

    Or, you could ask them what kinds of federal judges they are likely to appoint if elected.

    By answering as I suggested, you could make the point that you believe the Presidency does not have unlimited power, and you intend to respect those limits.

    Blathering on about shit the President can’t and shouldn’t get involved in is a good way to show you don’t believe there is anything that isn’t improved by a big old dose of President.

  14. Barone just wants social conservatives to shut up. The Constitution gives Congress, not the President, the right to initiate legislation, declare war (remember that one?), etc. Yet we still ask presidential candidates about such things.

  15. This article is retarded and out of touch with reality. It assumes that because the POTUS has no actual vote on amendments that he/she has no strong influence on the debate.

    Article is like a Libertarian supper club discussion. Out of touch with reality

  16. Unfortunately you don’t need a Constitutional amendment at all to do a lot of damage. What the message really should be is ultimately quoting from Cicero: “The more laws, the less justice.”

  17. Just think what might happen if two-thirds of the states did call for a constitutional convention. I wonder what sort of constitution we would end up with….

    1. Thanks in advance for the nightmares I will be having tonight.

    2. Every state in the Union HAS called for a convention. The Congress refuses to call one.


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