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Opening Arguments

Bill of goods

The idea that an originalist such as Clarence Thomas doesn't believe in the Bill of Rights is nothing short of preposterous, yet that's what The Journal Gazette tries to sell. In a short editorial today, the JG says that remarks made by Thomas at a March 31 event dedicated to the Bill of Rights suggested "that he was anything but supportive." What remarks were so scary? These:

"Today there is much focus on our rights,” he said. “Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights. I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances. Shouldn't there at least be equal time for our Bill of Obligations and our Bill of Responsibilities?”

 “It seems that many have come to think that each of us is owed prosperity and a certain standard of living. They're owed air-conditioning, cars, telephones, televisions,” Thomas told the students, who would most likely not consider those conveniences symbols of prosperity.

Do the JG editors truly not understand the difference between rights as a pre-existing human possession, whether "natural" or "God-given," that government must be kept away from, such as the right to speak freely and to enjoy the fruits of ones labor, and "rights" granted as a favor by those in power, such as possessions that might be dispensed to favored groups and withheld from disfavored ones, a situation this nation was founded to get rid of? Could it possibly be that Thomas was lamenting the fact that Americans seem to be turning their backs on the real meaning of the Bill of Rights, that they are so willing to trade their hard-won freedom for security? Well, let's check another part of that speech  (pdf file)the paper didn't quote:

I think Jefferson felt that our freedoms were transcendent and that they were inherent rights, and in order to be governed we were willing to give up some of those rights. So ... I tend to agree to Ronald Reagan when he said it, and I think he was simply paraphrasing Jefferson, "our freedoms do not come from the government, the government comes from us."

By golly, I think that's just what he was doing. So, which is it? Was the JG being dense or disingenuous?


tim zank
Fri, 04/17/2009 - 10:28am

To answer your question Leo, both.

tim zank
Fri, 04/17/2009 - 4:02pm

The JG subscribes to the theory that the constitution is a "living" document open to interpretation I'm sure.

Their belief system allows them (like most left leaning bed-shi##ters) to extrapolate the right to a tv cable converter from the first amendment.

They are right in step with the "governent provides all for all" crowd currently occupying the house and senate, and of course, the white house too.

Bob G.
Fri, 04/17/2009 - 5:33pm

Was the JG both dense AND disengenuous?

Um..lemme think...YES!

And "yes" to what Tim said, too.

Thomas referred to having TOO many "rights" as opposed to our Constitutional RIGHTS...BIG differencce, but it DOES keep loons like the ACLU happy and in business (unfortunately).


Michael B-P
Fri, 04/17/2009 - 11:20pm

I don't think they JG editors were being dense or disingenuous. I think they were being lazy by not reading the speech in its entirety, otherwise they would have realized that Thomas was above all expressing his respect and appreciation for those willing to step up and put themselves on the line and to apply themselves for the purpose of achieving something worthwhile.
On the other hand, come to think about it, perhaps the JG editors are simply the sort who are unable to imagine that such sentiments would issue from the lips of a black man due to their own egoistic intervention on behalf of everyone they still believe subscribes to their particular charter of collective victimhood.