I don’t get the opportunity to read Salon.com as often I once did, and one of the features I dearly miss are the essays written by one of my favorite political columnists, “Smokin’” Joe Conason. But I had reason to be over at the website earlier this evening, and I nearly overlooked this little beauty—in which he talks about a Congressional representative that I have discussed on the blog in the past:
Now the current vogue for "constitutional" posturing has elicited fresh stupidity from a number of Republicans, notably Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a very popular contender who sometimes seems to believe that anything not specifically mentioned in the Constitution itself is prohibited. (Which would leave her without very much to do as a member of Congress, although that paradox probably hasn't occurred to her yet.)
Today, however, Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., is challenging Bachmann's primacy with a public boast that he purposely returned his family's federal census form without filling out all of the questions. You see, Broun feels that any inquiry beyond the constitutional requirement to "enumerate" the number of persons living in his household is, per se, "unconstitutional." He too has failed to notice that the Constitution empowers Congress to pass legislation in the public interest -- and that, in any case, he is not empowered by the Constitution to determine for himself what is or is not constitutional. (Moreover, as the astute Greg Sargent points out, Article 1, Section 2 expressly directs that the count be performed "in such manner" as Congress "shall by law direct." Although Broun carries the document around in his pocket, that doesn't necessarily mean he has ever actually read the whole thing.)
That such basic ideas would befuddle a member of Congress might have caused the founders to doubt their expectations for self-government, but then they were clearly incorrigible optimists. Meanwhile, Broun is apparently guilty of a federal offense for which he can be fined at least $100 -- and his little protest (of what, exactly?) will require the Commerce Department to send a census surveyor to his house to get the form completed -- at a cost of still more federal dollars, adding to the deficit that Broun surely deplores with great conviction, whether he understands it or not. Or is he a secret Keynesian, trying to make work for the unemployed in this period of terrible economic stress. Somehow I doubt it.
You da man, Joe.