The 112th Congress has an unprecedented plan. They are going to read the Constitution-the document that each member will swear to uphold-aloud on their first day. When asked on MSNBC to comment, Washington Post writer Ezra Klein replied “It’s a gimmick. I mean, you can say two things about it. One, is that it has no binding power on anything. And two, the issue of the Constitution is not that people don’t read the text and think they’re following. The issue of the Constitution is that the text is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago and what people believe it says differs from person to person and differs depending on what they want to get done.”
Take that, foolish members of Congress! According to Klein, the Constitution is unknowable, and is only a tool for people to push through idiosyncratic policy proposals. So much for that oath.
But our Constitution’s history and origin is known. In his famous speech to the Federalist Society Annual Lawyers Convention in 1985, Former Attorney General Edwin Meese reminds us that the Constitution is not “buried in the midst of time.” It was not haphazardly written. The Constitution is a careful drafted document: the Founders “proposed, they substituted, they edited, and they carefully revised.” The Constitutional Conventions’ discussions, disputes, and compromises carefully recorded. The Father of the Constitution, James Madison, wrote comprehensive accounts of the convention. “Others, Federalists and Anti-Federalists alike, committed their arguments for and against ratification, as well as their understandings of the constitution, to paper, so that their ideas and conclusions could be widely circulated, read, and understood.” Thus, thanks to the pamphlets, letters, and well-documented debates and drafting records from the founding, the meaning of the Constitution is, in fact, knowable.