Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Tale Told By Idiots

[I]t is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. - Macbeth, Act 5, Sc. 5
So, the latest desperate attempt by the anti-Obama forces focuses its depleting energy on....Hillary Clinton:
If President-elect Barack Obama nominates Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state, many legal scholars believe it would be the former law professor's first violation of the Constitution as president.

Why? Because the Constitution forbids the appointment of members of Congress to administration jobs if the salary of the job they'd take was raised while they were in Congress. (Article I, Section 6: "No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office ... the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time."  Emoluments meaning salaries and benefits.)
True enough, the language is clear. And yet, this is one of those clauses of the Constitution that seems quaint, antiquated, and woefully out of touch like, say, the Second Amendment. Indeed, as Pete Williams points out, this clause has been violated repeatedly over the past century. William Howard Taft named Sen. Philander Knox, Nixon named Sen. William Saxbe, Carter named Sen. Edmund Muskie, and Clinton named Sen. Lloyd Bentsen.
The solution was to roll back the pay hikes in order to fulfill the spirit of the clause.
Now, we're not talking about a massive raise here. It was a cost of living adjustment and one could make the case that, indeed, emoluments were not raised at all, merely restored to their 1990s level. However, a case could be made that any Senator who sat in this past Congress would forever be barred from serving as Secretary of State or any other Cabinet post.
It seems pretty clear this clause was designed to prevent a quid pro quo situation.
But, noooooooooooooooooooooo, that's not how the insane wing of America wants to play this! An example:
"Is Hillary Clinton Unconstitutional?" In a word, Yes -- or, to be more precise, a Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be unconstitutional.
Torture? Constitutional.
Patriot Act? Constitutional.
Abandoning habeas corpus? Constitutional (until the SCOTUS overrules it).
A Senator taking a personal paycut (given that Hillary would have to seriously cut back on her speaking commitments and Bill would have to stop advising foreign governments)? UNconstitutional.