David McIntosh’s Political Flyer That Omits Parts of the Constitution
This past weekend, our household (well, my wife actually…) received a direct mailing from David McIntosh for Indiana. The mailer is two-sided, one devoted to McIntosh’s anti-abortion credentials, the other to his pro-gun stance. Both sides of the mailer are worthy of examination … and scorn.
First, let’s take a look at the pro-gun side of the mailing (as it is what first caught my eye):
(Note that I’ve redacted my address…). So take a moment and read the mailer (and in case it’s difficult to read, I’ve reprinted the text below). Oh, and notice the neat picture of McIntosh with a gun!
“… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
My 2nd Amendment platform begins and ends with that statement. This Amendment deserves a much more honest treatment than most candidates afford it. For too long, politicians have done a great disservice to the Bill of Rights by relegating the 2nd Amendment to a quaint privilege for sportsmen, conjuring images of hunters wearing blaze orange. The reality is that it is a fundamental right so highly revered that the Founding Fathers purposefully placed it in the Bill of Rights following our right to free speech, press, assembly, and the petitioning of government. It represents the Constitutional guarantee of our liberties, as well as our right to protect our families and our homes. As your congressman, I will be a staunch guarding of our right to bear arms.
Now let’s break this statement down into a few interesting pieces. First, go back and re-read the introductory quotation and first sentence:
“… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
My 2nd Amendment platform begins and ends with that statement.
Notice anything odd there? Like perhaps the fact that McIntosh’s “2nd Amendment platform begins and ends” with only a portion of the 2nd Amendment? As a refresher, here is the actual text of the 2nd Amendment:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Interesting, isn’t it, that in a mailer complaining that the 2nd Amendment deserves an “honest treatment” and noting its fundamental character, McIntosh can’t be bothered to, you known, actually recite the entirety of the 2nd Amendment. Which of course raises the question: Why does his platform on the 2nd Amendment omit the phrase “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”? Might it be that McIntosh, like many pro-gun, strict constructionists, need to read the Militia clause out of the Constitution in order to advance their view of what the 2nd Amendment really means? Then again, reading something out of the Constitution isn’t very strict constructionist, is it? Or, ask the question this way: If we are to place such importance on the precise placement of the 2nd Amendment within the Bill of Rights, then shouldn’t we also, you known, place similar importance on all of the words in the Amendment? If it was so important that it came second, then must not the Militia clause be similarly important. I’d go a step further even and suggest that the fact that the Militia clause comes before the right granted and rather than after it, the Founding Fathers must have thought that explanatory introduction was very important. And that, of course, leads to the inevitable question of what the Founding Fathers meant when they talked about a Militia and why they felt the need to include that prefatory phrase in the 2nd Amendment. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s conservative justices have also essentially redacted the Militia clause from the 2nd Amendment. So much for vaunted conservative strict constructionism. Remind me again about “activist judges”…
Moreover, don’t you find it interesting that McIntosh tries to boil opposition to unfettered gun rights into a discussion of “a quaint privilege for sportsmen, conjuring images of hunters wearing blaze orange”? No mention of automatic weapons, armor piercing bullets, and an unfathomable number of deaths by gunshot in our homes and on our streets? For that matter, while McIntosh forgets about the Militia clause he also seems to forget about the types of arms the Founding Fathers were talking about. I had a little fun with this notion in my post Should Justice Alito’s Views on Evolving Technology in the First Amendment Context Also Be Applied to Second Amendment Jurisprudence?
Another thing worth mentioning about McIntosh’s views on guns: At a recent forum for the candidates seeking the GOP nomination in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District, McIntosh and the other candidates were ask to answer “yes” or “no” as to whether they would support a federal “stand your ground” law.
McIntosh is the 3rd candidate from the left (the others are, from the left, Susan Brooks, John McGoff, David McIntosh, Bill Salin, Wayne Sebold, and Jack Lugar; sorry about the shaky camera…). Note that former federal prosecutor Susan Brooks, former Marion County Coroner and National Guard Brigadier General John McGoff, and Marion Mayor Wayne Sebold all respond “no” to this question. I examined the problems with Indiana’s “stand your ground” law in my posts Stand Your Ground: An Analysis and Stand Your Ground: A Further Analysis.
And there’s one more aspect to the pro-gun side of the mailer that I want to take a brief look at. As I noted, McIntosh finds the placement of the 2nd Amendment important, noting “that the Founding Fathers purposefully placed it in the Bill of Rights following our right to free speech, press, assembly, and the petitioning of government.” Read that again. Notice anything missing? Maybe it’s just me, but I find a reference to the 1st Amendment that omits religion particularly noteworthy. I suspect that most people, when asked what the 1st Amendment says, wouldn’t remember the part about assembly and petitioning the government; but I also suspect that they do remember the freedoms of speech, press, and religion (not to mention the establishment clause). So why is the mention of religion in the 1st Amendment conspicuously absent from the McIntosh mailing?
Which brings me to McIntosh’s anti-abortion position.
I have always supported bills that say abortion is wrong, because my faith and upbringing taught me all people deserve the same rights of life and liberty. It is our duty to protect these rights for the vulnerable; from the unborn to the most elderly among us. It is a responsibility I take seriously.
I have several comments. First, I appreciate that McIntosh’s views are an expression of his faith and upbringing. That’s fine. But how, then, does he square that with my faith and upbringing that tells me that abortion is permissible (at least under some circumstances)? For a more detailed discussion of this, please see my post Keep Your Religious Doctrine Out of My State’s Laws (posted in the first month of this blog’s existence). Scroll down to the section “Beginning of human physical life”. And for those who don’t want take the time to read that old post, let me at least offer a portion of the testimony from Rabbi Dennis C. Sasso to the Indiana General Assembly in 2006:
Writing into state law what is essentially the doctrinal view of a particular segment of the faith community would impair the freedom of religion of Hoosier citizens whose religious traditions and ethical stances call them to a different understanding of when does human personhood begin. It is regrettable use of political and religious ideology to trump science, threaten pluralism, assault tolerance and encroach on the privacy of citizens.
The issue is not "When does life begin?" Life exists even before conception. The sperm is life. The ovum is life. Every cell and organism is a living entity. Adherents of the Eastern faith, Jainism, gently sweep the path in front of them as they walk in order to avoid stepping on living creatures.
The issue is not "when does life begin", but when is human personhood, that intangible moral and legal category upon which hinge so many privileges and responsibilities of identity and citizenship, established. And on this issue, science offers no answers and theologians and ethicists have and will continue to differ.
While some people of faith may choose to affirm that human personhood begins at conception, at the moment when the ovum and sperm meet, Judaism affirms that personhood begins at birth. In a contest between the fetus and the mother, the Jewish moral tradition will not only permit, but require, that preference be given to the mother.
Until birth, while the fetus is certainly to be cherished and protected, it is not considered an independent legal entity. Judaism honors and protects the fetus. Ours is a tradition that celebrates parenthood and family, but in a contest between the embryo or the fetus and the mother, Judaism preeminently protects the rights of the mother as a viable human person. Both her physiological and psychological needs are to be given preferential status over the rights of the developing fetus.
Do McIntosh’s faith and upbringing trump mine? I also want to address one other aspect of McIntosh’s statement:
It is our duty to protect these rights for the vulnerable; from the unborn to the most elderly among us. It is a responsibility I take seriously.
Really? He takes seriously the duty to protect the rights for the vulnerable? You see, from my perspective, McIntosh and those who share his views seem only to care about protecting the unborn; once a fetus emerges from the womb, that child, should Republican policies prevail, will be essentially on its own (or, in the words of the protest sign shown in my post Proof of the Hypocrisy or That Sign Was True: If you want a Republican to care about you Remain a Fetus). If the family is too poor to afford food or shelter or adequate medical care? Tough luck. And when that child becomes elderly and infirm and needs Medicare? Well, McIntosh supports privatizing Medicare into a voucher system (go back and watch the rest of the video that I posted above).
It’s easy for politicians like McIntosh to claim that they want to protect the vulnerable … but when given the opportunity, they rarely rise to the challenge, instead choosing to side with those who are anything but vulnerable.
Nothing quite like omitting parts of the Constitution while proclaiming how much you love it; nothing like proclaiming the importance of protecting the vulnerable as a crass way to make your possession against reproductive rights clear. And there, folks, is the campaign of David McIntosh.
Oh, and did I mention that he doesn’t even live in Indiana?