The Washington Times - September 21, 2010, 09:05PM

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana made a tour-de-force of a speech at Hillsdale College Monday night on the nature and mission of the presidency. It is worth reading in full. Much of the message was aimed so clearly at Obama that it surely drew blood:

Listen to the exact words of the leader of President Obama’s transition team and perhaps his next chief-of-staff: “It’s important that President-Elect Obama is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one.” Or, more recently, from the words of the latest presidential appointment to avoid confirmation by the Senate, the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wrote last Friday, “President Obama understands the importance of leveling the playing field again.”

“Take power… Rule… Leveling.” Though it is now, this has never been and should never again be the model of the presidency or the character of the American president. No one can say this too strongly and no one can say it enough until it is remedied. We are not subjects, we are citizens.

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Pence also challenges the reigning orthodoxy of a Constitution infinitely malleable to those who arrogate to themselves the power to define the times:

Is the Constitution a fluctuating and inconstant document, a collection of suggestions the purpose of which is to stimulate debate in a future to which the Founders were necessarily blind? Progressives tell us that even the Framers themselves could not reach agreement in its regard. But they did agree upon it. And they wrote it down. And they signed it. And they lived by it. Its words are unchanging and unchangeable except — as planned — by careful amendment.

The day after this speech, just this morning, columnist Richard Cohen in the Washington Post laid out the contrary view:

This fatuous infatuation with the Constitution, particularly the 10th amendment, is clearly the work of witches, wiccans and wackos. It has nothing to do with America’s real problems and, if taken too seriously, would cause an economic and political calamity. The Constitution is a wonderful document, quite miraculous actually, but only because it has been wisely adapted to changing times. To adhere to the very word of its every clause hardly is respectful to the Founding Fathers. They were revolutionaries who embraced change. That’s how we got here.

The elections this fall will help answer the question of which one of these conceptions — that of Pence or that of Cohen — is believed by most of the American people. It’s worth noting that polls right now indicate that Pence’s preferred side is way, way ahead.