- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Crimson coup d’etat

The departure from the scene of Harvard’s former president, Lawrence Summers, may well be a last hurrah for Harvard’s faculty bolshies, as there is handwriting on the wall that cannot be obscured (“Fall on a Summers’ day,” Op-Ed, Monday). The unpopularity of his departure with students suggests that extremism has here authored its own demise and that the 1990s may, in fact, come to be regarded as the true apogee of the left’s ideological influence at Harvard.

As the passage of time gradually sees off the ‘60s activist cohort currently dominating the broader American university scene, it likely will replace them en masse with representatives from a public long since reverted ideologically toward the political center. America beyond the campus gates has always been of a more conservative persuasion, and Americans’ children are increasingly skeptical of holdover leftist dons from another, no-longer-glamorous era. For Harvard and perhaps most American universities, this movement toward the political center has been curiously sclerotic, which in itself reflects unfavorably on those charged with oversight.

If the intellectual vibrancy of a society is marked, at least in part, by how quickly it is able to recover from extreme deviation, other, more agile competitors will perhaps glimpse an advantage that America is the worse for granting.

RON GOODDEN

Atlanta

Scalia and the Constitution

Paul Greenberg’s column (“Constitution: Dead or alive?” Commentary, Monday) argues and presents examples that the Constitution is a “living document” by ignoring the fact that every legal document is subject to interpretation, including not only the Constitution, but also any document drawn up as recently as yesterday. It is unlikely that Justice Antonin Scalia (or any other absolutist) would be willing to declare that there are never any opposing and equally valid interpretations of the Constitution’s meaning. The real difference between the absolutists and their opponents seems to be that the latter believe actual amendments to the Constitution are no longer necessary.

DENIS ABLES

Vienna

Paul Greenberg’s Commentary column on Justice Antonin Scalia’s immoderate comments regarding those who believe in a living, breathing Constitution makes a good point, but only insofar as the undiplomatic language used by Justice Scalia is concerned. Yes, times change, but there is a mechanism in place if society thinks the Constitution is not keeping up with our cultural development — the amendment process. Unfortunately, the established dogma of the legal elites at our law schools is that the Constitution is irrefutably subject to the contortionist’s pen.

Our framework of law then depends on who wears the black robe at a particular time (a la Justice Stephen Breyer and his book “Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution”). One need only view the body of law addressing the establishment clause and the mess created in its wake. Judge Robert Bork’s book “The Tempting of America” offers a sobering look at how far afield our Constitution has been taken, and it should be required reading for all law students and anyone who wishes to truly understand the judiciary’s role in our system of government. A re-examination of how we educate our young lawyers concerning constitutional principles and the role of the judiciary would open a healthy debate where a form of indoctrination has reigned for far too long.

RON BERESTKA

San Francisco

I think Paul Greenberg missed the point of Justice Scalia’s comments regarding the Constitution as a “living document,” or he in fact believes the Constitution should be interpreted so broadly as to be rendered meaningless. A legal document such as those Mr. Greenberg referenced in his comment on leases and wills depends on certitude of interpretation and is written with that very point in mind. Though the Constitution was written in a broad manner in order to widely disperse individual rights, parameters also are written into the document.

What I concluded was meant by Justice Scalia’s comments are that the interpretations of the Constitution made in the 20th century by the American justice system were outside the parameters set forth by the Constitution. When the commerce clause can be so widely interpreted as to include such things as allowing the creation of a Department of Education or when the 10th Amendment can be practically ignored in favor of government intrusion into a state’s right to write and interpret its own laws, the Constitution has been made meaningless.

At the point we have reached, rights can be drawn in the air and enforced by judicial fiat, and the judiciary has usurped the powers the Constitution relegates to Congress and the presidency. To say that important concepts such as ex post facto and the general welfare clause can be interpreted so broadly as to allow confiscation of individual wealth for redistribution is absurd.

At this point, Mr. Greenberg has effectively said he believes in an imperial judiciary for America to oversee our lives, save us from failures and ourselves and delegate our rights as it sees fit.

NORMAN HENDRICKSON

Bowie

Illegal immigration problems

Hats off to the Monday editorial “Churchmen and coyotes,” which castigates many church organizations for their support for illegal aliens. In many cases, they even encourage aliens to enter our country without applying for legal entry.

The House immigration legislation clarifies the law by setting realistic penalties that would deter the practice of rewarding those who enter or encourage unlawful entry into our country.

Many churchmen who are involved in this activity fail to realize that many illegal aliens are criminals.

They also ignore the problems caused by illegal immigration, such as overcrowded schools, hospitals and jails in addition to welfare abuse. Most important, they fail to realize that illegal border crossers include some people from countries that sponsor terrorism and may be part of the war in which we are engaged.

Though I am sure the clerics and their supporters are well-meaning, I wonder whether they also are unaware of some of the problems associated with their actions.

BYRON SLATER

San Diego

Misusing the term ‘Islamophobia’

Tony Blankley, in “Islamistphobia-phobia” (Op-Ed, yesterday), touches on the use and misuse of the term Islamophobia. Although most would abhor a blind nativist reaction against the Islamic faith, a closer look at the concept of Islamophobia reveals that it has been misused by some to smear various dissenters with a broad brush.

The term Islamophobia is often attributed to the Islamic(ist) scholar Tariq Ramadan in the late 1990s. Although it may accurately describe some who are guilty of blind prejudice, it has come to describe and vilify those who legitimately object to the imposition of an Islamic(ist) agenda in Western liberal democracies, whether this be caution about port security, the establishment of Islamic courts in Canada or the closing of public swimming facilities in France so that Muslim women can use them in accordance with Islamic law.

Islamophobia should not be ascribed to those who fight for the preservation of Western democratic traditions. This includes the tradition of free speech, even if the speech is questionable or offensive.

SAUL D. RAW

Brooklyn, N.Y.

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