In an article yesterday by Media Matters, Newt Gingrich is called out for misquoting the Declaration of Independence, although the article does acknowledge he correctly captured the gist. Gingrich goes on to use that language to raise rightwing policies--opposing women's choice in carrying pregnancies, the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, and healthcare 'rationing'--to categorical imperatives commanded by the Declaration.
Apparently, I am told, his little piece of reporting claimed the attention of the Olbermann program.
But Media Matters, and Olbermann, miss the main point.
The Declaration of Independence is not the operating manual or contract by which the United States and the people govern themselves. Rather, it is a statement of principles justifying revolution. It contains no blueprint for governing, and could be used to justify anarchism. After all, if one is indeed endowed by a creator with inalienable rights, then nothing compels someone to accept any form of government.
The Constitution of the United States is our operating manual. Having revolted from Great Britain based upon the principles of the Declaration, the States first came together under the Articles of Confederation that was a failed experiment. The Constitution of the United States replaced the Articles after approval by the States. It is the contract that we have agreed to that defines our rights and the powers we have ceded to the Federal Government and the States.
Gingrich always conflates the Declaration and the Constitution into our "Founding Documents" because the Constitution is a fairly liberal document and makes no reference to god or a creator. That could not have been an accident. It was the conscious choice of our Founders. Gingrich enjoys the sophistry of extracting quotes from some of the Founders, in other situations, professing their beliefs in a "Divine Providence" or the "Almighty."
But, that only makes the case more compelling that their omission of references to god, or a creator, or the Bible, in the Constitution was deliberate. The "original intenters" on the Supreme Court should take notice.
It is not the Declaration, but The Preamble to the Constitution that sets forth the mission statement of the United States. The States, and people, joined to accomplish certain general agreed outcomes:
--To form a more perfect union (i.e., better than the Articles of Confederation);
--Establish justice; (Newt must have choked on this one).
--Ensure domestic tranquility;
--Provide for a common defense;
--Promote the general welfare (sorry, Newtie, that must hurt); AND,
--Ensure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity (could that mean our land, forests, rivers, streams and air? And, defend the Constitution against encroachment? Can't imagine Newt liking this one).
"AND" is actually the most important word in this string. It means that we have to serve all these goals, so that, for example, my liberty has to be limited by justice and the general welfare and the common defense; or, from another perspective that domestic tranquility and the common defense cannot be achieved at the expense of liberty and justice.
Media Matters, and then Olbermann, missed Newt's real agenda that is the same as it has always been: to use lies, misstatements and sophistry to mislead the American people.
Hopefully, they will see fit to point this out too.