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Time: ‘Does the Constitution Still Matter?’

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By Doug Powers  •  June 24, 2011 10:11 AM

**Written by Doug Powers

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In the past several months, Time Magazine Editor Richard Stengel has answered and asked the same question, in that order.

From the Daily Caller:

On Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Time magazine editor Richard Stengel presented the cover of his new July 4 issue, which features the U.S. Constitution going through a paper shredder and asks does the document still matter. According to Stengel, it does, but not as much anymore.

“Yes, of course it still matters but in some ways it matters less than people think,” Stengel said on “Morning Joe.” “People all the time are debating what’s constitutional and what’s unconstitutional. To me the Constitution is a guardrail. It’s for when we are going off the road and it gets us back on. It’s not a traffic cop that keeps us going down the center. And what our politics are about – politics are about conflict…”

Stengel also claimed the Constitution doesn’t limit the federal government:

“If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government, it sure doesn’t say so…The truth is, the Constitution massively strengthened the central government of the U.S. for the simple reason that it established one where none had existed before.”

The real answer to the question “does the Constitution still matter” is an unqualified “yes.” But don’t take my word for it. Here’s part of a conversation between Stengel and Howard Kurtz from December of 2010 concerning Time’s publication of Wikileaks documents:

KURTZ: But Rick, you say right here in your editor’s note in “TIME” magazine that these documents released by WikiLeaks “harm national security,” and that Assange meant to do so.

STENGEL: Right. I know. But there’s no way around that.

I mean, I believe that’s Assange’s intention. I believe on balance that they have been detrimental to the U.S. But our job is not to protect the U.S. in that sense. I mean, the First Amendment protects us in terms of releasing this information which does enlighten people about the way the U.S. conducts foreign policy.

If the Constitution did not limit the size and power of government the First Amendment would be moot. Would Stengel be satisfied if the federal government had claimed it had a right to edit parts of his Wikileaks story on the grounds that “the First Amendment matters, but not as much anymore”?

Of course the Constitution matters. Implying that it matters less in every area of life other than journalism is an ultimately self-defeating position, as the “free press” may someday discover thanks to “living Constitution” advocates.

It’s a bad idea to consider the Constitution to be a “guard rail” and then give the government the size and power to move it wherever they like (and probably subsequently brag about how many jobs it saved or created).

Related: Don’t miss the featured article in the next issue of Constitution Monthly: “Does Time Magazine Still Matter?”

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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