Not everything is unconstitutional

Imagine my shock when I learned a federal judge had used the U-word in describing Congress’ decision to no longer dole out taxpayers’ dollars to ACORN.

That U-word would be “unconstitutional,” and the dismaying details are contained in the Associated Press story quoted below:

“The U.S. government’s move this fall to cut off funding to ACORN was unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Friday, handing the embattled group a legal victory. U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon issued the preliminary injunction against the government, saying it’s in the public’s interest for the organization to continue receiving federal funding.”

Don’t you just love judges, federal and otherwise, who sit on high and tell you what your interests are, as if you don’t know this stuff yourself? Oh, but there’s more. The AP story continues:

“Gershon said in her ruling that ACORN had raised a ‘fundamental issue of separation of powers. They have been singled out by Congress for punishment that directly and immediately affects their ability to continue to obtain federal funding, in the absence of any judicial, or even administrative, process adjudicating guilt.’”

It’s interesting that Gershon brought up the matter of separation of powers, since it’s doubtful she understands them herself. Congress has the power to appropriate tax money, not the judicial branch.

Gershon may be overstepping her judicial authority by dictating to Congress whom the body can and cannot fund. And she’s yanked yet another right out of thin air: the “right” to federal funding. The arrogance of some federal officials — that they have a right to taxpayers’ money — continues unabated.

This abuse of the word “unconstitutional” has been going on for some time. With some people, whatever displeases them is, by definition, unconstitutional.

ACORN honchos feel they are entitled to federal funding and scream “it’s unconstitutional” when it’s cut off, the information revealed in those video stings notwithstanding. Opponents of the death penalty don’t like capital punishment, and then declare it’s “unconstitutional” and forbidden by the Eighth Amendment.

What the Eighth Amendment says is this: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” In simpler times, before today’s crop of lefties tried to hijack the English language, the Eighth Amendment simply meant “let the punishment fit the crime.”

No, we shouldn’t execute a man for stealing chickens; but we most certainly should execute the man who tortures, mutilates, murders and then cuts up another human being as if he or she were a chicken.

Today’s death-penalty opponents claim the Eighth Amendment expressly forbids capital punishment. It’d be nice if some of these people constantly howling about “unconstitutionality” actually read the Constitution. There, in the Fifth Amendment, they’d read this:

“(No person shall) be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” That line is also repeated in the 14th Amendment. So the death penalty is explicitly constitutional.

Gershon said in her ruling that ACORN had been deprived of funding without due process. That, according to her, ACORN and Bill Quigley of the Center for Constitutional Rights — which brought the suit to court for ACORN — is by definition “unconstitutional.” But reread closely what the Fifth Amendment says:

“No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property.”

That means the person’s own property, not taxpayers’ money — but Gershon, ACORN and Quigley are incapable of making those distinctions. The people at ACORN feel taxpayer money is their money; they’ve been deprived of it, and they want it back.

What Gershon described may be unfair, but something being unfair doesn’t mean it’s unconstitutional. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was excoriated and skewered for perhaps his most controversial stand: his claim that a prisoner being beaten by corrections officers was not cruel and unusual punishment.

Thomas never said the corrections officers use of excessive force against an inmate was a good thing, or even should be condoned. He just said it didn’t rise to the level of the cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment. Not anything and everything, Thomas contended, is unconstitutional.

That wisdom hasn’t spilled over to the likes of Gershon, Quigley and ACORN. Bertha Lewis, the chief executive officer of ACORN, is celebrating now, but when Congress opens hearings about what her organization has done with federal funds and starts subpoenaing records, account books and receipts for expenditures, she may rue the day Gershon made her ruling.

Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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