In Glenn Beck’s upcoming book — the one with the weird cover picture — Beck takes at least a few pages to expand on his love, and unwavering defense of, the federal Constitution. There’s just one problem: the document he defends is unrecognizable to anyone who has a passing acquaintance with history.
Perhaps most shockingly, Beck reads the Fourteenth Amendment for the least it must be worth — citizenship for freedmen ONLY — rather than what its history plainly indicates it was meant to confer. The Fourteenth Amendment’s framers knew how to draft a provision targeted only at former slaves and their children. They did just that, in the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. And yet, the text of the Amendment is clearly targeted at creating a universal definition of citizenship (birthright), and conferring upon citizens the federal rights that states could, before the Civil War, legally withold. It’s nothing less than a complete revamp of the state/federal relationship, which Beck bemoans, but the founders plainly intended (read this law review article). His grudge is against Charles Sumner (R-MA), not modern judges. Note, too, that Beck’s hyper-narrow reading of the Fourteenth Amendment — replacing “persons” with “freedmen” — would exclude women from its protection. In his world, they’ll have to find their Amendment.
If Beck’s Constitution minimizes the rights-oriented sections of the Fourteenth Amendment, it hopelessly enlarges § 3, which penalized the South’s political leaders, and those who gave them “aid and comfort,” by barring them from federal office. The section tracks the constitutional definition of treason, U.S. Const., Art. III, § 3, which in turn tracked the common-law definition of treason. Treason is the only crime defined in the Constitution, to prevent future politicians from enlarging the definition to suit their own means, and its meaning is thus purposefully narrow. Too narrow for Beck, who would define “aid and comfort” to include shaking hands with foreign potentates, in contravention of half a milennium of jurisprudence on the subject. Don’t tell Rumsfeld.
Oh, and let’s not forget Beck’s apology for the slave trade. This is what happens when uneducated fanboys are given a podium from which to expound their deranged views. Words lose meaning.