Richard Stengel, President Obama’s nominee for US undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, has questioned whether or not the Constitution even matters anymore.
Stengel’s Constitution essay appeared in Time for a Fourth of July cover story in 2011. The controversial article garnered national attention once again after President Obama decided this month Stengel was the right man to help steer public diplomacy in America. The cover showed a picture of the Constitution and asked: “Does It Still Matter?”
“We can pat ourselves on the back about the past 223 years,” Stengel wrote, “but we cannot let the Constitution become an obstacle to the U.S.’s moving into the future with a sensible health care system, a globalized economy, an evolving sense of civil and political rights. The Constitution does not protect our spirit of liberty; our spirit of liberty protects the Constitution. The Constitution serves the nation; the nation does not serve the Constitution.”
A day after Constitution Day this year, Obama sent the Time magazine managing editor’s name to the US Senate for approval.
In his article, the Obama nominee went on to state that the Founding Fathers could never have imagined the mindset of contemporary society. Stengel’s critics probably would agree: Thomas Jefferson and his fellow patriots surely cold not have envisioned an America with the federal overreach that is present today.
Richard Stengel also wrote, “The framers were not gods and were not infallible. Yes, they gave us, and the world, a blueprint for the protection of democratic freedoms — freedom of speech, assembly, religion — but they also gave us the idea that a black person was three-fifths of a human being, that women were not allowed to vote and that South Dakota should have the same number of Senators as California, which is kind of crazy.”
Of course, society at the time the document was approved unfortunately did not deem either women or black people equal to white men — but they put into place the process to amend the governing blueprint so that future generations could alter the laws. No, the Founding Fathers were not gods, or even geniuses, but they were intelligent men of vision who knew without a doubt that setting all the dictates in the Constitution in stone was the wrong thing to do.
During an appearance on MSNBC in 2011, Richard Stengel defended his article.
“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.
The Time magazine managing editor has also published several books. Ironically, before taking up the editing post, Stengel was the chief executive officer and president of the National Constitution Center. He also taught a “Politics and the Press” course at Princeton University and was an MSNBC contributor.
Stengel also stated in the Time magazine essay that many countries, including Third World ones with heinous dictators, have had constitutions, and that the document in itself guarantees nothing. Stengel wrote, “A Constitution must embody something that is in the hearts of the people.”
A growing segment of citizens do not know, understand, cherish, or even respect the Constitution. It is up to freedom-loving Americans to make sure that the Richard Stengels of the world do not rip it apart, setting the country on fire in the process.