"I think about this little girl in Newberry, South Carolina. And she was ten years old. She said, 'Do you realize that when your husband becomes the next president of the United States, it will be historical?' But I thought to say, 'Well, what does that mean to you?' And she said, 'It means that I can imagine anything for myself.' And then that little girl started to cry. I mean she broke down in hard tears, streaming down her face, sobbing. This little girl gets it. See, she knows what's at stake. She knows that she's probably already five steps behind in schools that are underfunded, without the resources to prepare her. She knows that if she or her family gets sick, she doesn't have access to a primary care doctor. She's going to be sitting in some ER for hours on end. She knows that her parents' work situation is hit or miss. They don't know what's going to happen day to day. She knows that. But you know what she also knows? That she's so much better than this nation's limited expectations of her. And all she has is hope. That's all she has, is a little hoping and praying, and she's hoping upon hope that we get this right. She is hoping that we get this right. There are parts of that little girl in all of us, especially those of us who are struggling, who have hit some ceiling where they've been told you're not good enough, that you're not ready, that you're not smart enough. 'No, don't, you can't, wait your turn.' We have all heard those limits." - Michelle Obama, 2008
"Generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties - it says what the states can't do to you, it says what the federal government can't do to you. But it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf." - Barack Obama, 2001
It's interesting to learn more and more about the way Barack Obama thinks. Frankly, the more I hear, the less I like him... and I didn't have a whole lot of love to begin with. But to refer to the Constitution of the United States as a "charter of negative liberties" ...well, that's a new one. Limiting the power of the federal government isn't a "negative liberty."
That said, Barack Obama is off in his assessment of our Constitution in a more basic way as well. The Preamble to the Constitution says, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Words are important, so let's take a look at the words our framers used. They wanted to form a more perfect union. That's pretty self explanatory.
They wanted to establish justice. They chose to do this through our governmental system which includes a distinct separation of powers. (Our framers understood a little something about human nature, it seems.) Thus, they created the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. All three branches work together to establish justice.
They wanted to insure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense as well as promote the general welfare of the citizenry. They did this through the "powers of congress" section of the constitution. Here are the specific powers granted to congress:
To borrow money on the credit of the United States.
To regulate Commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.
To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States.
To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures.
To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States.
To establish post offices and post roads.
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.
To constitute tribunals inferior to the supreme court.
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and offenses against the law of nations.
To declare war, grant letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years.
To provide and maintain a Navy.
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.
To provide for calling forth the Militia and execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.
To provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings.
To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
I would make the argument, then, that the Constitution is specifically spelling out what the federal government must do for us. It says that they are to establish and maintain justice. They are to provide for our defense with armies and navies. And they are to establish and maintain a system of money.
Then there's another section of the Constitution that imposes limits on congress. Here are the limits:
The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.
The privilege of the write of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.
No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.
No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any State.
No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one State over those of another: nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another.
No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.
So there are things the government must do on our behalf - and things the government must not do. Of course, in 1913, the government amended the Constitution with Amendment 16 saying that "Ya-huh! We can collect taxes on incomes!!" Of course, their wording was a bit better, "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration." Whew! At least they got that out of the way for Obama... but now he's still not satisfied with the document... because it doesn't demand the redistributive reparations he is seeking. I would argue that it not only doesn't demand it of government, but it doesn't allow it of them.
Now the games we're playing with words include:
"None of us want to see unnecessary burdens on business, but after what we've seen on Wall Street, isn't it obvious by now that we need some common sense rules of the road to protect consumers and our economy?" - Barack Obama (note - he uses the phrase "unnecessary burdens," followed by a "but")
"He (Obama) is not spreading the wealth around. He's talking about giving the middle class an opportunity to get back the tax breaks they used to have... We think the people should be getting that tax break are not continuing to redistribute the wealth up. We think middle class tax payers should get a tax break." - Joe Biden (note - "redistribute the wealth up." What in the world is that?)
"I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody." - Barack Obama
"I know this has been a pretty mean campaign. I was on a television station the other day and doing a satellite feed to a major network in Florida. And the anchor quotes Karl Marx and says in a sense, isn't Barack Obama Karl Marx? You know, I mean, folks, this stuff you're hearing in this campaign, some of it is pretty ugly." - Joe Biden
"What the critics are missing is that the term 'redistribution' didn't mean in the constitutional context equalized wealth or anything like that. It meant some positive rights, most prominently the right to education, and also the right to a lawyer. What he's saying - this is the irony of it - he's basically taking the side of the conservatives then and now against the liberals." - Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, muddying the waters (and his brain) on Obama's "redistribution of wealth" comments. (Note the redefining of "redistribution." Not "equalized wealth," simply "positive rights.")
Ah, well. As Jonah Goldberg said, "In short, Obama and his disciples only demand one kind of transcendence from all Americans. We must, as Obama likes to say, unite as one people, one nation, one American family and transcend all our misgivings about Barack Obama. Then, and only then, will The One fulfill his wife's pledge and fix our broken souls. Only a racist could possibly disagree."