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American Opinion: Recite the Constitution or ‘terminate’ it? GOP, make up your mind

From the editorial: McCarthy may think that he must keep quiet to secure his speakership, but doing so ties his party tightly to Donald Trump’s outrageous and blatantly un-American statement.

Bonus Editorial Cartoon for Dec. 9, 2022.
Cartoonist Dave Whamond draws on Kevin McCarthy's hypocrisy for not criticizing Donald Trump's call to terminate the U.S. Constitution.
Dave Whamond
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Kevin McCarthy said that if he becomes the next speaker, members of the House of Representatives will take turns reciting the Constitution in its entirety on Jan. 3, the first day of the new session. It’s a stunt apparently calculated to promote GOP members as the true constitutional guardians, as they replace Democrats as House leaders.

American Opinion
American Opinion
Tribune graphic / Forum News Service
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Republican speakers began conducting similar readings in 2011 and repeated them every year after their party won a House majority. Members generally jockey for position, vying to read the 2nd Amendment as a signal to their conservative constituents of their right-to-bear-arms credentials or the 10th Amendment to underscore their belief in limited government.

Who will get to recite Article II, Section 1, Clause 8 this time? We’d like to suggest that it be McCarthy himself.

That clause includes the presidential oath of office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

It’s one of the places in which the Constitution directly centers itself as the bedrock of the nation’s laws and the ultimate limit on official abuse of power. Every president has taken the oath, including Donald Trump, who is running again and would presumably take the oath again should he win the election — or otherwise take the office.

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That’s noteworthy because of Trump’s dangerous (and yet, somehow, unsurprising) statement on Saturday that the Constitution should be “terminated” for getting in the way of his quest to retain or regain the White House.

It’s tempting to say that Trump finally revealed his contempt for one of the two central documents of the American experiment — the other being the Declaration of Independence, which warns tyrants that their unlawful overreaches will not be tolerated.

But that’s not quite right. Trump’s contempt for the Constitution and all institutions of American law and democracy has been on display for years and was especially clear in his statements and actions on Jan. 6, 2021.

For anyone who didn’t quite get the message — McCarthy, for example — Trump recently sat down to dinner at his Mar-a-Lago estate with white supremacist Nick Fuentes, a critic of democracy.

If at that point there still were Republican supplicants who wouldn’t criticize their former president, he has finally played, if you will pardon the expression, his Trump card.

Characteristically, it came in the form of a tweet-sized post on his Truth Social site:

“So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC, & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great “Founders” did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

There it is: termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution, which he swore, so help him God, to protect and defend.

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The supposed massive fraud was an apparent decision by Twitter to block circulation of a widely reported New York Post item about Hunter Biden’s laptop, three weeks before the 2020 presidential election. For the record, nothing in the recent “revelations” about the private company’s decision regarding the item implicate his father, Joe Biden, who was not yet president, in any wrongdoing. Still, for Trump it amounts to fraud and deception so terrible as to warrant throwing out the Constitution and declaring him president.

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The obvious move for any Republican official at this point is to unequivocally break with Trump, who is still the presumptive party leader.

But few said a word against him, including McCarthy, who has tried to ride Trump’s coattails into power and is on the verge of finally becoming speaker. He sets the tone for a House roster that includes people who are — hard to believe — even riskier guardians of the Constitution, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. And his leadership is being challenged by five members who are even further to the right.

McCarthy may think that he must keep quiet to secure his speakership, but doing so ties his party tightly to Trump’s outrageous and blatantly un-American statement. It could only help the GOP, and certainly the country, if McCarthy cites the key clause from Article II — “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” After all, he swore to do the same thing when he took office. So did every other member of Congress.

This American Opinion editorial is the view of the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board. Send feedback to: opinion@wctrib.com.

©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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