“Washington Post” Editor-Columnist Says Court Decisions OK Federal Katrina Aid; Cites No Constitutional Authority
Our Constitution is such a dead letter and our people so Constitutionally illiterate that when you ask some folks perfectly valid Constitutional questions they act as if you are crazy. Take, for example, Colbert I. King, Editorial Page Deputy Editor of and columnist for “The Washington Post” newspaper.
In a recent column, King joined the chorus of those calling for the Federal Government to rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Wondering how this could be done Constitutionally, I called King to discuss this with him. Here’s our conversation in its entirety:
Q: Where in the Constitution do you see Congress authorized to spend money to rebuild New Orleans or any of the Gulf coast damaged by Katrina?
A: (pause) You mean what they have done so far?
Q: Yes. Where in the Constitution do find the authority for such Federal aid?
A: Have you read Marbury vs Madison?
Q: I’m asking about the Constitution.
A: I’m talking about the Supreme Court decision also. When it comes to enumerating the nation’s power there were some landmark Supreme Court decisions as well. I commend Justice Marshall to you.
Q: But, what about the Constitution? Court rulings are not law.
A: Well, if that’s the way you’re going to answer —.
Q: But, what I’m asking about is where in the Constitution is there authority for such Federal aid?
A: You’re not listening to me. The Constitution has been interpreted by the courts as giving certain powers also to the Federal Government. George Will had an excellent piece two weeks ago about Justice Marshall. And there you will find some of the powers that have – when they were finding their way through what the national government had in terms of powers, there were several decisions that were reached in our early Republic to help define those national powers under the Constitution.
Q: But, of course, court decisions are not law.
A: They are not law?
Q: No, court rulings are not law. Only Congress can pass laws.
A: OK, then we don’t have much to talk about because if you’re saying court decisions have no legal standing then —.
Q: But, court decisions are not law.
A: I’m sorry, but this one I don’t have time to debate.
But, of course, King doesn’t have time to debate this. How could he “debate” this since, obviously, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
A footnote: The case King meant to allude to is McCullough v. Maryland not Marbury v. Madison. –