Thursday, June 24, 2010

Did Emmer Really Study Law?

Tom Emmer isn’t an intellectual. We all know that! But, does he even have smarts enough to lead a state with the intellectual reputation of Minnesota?
by Charlie Leck

It seems to me that some of the folks over at the William Mitchell College of Law, in St. Paul, must be cringing these days as they hear Tom Emmer speak about constitutional matters.

Some of Tom Emmer’s recent remarks about our U.S. Constitution and the Minnesota Constitution raise questions about his civics and legal IQ. A friend sent me an email yesterday suggesting that “whatever law school granted Tom Emmer his law degree seems clearly to have been remarkably ineffective in its instruction.”

Mr. Emmer is vacillating a great deal in some of his recent remarks about the United States constitution. And now he wonders why we even have a Minnesota constitution when the U.S. document seems to take precedent over it anyway.

These may have been good questions in law school, or pre-law studies, but they should be “settled law” in Tom Emmer’s mind by now.

“Apparently, he (Tom Emmer) believes these laws were created by some alien, extraterrestrial force, rather than by fellow citizens who – difficult as this might be for Emmer and his supporters to believe –just don’t agree with his viewpoint. Even more distressing to the radical fringe, the people who don’t agree with that viewpoint are in the majority, and the whole framework of American society is based on majority rule. We have civil rights laws to try to ensure that minorities are not trampled by what is called, correctly, I think, the ‘tyranny of the majority,’ but nonetheless, majority rule is the law of the land.

“If laws can be ignored because you don’t like them, modern society, the work of millions of people over many centuries, collapses, and we’re back to deciding issues at knifepoint, or by who is bigger and stronger and more vicious.

“Mr. Emmer says,… ‘the states shouldn’t be waiting for the courts to decide…’ but that’s what the courts are for, Mr. Emmer – to decide questions of legal interpretation and constitutionality. This most recent proposal, even more blatantly than the earlier proposal from which he appears to be backing away now, disqualifies Mr. Emmer from holding statewide office.

“Mr. Emmer is either so completely ignorant of the U.S. Constitution that he should probably be disbarred, or – as seems more likely – he’s cynically advancing ‘straw man’ arguments that will fire up his Ayn Rand-worshipping supporters, but ultimately leave them disappointed because the answer to his last question is twofold:

“He asked: ‘If the federal government can pass laws effective over all 50 states, why do we even have state constitutions?’”

Well, again, it’s a question Mr. Emmer should have settled for himself in law school, if not before, but here is how my friend answered it.

1. The very same 10th Amendment that Mr. Emmer and his supporters keep pointing to.

2. More than two centuries of legal precedent – the importance of which even an incompetent lawyer should be aware.

Because there’s a good deal of redundancy in the 50 state constitutions, there’s a veneer of plausibility to Emmer’s not-very-serious rhetorical question, but each state, when established, had its own unique social and economic conditions, and felt the need for its own constitution – following the example of the original 13, as some of them did in establishing their legal codes.

Granted, Mr. Emmer, if elected, would surround himself with advisers who could make up for his lack of intellect, but it would still remain embarrassing to have him “out front” as our state’s leading representative to the national and international public. Unless the Republican Party keeps the wraps all over Emmer during the campaign, I think the general, thinking public will get to know him as a man who is not up to this job.


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