(First published in the October 2004 issue of The American Legion magazine)
The subject of constitutional interpretation may seem like a topic best fitted for an ivory-tower debate, but it actually has a very real and dramatic impact on daily life (as will be demonstrated shortly). In recent years, two competing viewpoints have emerged.
Probably the first exposure most citizens had to the two views came during the 2000 presidential debates. When asked what type of judges should be placed on the bench, candidate Bush responded: “I believe that the judges ought not to take the place of the legislative branch of government … and that they ought to look at the Constitution as sacred.… I don’t believe in liberal, activist judges; I believe in strict constructionists.”1 Candidate Gore countered, “The Constitution ought to be interpreted as a document that grows.”2 Gore later stated, “I believe the Constitution is a living and breathing document.… We have interpreted our founding charter over the years, and found deeper meanings in it in light of the subsequent experience in American life.”3 So, the two choices are … follow original intent, or construct a living constitution.