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Pick and Choose

Sometimes I just don’t understand conservatives. Wednesday the Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing to consider legislation that would prohibit people on the terrorist no-fly list from buying firearms. South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham said he thought the bill goes “too far.” Maine’s Susan Collins said that though she doesn’t like the idea of suspected terrorists buying guns, she opposes the law.

But here’s the rub. These folks, and others, want to preserve Second Amendment rights for suspected terrorists but deny those same people their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by not requiring a Miranda warning.

Interesting side note: Arizona, in addition to being in the news with their new immigration law, is also where the Miranda case occurred. It’s a fun place, for sure.

Anyway, there seems to be one concept, perhaps among others, that is consistent in conservative thinking. Perhaps we could call it Cafeteria-style Constitutional Interpretation. Though the US Constitution, as amended, makes no reference to selectively applying rights, it’s perfectly OK to pick and choose which rights are awarded. Since when did that become acceptable?

Similarly, many conservatives pick and choose which parts of the Bible to follow. In the original texts, Leviticus uses the word to’ebah in at least two places. One instance says no eating of sea creatures that don’t have scales. That is, no shrmps on the barbie. No clams or oysters, either. The other instance is the one that is often used to condemn homosexuality. Leaving aside that to’ebah is widely regarded as having been mis-translated, there are many, many conservatives who like their shrimps. Again, one could regard this as Cafeteria-style Bible Interpretation. And this is also OK in some circles.

So, either we are a nation of laws where those laws are applied equally to everyone or we are a banana republic where laws are a convenience. Let us remember that the Constitution was intended to be an obstacle — an obstacle in the path of government actually or potentially running amok.

For example, habeas corpus is not a right awarded to arrestees; it is a check on the government to make sure they’re not detaining people capriciously. Miranda warnings ensure that what an arrestee says when being questioned while in custody can be admitted in court. Oh, wait! With Cafeteria-style Constitutional Interpretation, none of that matters.

Banana Republic, here we come! And I don’t mean South Coast Plaza…