In Honor of Ed Meese; for Defending the Intent of Our Constitution

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 11, 2009 | Go to article overview
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In Honor of Ed Meese; for Defending the Intent of Our Constitution


It's a good time to honor Edwin Meese, although to some, this may sound curious.

True, the nation's 75th U.S. attorney general concluded his most high-profile government service shortly before the departure from the White House of his great friend Ronald Reagan more than 20 years ago.

During the last two decades, he has focused his not-visibly-diminished energies on ever-wider realms of service - volunteering a lifetime of wisdom hard-won on the turbulent front lines of American law and politics to the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution and countless boards, corporations, nonprofits, universities and government leaders all over the world.

His full life has drawn its harshest criticism from those who have never shared a dominant conviction of Mr. Meese's very public career: that our U.S. Constitution is a one-of-a-remarkable-kind composition, written by men who thoroughly understood not only the hard political realities of their own time, but also the timeless truths of effective government, the vitality (and vulnerabilities) of freedom, and the essential soul of the American people.

Mr. Meese, in other words, is an originalist : a lawyer and constitutional scholar who believes - in the phrasing of Chief Justice John Marshall - that the document on which all American law and jurisprudence is grounded has, from its creation, said what it meant and meant what it said.

That's an increasingly unpopular view among those who hold dear the delusion that our laws and our Constitution, like situational ethics, can be trimmed to fit the ever-changing political sensibilities of individual circumstances, a given case, an ever-vacillating culture.

Nor is it the view of many in the current administration, whose namesake has repeatedly referenced his own qualms with the document and who will soon give weight to his views as he appoints Justice David H. Souter's replacement on the Supreme Court.

But then Mr. Meese is used to defending his views against formidable opposition. In 1985, the still-new attorney general, in a landmark speech before the American Bar Association, called for a jurisprudence of original intent, criticizing judicial activism in terms so blunt that his remarks drew an all-but-unprecedented public response from two sitting Supreme Court justices, William J. Brennan Jr. and John Paul Stevens.

That speech drew the legal line in the sand that has increasingly bisected American jurisprudence for the last quarter of a century, dividing jurists, attorneys, professors, law students, legal journalists and philosophers.

Many have dismissed originalism as an effort to impose 18th-century values on 21st-century Americans. But Mr. Meese has always recognized those enduring, eternal values as the moral truth and legal bedrock on which the republic was built.

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In Honor of Ed Meese; for Defending the Intent of Our Constitution


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