If you want to know the state of right-wing thought, the website to visit is townhall.com. On their pages are gathered columns written by conservatives. Lots of them. I prefer precise numbers to just writing generalities, so I logged onto their main columnist page to count the pundits. I stopped my tally at seventy-five, so I'll stick with "lots of them."
That's a lot more than I can read. Plus, in any given week half of them will write about the same thing--and how many columns on Barack Obama's preacher did we need last week? So usually I just read Ann Coulter and Brent Bozell. They're more interesting than most of the other columnists, and I figure it's good to read at least one right-winger who is REALLY far right as long as she's also funny (Coulter) and one who is more of a mainstream voice. (To be fair, Bozell at times can be a little bit out there too. He once wrote a column decrying the flatulence humor on the cartoon "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy." Bozell and I are of the same generation; my attitude is if he and I could grow up to lead normal lives watching Bugs Bunny drop an anvil on Yosemite Sam, surely today's kids aren't at risk simply because it's a rare moment on Nickelodeon when someone isn't farting.)
But when I checked out townhall.com today, I got a bit of a surprise: Chuck Norris is now a columnist there. Of course, I had to click on his name to see if his voice was adding anything new or interesting to the discussion.
My conclusion? Basically, Norris is adding something bizarre to the discussion. In this column, he ruminates on several subjects, notably the Second Amendment case of D.C. v. Heller which should be ruled on this spring:
Here's the bizarre part in my view:
"First, there was the Supreme Court's wrangling with the Second Amendment. Should it allow private citizens or only public servants ('state militias') 'to keep and bear Arms'?
Is someone joking? Could 27 words be any clearer?! 'A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.'"
So what Mr. Norris is asserting here is that the Second Amendment's meaning is crystal clear.
Now let's see what scholars who have written books and law review articles on the Constituion have said:
"The very wording of the Second Amendment provides fuel for the controversy." -- John R. Vile, A Companion to the United States Constitution and its Amendments, 2nd ed., 1997, p. 143.
"This simple sentence (the Second Amendment) has perplexed most modern readers. How do the two main clauses with different subject-nouns fit together?" -- Akhil Reed Amar, America's Constitution: A Biography, 2005, p. 322.
"No one has ever described the Constitution as a marvel of clarity, and the Second Amendment is perhaps one of the worst drafted of all its provisions." -- Sanford Levinson, The Embarrassing Second Amendment, 99 The Yale Law Journal 637, pp. 643-644.
When even the annotated Constitution maintained by the Library of Congress declares that "there is no definitive resolution... of just what right the Second Amendment protects" I think it's rather apparent Norris is on shaky ground with his premise:
So as you can see, the people who consider Constitutional law for a living DO think twenty-seven words could be clearer.
One other observation on Norris's essay. He quotes a line from Thomas Jefferson's letter to his nephew: "Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks." Do you wonder why the word "therefore" is in that sentence? Obviously, it refers to something Jefferson must have written immediately prior to this.
Here is Jefferson's advice, with the sentence before Norris's citation added:
"Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks."
According to my source, that's from Volume 8 of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1953, p. 407. But what is so great about the Internet is that you don't have to run to an academic library and pull out some massive, dusty book; you can just read the letter from Yale's Avalon Project site:
As the authors of a book discussing the Second Amendment note, "Jefferson's homily... reveals as much about the eighteenth-century English-speaking aristocracy's distaste for rowdy and plebeian soccer as it does about his constitutionalism," Uviller and Merkel, The Militia and the Right to Arms, 2002, p. 24.
My favorite part of the letter, actually, has nothing at all to do with guns or playing ball. It's this little piece of advice on the young man's education:
Then take up antient history in the detail, reading the following books, in the following order: Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophontis Hellenica, Xenophontis Anabasis, Arrian, Quintus Curtius, Diodorus Siculus, Justin. This shall form the first stage of your historical reading..."
Okay, Jefferson's letter to his nephew does contain some sound advice that resonates to this day; I love his remark, "Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains, rather than do an immoral act." But times have changed in over two centuries, and I think it's a bit of a stretch to cite this letter for the principle that it's a good idea to make your gun your "constant companion" (does Norris himself even do that?) when this advice is paired with the notion that one shouldn't play ball games. If Norris has a nephew, I don't expect he will tell him not to participate in baseball, football, or basketball because they are "too violent for the body." And for sure I bet he doesn't tell him he must read Xenophontis Hellenica AND Xenophontis Anabasis.
Although if he did, he might conclude their works were clearer than the Second Amendment.