O’Reilly: “I Don’t Care About The Constitution”

Conservative commentators continue their war on the Constitution this week with increasingly shrill rhetoric of how our laws and civil liberties are endangering us. Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly, however, achieved a remarkable low by declaring “I don’t care about the Constitution” on air in a discussion of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try five detainees in New York.

I am always struck by anti-American rhetoric that comes from such figures. The Constitution is the very thing that defines who we are as a nation. It is the thing that we have sacrificed lives and treasure to protect. Yet, people like O’Reilly have little reluctance in trashing it. I am less surprised by Karl Rove, who has shown little personal commitment to the rule of law and barely escaped an indictment in the Plame matter. Rove declared that giving a fair trial to terror suspects is a “long-standing plot” by “left-wing lawyers who do not love America.” America, it seems, is something other than our values and founding documents. It is, I suppose, Fox News.

I have no delusion about O’Reilly, but I am still struck by the dismissive contempt shown this common article of faith between citizens, the Constitution. While we have considerable political, religious, and cultural differences, that document is something of a covenant of faith between us as citizens. One cannot love this country without loving that document. What is less is land and “lifestyle.” O’Reilly’s statement is every bit as offensive as those of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom I also denounced. Yet, it was met with acclaim rather than condemnation from conservative viewers.

75 thoughts on “O’Reilly: “I Don’t Care About The Constitution””

  1. Byron: “can we even declare war on non-state actors? Or would we declare war on Afghanistan as a means to get Al Qaeda? But then how do we justify a declared war on Afghanistan if we did not declare war on Saudi Arabia as well? This is all very confusing to the layman.”

    If you take a step back from the ‘living constitution kool-aid’ and realize just how far the document has been stretched by both sides of the aisle in an attempt to fabricate a platform that does not exist within the purview of constitutional law and reason, i.e. a war on terror, you may find the experience quite centering.

    We are not at war Byron. The 9/11 AUMF is not a declaration of war and the addition of wartime rhetoric regarding said authorization also does not create a state of war.

    The United States has been using military force against undefined enemies in pursuit of an undefined objective; thereby leading to something closely resembling this:

    Capt. Dobbs: You admit it!

    Capt. Yossarian: I admit I’m being [attacked].

    Capt. McWatt: Yeah? By whom?

    Capt. Yossarian: By them!

    Capt. Dobbs: But, who specifically is “them”?

    Capt. Yossarian: Every one of them!

    Capt. Dobbs: Every one of who?!

    Capt. Yossarian: Every one of who do you think!

    Capt. Dobbs: I haven’t any idea!

    Capt. Yossarian: Then how do you know they aren’t?!

    Insert obligatory “1984” quote here regarding claims to power via perpetual war…

  2. Paulie,

    And you miss the point. As usual. But since you have such a woodie for situs:

    Where was the 9/11 attack carried out? Here. That gives the courts subject matter jurisdiction.

    Were all the actors involved here at the time? No. It involved Saudi money and manpower utilizing training camps in Afghanistan. Not all the responsible parties were on the planes.

    Can they still be gotten? Most certainly.

    Even thought they never entered the country there is always conspiracy and aiding and abetting. All you need is a valid charge (easy) and getting them here (physical jurisdiction). There being here for the time and at the situs of the attack(s) is irrelevant.

    Enjoy choking on your own illogic.

  3. BobEsq:

    can we even declare war on non-state actors? Or would we declare war on Afghanistan as a means to get Al Qaeda? But then how do we justify a declared war on Afghanistan if we did not declare war on Saudi Arabia as well? This is all very confusing to the layman.

    And what about uniforms? Do they have to be “real” uniforms? The North Vietnamese wore “black pajamas”.

  4. How can a foreigner, without stepping foot on U.S. soil, be subject to the jurisdiction of the United States?

    The answer to the Polanski question is easy. He is charged with committing a crime while on U.S. soil. As long as the country in which he resides agrees to extradite him, he should be tried in the jurisdiction in which he is accused of committing the crime.

    The country of origin is irrelevant. A legal visitor to the United States is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States while on our soil (except for ambassadors). The visitor has temporary allegiance. In exchange, the protections (rights) afforded citizens are bestowed upon the visitor.

  5. I’m reminded again of (now Senator) Al Franken’s characterization of many on the political right: 4 year olds. It’s an amazingly useful framework for understanding this stuff. In the case of BillO, his 4 year old whining, “I’m scared! They’re bad! I don’t care about the rules! Hit them!” In the case of (self blog promoting) Milo, he’s similarly exhibiting child-level moral reasoning, “Always punish bad people! Good people are always good! Only say bad things about bad people!” (You’ll learn from his blog that enforcing the Establishment Clause is “anti-Christian” and enforcing the Constitution as a whole, as the ACLU does, is “anti-American.” Also, any impingement on the “free market” is Socialism. (Just don’t ask him to actually define Socialism, or if he’s ever met an actual Socialist…) Quelle suprise.)

  6. Paully: “Is our “living” Constitution not capable of recognizing non-state sanctioned acts of war?”

    The Constitution does not recognize declarations of war against gerund forms of verbs; e.g. a war on terrorism.

    Please further note that an authorization for use of military force and the twisting rhetoric and the constitution like taffy also does not constitute a state of war.

    To put it another way, you’re not empowered to change the laws of physics simply because the ball didn’t happen to bounce your way.

  7. That is unless you also want a military tribunal for Roman Polanski too. In which case you’d just be simply nuts.

  8. Paully,

    Prisoners of war are defined as enemy combatants of signatory states fighting under the flag and orders of a recognized state. GC eligible soldiers must have conducted operations according to the laws and customs of war. This requires that they:

    1) be part of a chain of command,
    2) wear a uniform and
    3) bear arms openly.

    Thus, irregular military, terrorists and spies are excluded. This is not equally applied by all member states either. Guerrillas and mercenaries may not wear a uniform or carry arms openly, yet are typically granted POW status if captured. Period. Their native citizenship is irrelevant. Their actions on behalf of a foreign power is relevant. A trial on American soil for crimes committed against Americans held in accordance with the Due Process provided Constitutionally is the best way to demonstrate the superiority of the American system. Because these actors are not officially state sanctioned, the GC is inappropriate and so are military tribunals. Civilian criminal process should be applied. Since civilian criminal process is the appropriate venue, you seem to suggest that they should get show trials and the rights YOU want to let them have instead of what they are guaranteed by the Constitution TO PREVENT ABUSES.

    You want show trials, Paully. Which means you don’t give a damn about the truth. Civilian trials give the best chance for us to cripple these criminals because they are open and fair and when not fair, they are subject to multiple levels of appeal. At some point, people will start rolling over on their bosses.

    But you?

    You just want to give the terrorists another recruitment tool and hide behind your jingoism. Yeah. Let’s not just set up torture prisons like Gitmo and Baghram. Let’s make secretive military farce trials too that have rules of evidence that are biased toward the military, are not open and deny rights. Why go to the trouble of actually PROVING their guilt? It’s so much easier just to kill them all and not ask any questions. Because of your delusional interpretation of what the function of civilian courts are for and the Rights related to found in the Constitution. Those constraints, called Due Process, are there for EVERYONE’S protection. Not just who YOU pick and choose. This includes non-citizen criminals. Putting a terrorist on trial in a civilian criminal court is no different than putting someone on trail for murder or other crimes they commit here or against our citizens abroad by a citizen of a foreign country. That happens, duh, just about every day. But you want show trails. Nothing that could indicate the true movers behind 9/11 so we can bring them to justice too.

    You got that going for you. Which is nice.

    Or are you afraid of who they’ll roll over on?

  9. BIL,

    The GC provided protections to prisoners of war. Those protections are granted by the sovereign (in our case, the United States).

    Prisoners of war are not citizens or subjects of the country who has captured them. As Blackstone points out, they have no rights, except those which are granted by the sovereign. Those rights provided for by the GC are not equal to the rights of a citizen or subject.

    What we have done is to grant rights, normally reserved for those who demonstrate allegiance to this country, to those who are deserving of none. By granting these rights, we perpetuate non-state sanctioned acts of war.

    Is our “living” Constitution not capable of recognizing non-state sanctioned acts of war?

  10. rcampbell:

    I am not trying to persuade you. Your belief system has been developed over many years based on life experiences. At your age you should know what you know and why you know it. My 1 or 2 paragraphs cant compete nor were they meant to.

  11. Paully,

    War by proxy is not new, but your claims of Geneva Convention treatment of actual terrorist is pure nonsense. They would have to be overtly operators of the state in question for the GC to apply and a direct acknowledgement by some like the Saudis that they are attacking us would get them turned into a fine radioactive dust.

  12. The quote wasn’t taken out of context. O’Reilly said I don’t care about the Constitution….” What was implied (the context of the sentance) was “I don’t care what the Constitution says… about how these acts and defendants should be treated, I want you, Mr. Napolitano, (who is usually a realable legal hand puppet for Fox’s slant including regarding torture) to agree with ME.” Not out of context at all.

  13. “O’Reilly’s words, again, were taken out of context. The two gentlemen were talking about terrorism, not the Constitution. Of course, think what you want … Professor Turley wrote it, so it must be true. Now, that’s smart … no matter how you look at it.”

    I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION. His words. He said it. Play the “taken out of context card” on the Limbaugh show. That excuse doesn’t fly every time a conservative talk show host gets busted for something they said, on tape.

  14. The easiest way to defend the constitution against blow hard pundits is to quiz them on the topic.

    They tend to, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, criticize what the don’t understand.

  15. Milo Divincenzo

    Mr. Turley,

    Your career seems to be based on the defense of America’s enemies. Any chance that you’ll defend a patriot one day? After all, there wouldn’t be such a thing as constitutional law without them.


    One need look no further than the words of Milo to illustrate how badly our education system has failed so many of our citizens.

    I constantly hear well-meaning educators talk about the number of ways we are failing to educate our inner-city children and I agree with most of what they say. However, the emerging plethora of supposedly educated adult conservatives, tea-baggers, deathers and birthers, uttering nonsensical words about the Constitution and patriots, and believing every lie, no matter how far fetched, uttered by a talking head on television and radio indicates that our education system has been failing students for years. So much ignorance and the incapacity to apply critical reasoning to arrive at rational conclusions is a threat to the survival of any democracy.

    An individual can hold any number of degrees and still be poorly educated.

  16. I think we are being treated to govt. propaganda here. We didn’t get a change in govt., we got a change in logo. Bill is a sorry excuse for a human being but his beliefs are not at odds with either Obama or the Congressional “leadership”. There’s the bottom line. They all use the Constitution for toilet paper and they all believe the same things.

    This is theater to keep the left hating the right while forgetting to watch their own leadership. Fox news works for the ruling elite. They would never and do not now oppose them. If the govt. can incite people to hate each other, we won’t realize that many of us disagree with both Bill and Obama. We won’t unite to restore our rights because we fail to see who’s really taking them away.

  17. BIL to nal: “While the liver is still available, don’t forget it comes with a caveat.”

    One wonders if that offer comes with a side of Fava beans?


    rcampbell: “But, make no mistake, this is mostly political theater. If Obama/Holder can successfully prosecute these terrorists in New York City when Bush was too afraid to do it, it’ll score incredibly powerful political points just before the 2010 elections.”

    The trials are interesting on a level that has nothing to do with Obama’s political stake in it or the superficial political considerations discussed in the MSM IMO. Unless there is concrete evidence gathered before they were tortured that can convict them, the judge is going to be put into a position of having to allow evidence tainted by torture or having to suppress that evidence.

    In the case of KSM, that he was tortured is not in question. Just how close the justice system is going to come to allowing proof gained with torture to be presented in court is going to be interesting and precedent setting. If proof elicited under torture gets in with the blessing of the judge it will legitimize the use of torture as a means of evidence gathering and wed our justice system to it.

    Considering how degraded Americans rights have become thanks to the new methods of information and evidence gathering (against American citizens) post 9-11, I fear that torture will become just another tool for Federal law enforcement to use against American citizens in any case that can be brought under the national security umbrella.

    I am though amused at some of the rhetoric being used against using the criminal justice system for KSM and the others. I have been watching the talking heads and their guests arguing the point and at least Rudy Giuliani and Jim Webb weighed in with the gem that these guys are “war criminals” and for that reason should be tried by a military court. 🙂 Right, except they’re not; if they were war criminals they would have been prisoners of war and we would have had to follow the Geneva conventions on the treatment of POW’s. I’ve been watching Olbermann and Maddow to see if they would make an issue of those statements or rationale but it must have slid under the radar.

  18. I wish Congress would reenact the The Glass-Steagall Act. I guess that’s wishful thinking. Too many people serving in Congress-both Democrats and Republicans–get large campaign donations from the folks on Wall Street. These folks may even be using bailout money to lobby our Representatives and Senators.

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