Taking a few liberties with the Constitution

"Me the People" is by Kevin Bleyer, a one-man Constitutional Convention and "Daily Show" writer. Random House
"Me the People" is by Kevin Bleyer, a one-man Constitutional Convention and "Daily Show" writer. Random House
Posted: July 06, 2012

Kevin Bleyer has rewritten the Constitution of the United States.

Bleyer, a writer for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart who has contributed to speeches for President Obama, decided that the Constitution needed revision — and that current politics would never allow another Constitutional Convention. He has laid out his plan in a new book, Me the People: One Man's Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America (Random House, $26).

"We need a convention of one. We need Kevin Bleyer to make all the decisions, on behalf of America, because he knows best," the Emmy Award winner said by phone. Bleyer, who will read from his book Thursday at the National Constitution Center, spoke with The Inquirer about health care, crowd-sourcing the Constitution, and the supreme Supreme Court.

Question: What was your response to the Supreme Court ruling on health care?

Answer: As the writer of the new Constitution, I was ready and I was quite primed for this result … because I didn't just go back to the oral argument of the Supreme Court, I went back to the Militia Act of 1792 and said, "Wait a minute, if George Washington can tell people that everyone must buy a gun and ammunition … "

Q: You talk about being a fake expert. Well, we have an expert in the Constitution as our president. What does that mean for the presidency?

A: Well, here's what I would expect from our president, especially this president: that he couldn't help but cheerlead and endorse my very bold solutions for the separation of powers. The Founders, of course, put Congress first in Article I, for a bunch of, oh, half-baked reasons. I have restored the natural order of things.

What other country, I ask you, has an American president? None. China doesn't have an American president. So let's celebrate our American president, and let's put our American presidency first. That is to say, let's swap the first and second Articles. And I think he of all people, being a constitutional scholar, and also being a — what's the word? Oh, yes — the president — might agree with me, that, heck, first in the natural order of things, the president should come first.

Q: How would you change the Supreme Court?

A: I went straight to the source on this one. I thought about the Supreme Court and, having read the Constitution closely, I realized there was a major error … The framers wrote in the third Article that justices shall serve during good behavior. That's all they wrote, and yet for some reason that is presumed to be, for the last two centuries, justices shall serve forever. They shall serve for their entire lifetime, they have lifetime tenure.

Well, I thought to myself, "Who on the face of the planet would be most amenable to a Page 1 rewrite of the Constitution?" And surely it's the man who has devoted his entire life to preserving every clause, sentence, and piece of punctuation of the Constitution, Justice Antonin Scalia. I sat down with him and told him face-to-face, toe-to-toe, satirist-to-jurist, that I would in fact change lifetime tenure. Revoke lifetime tenure.

And that's when he picked up a fork, poked it in my face, and said, "Don't you dare. And if you do, at least grandfather me in. Because I like my job." … I guess on this one particular case, Justice Scalia isn't the originalist we all thought him to be.

Q: And how would you describe good behavior?

A: I don't have to define it. Because I actually propose a judging body of three people appointed by the president, and those three people would, in fact, judge whether or not justices are behaving appropriately. Now I realize what that means is that I'm proposing a supreme Supreme Court, but there's nothing in the Constitution that says I can't.

Q: Who would you put on there?

A: Oh, well the president would appoint those three. … In my new Constitution, the president is chosen randomly from the population, only among the subset of people who don't want the job in the first place. Because after all, we want reluctant saviors and we want average Joes, and the only way we know that a president will be both reluctant and average is if we pick them at random, even if they don't want the gig. So you have a president chosen at random, appointing three Americans to judge whether or not the nine unelected justices are behaving well. I think it all makes perfect sense.

Q: If you had not already rewritten the Constitution, would you rather it be a Wikipedia-type crowd-sourcing, or would you rather have Founding Fathers?

A: I think what might be an interesting arrangement would be to crowd-source the rough draft and then have a smaller group of people who have really done the work and deserve to be deferred to, to say, "Is this going to work?"

I don't think you need to do what the convention did, which is to hide 50 people away and say, "OK, in secret we're going to rewrite the Constitution, and then try and convince people it's a good idea." Maybe flip the order.

Q: What sort of people would you want to put on this committee to edit the crowd-sourced results?

A: You might need some constitutional scholars, you might need some futurists, people who have designed grand schemes about what the world might turn into. Whether or not you can get a Ph.D. in futurism these days, I don't know. ... Constitutional scholars and maybe one or two fantastical futurists, that's what I'd say.

Q: No Congresspeople?

A: Oh, I don't think so. They've weighed in already. We don't need real politicians; we need real people, right? We don't need politicians.

Contact Jonathan Lai at 215-854-5289 or jlai@philly.com.

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