O’Donnell and the First Amendment

by Ramesh Ponnuru

I’ve now listened to the audio three times, once each after reading the comments on my original post, Allahpundit, and Will Saletan. Their interpretation of the exchange might be correct, but I think one that reflects less poorly on O’Donnell is also possible. After Coons says that the First Amendment bars the government from making an establishment of religion–earlier he had specified the federal government–O’Donnell says, sneering, “That’s in the First Amendment.” (Some accounts tack on a question mark, which I just don’t hear.) The question in my mind is: Is she expressing disbelief in the specific claim he has just made, or is she referring back to his initial claim about the separation of church and state? I don’t think the answer is obvious, and would not base large claims–e.g., she’s an ignoramus–on the proper characterization of this remark.

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