The Corner

Politics & Policy

Beto O’Rourke Not Sure the Constitution Still Works

Democratic senate candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke concedes to senator Ted Cruz at his midterm election night party in El Paso, Texas, November 6, 2018. (Mike Segar/REUTERS)

Most of the WaPo interview on Beto O’Rourke is a nonprescription sleep aid. O’Rourke thinks he maybe has something to say about immigration and the border but apart from opposing the wall he isn’t too sure what. He says things like “I don’t know” and “worth debating.” He equivocates on what to do about border security, about withdrawing troops from Syria, about the Green New Deal. He says “I don’t know what to do” in so many ways that you wonder why he bothered to give an interview. Apparently it went on for two hours. How many espressos reporter Jenna Johnson needed to ward off somnolence is unknown.

The piece goes on for 36 paragraphs. It isn’t until paragraph 35 that O’Rourke says something interesting, indeed shocking: That he isn’t sold on the basis of the United States of America.

Johnson doesn’t record her question but it was something about how O’Rourke is torn between a “bright-eyed hope that the United States will soon dramatically change its approach to a whole host of issues” — not a partial host! — “and a dismal suspicion that the country is now incapable of implementing sweeping change.” Sounds like a totally neutral framing of where matters stand.

O’Rourke blathers on. It takes a moment for it to sink in that he isn’t sure the Constitution still works. “I’m hesitant to answer it because I really feel like it deserves its due, and I don’t want to give you a — actually, just selfishly, I don’t want a sound bite of it reported, but, yeah, I think that’s the question of the moment: Does this still work? Can an empire like ours with military presence in over 170 countries around the globe, with trading relationships…and security arrangements in every continent, can it still be managed by the same principles that were set down 230-plus years ago?” (Emphasis mine.)

The Constitution was ratified 231 years ago. There’s not much doubt what he’s referring to. Beto O’Rourke’s take on the Constitution is, “Does this still work?” Exactly what he said to conclude the thought is also not recorded in the story but Johnson adds, “O’Rourke doesn’t yet know the answer, but he’s ready to discuss it.” (If O’Rourke did in fact say, “I don’t know,” that’s immensely more interesting than all of the other “I don’t knows” Johnson reported. Indeed, if he said that, “O’Rourke on the Constitution: ‘I don’t know'” should have been her headline, and the last four paragraphs should have been the first four.)

I’d say a man who appears to be intent on running for president dismissing the Constitution as something that may or may not work is an even bigger gaffe than Jesse Jackson’s reference to New York City as “Hymietown” in the WaPo in 1984. That little nugget wasn’t mentioned until the 37th paragraph of a friendly 52-paragraph Jackson profile, the rest of which has been completely forgotten.

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