Magazine | March 21, 2011, Issue

Letters

Constitutional Nullities

Allen C. Guelzo asks “just what it is that modern nullificationists don’t understand about supreme,” referring to Article VI of the Constitution and the “supremacy clause” (“Nullification Temptation,” February 21).

What do the non-nullificationists fail to understand about the words “in pursuance thereof,” which appear in the same clause and limit the federal government’s supremacy to laws that were made pursuant to the Constitution?

Pamela K. Grow

Rolla, Mo.

Allen C. Guelzo replies: “In pursuance thereof” was intended only to recognize that, at the time of the Constitution’s adoption, no body of legislation had yet been made under the Constitution; notwithstanding, the Founders wanted it understood that these laws, and not just the text of the Constitution itself, would enjoy “supremacy.” Hence, in the event of a conflict between federal and state statutes, the federal statute is understood to have primacy (this is sometimes called “preemption”). Only a judicial finding that the federal statute is unconstitutional would vacate its authority.

“In pursuance thereof” is not a blank check, handed to anyone and everyone who would like to raise an objection to a federal statute because, in his view of things, the statute does not pursue the same goals as the Constitution. That determination lies in the hands of the courts, under the principle of judicial review laid down in McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819, and has been applied specifically to the question of preemption in Hines v. Davidowitz (1941) and Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council (2000).

It also should be said that the Founders did not stumble into this accidentally. The supremacy clause was written by an anti-Federalist, Luther Martin, whom we might presume to have entertained a few anxieties about an overmighty federal government. If the Founders had wanted to grant nullifying power — to the states or any other body — they would have had more than sufficient opportunity to include it in the Constitution, and more than enough voices demanding such a thing (Charles Pinckney, for starters). That they did not is, it seems to me, sufficient evidence of the wisdom of the Founders on this point. The argument, then, is not with me or even with the federal government, but with the Founders themselves.

Questionable Technique

Your March 7 cover caricature of Tim Pawlenty is holding his hockey stick incorrectly. Is that intentionally symbolic of . . . something? Or is the usually percipient Roman Genn simply not a hockey fan?

Steve Hunziker

Saint Paul, Minn.

Roman Genn replies: Roman Genn does not get paid a lot and has to buy tickets to crappy seats. From which he cannot see many details of the game.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Politics & Policy

It’s Not Just Wisconsin

The knock-down, drag-out fight in Wisconsin isn’t about how much public employees will pay toward their pensions and health-insurance premiums. As union members have loudly insisted, they are willing to ...
Politics & Policy

Real Marriage

It’s the fall of 2006. John Partilla, an Upper West Side advertising executive, meets Carol Anne Riddell, a local news anchor. Like-minded and both brimming with energy, they hit it ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

The Fischer King

Chess plays an important role in the fiction of Lewis Carroll and Vladimir Nabokov, and in the film of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the characters play chess ...
The Straggler

Recycling the Sixties

It starts! January 20, the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, passed with little comment, so far as I could judge. Then the public-sector unions of Wisconsin began demonstrating ...

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

Constitutional Nullities Allen C. Guelzo asks “just what it is that modern nullificationists don’t understand about supreme,” referring to Article VI of the Constitution and the “supremacy clause” (“Nullification Temptation,” February 21). What ...
Athwart

Statuary Sense

For some on the left, the default Republican position on art is generally assumed to be a) hatred of anything that isn’t a crucifixion scene painted by Norman Rockwell, or ...
The Long View

Presidential Daily Briefing

Good Morning, Sir.  The current temperature in Washington, D.C., is 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is roughly 4 degrees in the more universally accepted Celsius scale. The weather today will be sunny, with ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

VERISMO – Gentile Bellini, Constantinople, 1480 Perhaps this fits in some Vasari-like Apocrypha? Sultan Mehmet II, They say, presented by Bellini with An oil of John the Baptist’s severed head, Repined: the painting wasn’t true to ...
Happy Warrior

Banzai Bureaucrats

It isn’t easy being a public-sector-union leader these days. “This is beyond insane,” said Steve Smith, president of the Providence Teachers’ Union in Rhode Island, reacting to the city’s latest ...

Most Popular

Immigration

Angela Rye Knows You’re Racist

The political philosopher Michael Oakeshott said that the “rationalist” is hopelessly lost in ideology, captivated by the world of self-contained coherence he has woven from strands of human experience. He concocts a narrative about narratives, a story about stories, and adheres to the “large outline which ... Read More
Immigration

What the Viral Border-Patrol Video Leaves Out

In an attempt to justify Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s absurd comparison of American detention facilities to Holocaust-era concentration camps, many figures within the media have shared a viral video clip of a legal hearing in which a Department of Justice attorney debates a panel of judges as to what constitutes ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Pro-Abortion Nonsense from John Irving

The novelist has put up a lot of easy targets in his New York Times op-ed. I am going to take aim at six of his points, starting with his strongest one. First: Irving asserts that abortion was legal in our country from Puritan times until the 1840s, at least before “quickening.” That’s an overstatement. ... Read More
Film & TV

Murder Mystery: An Old Comedy Genre Gets Polished Up

I  like Adam Sandler, and yet you may share the sense of trepidation I get when I see that another of his movies is out. He made some very funny manboy comedies (Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy) followed by some not-so-funny manboy comedies, and when he went dark, in Reign over Me and Funny People, ... Read More