It’s bad enough that the State Board of Education claims David Barton is an “expert” who is qualified to help guide the revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. But now we’re told Barton is a “constitutional expert,” too. Wow. Not bad considering that he earned only a bachelor’s degree in religious education, right?
This is all absurd, of course. Barton is simply a smooth-talking political propagandist who served nearly a decade as vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party. He also founded WallBuilders, a Texas-based far-right organization, as a vehicle for opposing separation of church and state.
But the far-right Web site OneNewsNow (“Your latest news from a Christian perspective”) asked Barton to comment for a story about a New Hampshire congresswoman who argues that the Constitution does not bar the federal government from tackling health care reform [link no longer active]. The congresswoman says that the Constitution’s failure to mention other specific federal responsibilities doesn’t necessarily make them unconstitutional either.
Identified by OneNewsNow as a “prominent historian and constitutional expert,” Barton responds:
“Healthcare is not a federal issue. It is a state and people issue — the same with transportation. The Constitution does say that the federal government can take care of what are called the post roads — those on which the mail travels — but outside of that, states are responsible for their own highways, their own roads, their own county, local, state roads. And her comment about, ‘Well, the Constitution doesn’t cover drug use and drug abuse’ — yes it does, and that is under the criminal justice issues that belong to the states.”
We note the lack of any court decisions striking down the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, which became law nearly a half-century ago. But we will leave arguments about the constitutionality of federal health care reform to real constitutional experts. Barton certainly isn’t one.
Still, Barton’s comments raise some interesting questions. For example, does he think Medicare should be abolished? And does he oppose federal anti-drug and drug safety laws? Really? Of course, we already knew Barton believes our nation’s laws should be based on Christian biblical principles. Can he point to any specific constitutional passages to back that up? (You might recall his arguments that the Bible forbids labor laws as well as progressive income taxes and other taxes on capital gains and inheritance. Apparently, God is a conservative.)
More to the point: why does the right continue to defy credibility by proclaiming that someone so absurdly unqualified is an expert at anything other than pushing political agendas? And why in the world should that person have any substantive role in deciding what the next generation of Texas schoolchildren learn in their social studies classrooms?