It is easy to imagine that Chief Justice John Roberts may receive quite a few letters this week. But only one will come from someone who can truly sympathize with what he’s going through.
To: Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.
The Supreme Court of the United States
As you know by now—heck, as the entire country knows—you have been accused of an unwelcome, unwarranted rewrite. (See: Your decision on the Affordable Care Act, in which you rewrote a penalty into a tax.)
You have been charged, even by those who have long supported your conservative bona fides and your position on the highest court, of a high-stakes, high-profile, and highly presumptuous revamp of one of the most significant statutes this country may ever know. I don’t need to tell you: People are upset. Some people, anyhow.
All I can say is: Mr. Chief Justice, Your Honor, I feel ya.
Not long ago, I, too, decided I would rewrite a few of our country’s fundamental laws. Actually, all of them. My target, however, was not simply a few words in a single statute. No, sir. I took (comic) aim at no less than our nation’s founding charter: the Constitution of the United States of America.
No one asked me to. No lower court sent it up to me for a ruling. I just up and did it. I guess, I thought I could help. Not by fixing all the mistakes that James Madison and the Framers left behind (although I do precisely that), but by bringing a little light and levity to the heat and hostility that seem to be sparked whenever someone mentions, and often misquotes or misinterprets, the Constitution.
I’ve been told that some of my solutions, in their absurd way, actually aren’t as crazy as they seem—that my bad ideas make good sense.
I’m not so sure. For starters, I make the preamble rhyme. I await your verdict on whether that’s a good idea.
But I do know this: Many of my solutions are indefensible; all of them are debatable. I’m hoping some are funny. (And between you, me, and Thomas Jefferson, that’s the point.)
Thankfully, when your colleague Justice Scalia met with me, he understood my good intentions, and he was amused by my provocative solutions. I suspect you would be, too.
- On July 5, the National Constitution Center host a special evening program with Kevin Bleyer at 6 p.m. Bleyer talks about how he rewrote the Constitution in his new book, Me the People.
At a minimum, now that I know you are willing to rewrite a word here or there yourself—if it looks like a tax, and quacks like a tax, then certainly the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court can call it a tax—I take heart that I’m not alone in thinking that a good rewrite can sometimes, at least, move the conversation forward.
So on that limited finding, this is my concurring opinion: Thank you.
Kevin Bleyer is a writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, for which he has won multiple Emmy Awards. His latest book is Me the People, where he takes a new look at our Constitution.
Before rewriting the Constitution, Bleyer co-authored the #1 New York Times bestseller Earth: The Book, and negotiated bipartisan consensus as a writer and producer for Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher and Dennis Miller. And he is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, so he secretly runs the government already. He lives in New York, where he regularly poses for portraits.
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