Christine O’Donnell probably hammered home the last nail in the coffin of her chances of winning the U. S. Senate seat for the state of Delaware Tuesday. While debating Democratic opponent Chris Coons, O’Donnell, who has claimed on numerous occasions that she is a constitutional scholar and would vote as a senator strictly according to constitutional standards, displayed the difference between “scholar” and “working knowledge” with regard to the U. S. Constitution.
Not only did she have trouble with the concept of separation of church and state and the First Amendment’s clause of government abstention from laws regarding the establishment of religion, as CNN’s Anderson Cooper pointed out, Christine O’Donnell also had problems with her knowledge of the 14th and 16th (but not the 17th, which covers the election of senators) Amendments, all of which have played heavily in debates during the midterm elections campaign season.
“Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” she asked during the candidates’ confrontation over the teaching of theory of evolution and creationism in the classroom.
The audience erupted in laughter. Chris Coons attempted to explain, paraphrasing the first line of the First Amendment.
Christine O’Donnell would question that the separation of church and state was in the Constitution several more times, including one exchange where she asked for clarification and Coons began to recite the First Amendment.
Coons: “The government shall make no establishment of –“
O’Donnell interrupted: “That’s in the First Amendment?”
For a self-described expert and scholar of the Constitution to ask such a question is tantamount to a pastor admitting he didn’t know where to find the exclusivity of worshiping only the Judeo-Christian god in the Ten Commandments. But she didn’t just ask once; Christine O’Donnell asked several times. As Anderson Cooper pointed out, not knowing the exact wording or which constitutional amendment was which could be overlooked for many, and O’Donnell could be given the benefit of the doubt, but to brazenly continue to act clueless about the non-establishment of religion clause in the First Amendment was — as one onlooker in the Widener Law School audience proclaimed — “unbelievable.”
But O’Donnell wasn’t done displaying her profound ignorance of a document of which she claimed to be an in-depth scholar and for which she was the recipient of a fellowship (later revealed by Anderson Cooper to have been from a conservative think tank, its duration only seven days). She later told a moderator when asked about her thoughts on other constitutional Amendments relative to this year’s midterm elections campaigns (the repeal of all or provisions of the 14th, 15th, and 17th Amendments) that she hadn’t “brought her copy of the Constitution” with her.
O’Donnell said earlier in her campaign that she would be doing no more interviews or press conferences until the November election, but she has debated Democratic opponent Chris Coons twice in less than two weeks, giving the press ample material with which to deride and ridicule her, perhaps even more so than the decade-(or less)-old sound bites that had been problematic for her shortly after receiving the Republican candidacy for the Delaware senatorial seat.
Perhaps she is now considering attaining an intimate knowledge of the Fifth Amendment…
Knowing the basic tenets of the Constitution of the United States is not required to run for a seat in the U. S. legislature. But it should be. The Senate, a seat to which Christine O’Donnell aspires, is part of a bicameral legislative process that decides domestic and foreign polices, making and repealing laws that are supposed to fit within the framework of the guide that is the U. S. Constitution. A working knowledge of those laws and the document upon which many are based should be a prerequisite for the position, as it should to become a member of the House of Representatives and the president of the United States.
“What she got right was the technicality,” Cooper generously said of O’Donnell’s First Amendment gaffe. “What a lot of people think she missed was everything else.”
As the video clips shown by Cooper illustrated, Christine O’Donnell seems to be far from an expert on the U. S. Constitution. And although an expert on the Constitution would not be a guarantor of competent law-making and/or legislating, it would have been far more beneficial to O’Donnell’s credibility as a potential senator had she simply shown a rudimentary knowledge of the over-arching legal guideline that is the Constitution. What appears to be a misguided attack regarding the technical wording of the first line of the First Amendment came off as either an unsubstantiated religious-based interpretation of the Amendment or complete ignorance of its scope.
Perhaps Christine O’Donnell, self-described constitutional scholar and in-depth analyst, could enroll in a Constitutional Law course at Widener.