Christine O'Donnell Taunts Chris Coons For His Ignorance

By RightKlik

Christine O'Donnell scored big points against Chrissy "Chrome Dome" Coons in a debate on Tuesday during which Christine and Chrissy discussed the First Amendment. Coons misquoted the First Amendment and showed that he's blissfully unaware of about 80% of its content.

The willfully blind left-wing media refuse to acknowledge that their candidate was punked, but the video evidence speaks for itself:

As O'Donnell correctly points out, Coons' words are not in the Constitution.

Note that Coons timidly and inartfully misquotes the establishment clause of the First Amendment:

“Government shall make no establishment of religion..."

I have no idea what the heck that's supposed to mean, but the First Amendment is crystal clear. Contrast Coons' stupid with the Constitution's sublime:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

The distinction between the phrases "Separation of Church and State" and "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" is critically important (and so is the distinction between "government" and "Congress"), and it's clear from the video that Christine O'Donnell very deliberately highlighted this difference:
  • "Where in the Constitution is the 'Separation of Church and State?'"
  • "So you're telling me there's a separtion of Church and State, the phrase 'separation of Church and State' is found in the first Amendment?"
  • “Let me just clarify: You’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?”
Here's the crux of their discussion of the matter:

Coons: "The First Amendment, the First Amendment establishes the separation, the fact the Federal Government shall not establish a religion, and decisonal law by the Supreme Court over many, many decades clarifies and enshrines..."

O'Donnell: "The First Amendment does?" [smiling tauntingly and speaking with a didactic tone]

Coons: "...clarifies and enshrines that there is a separation of Church and State that our courts and our laws must respect."

O'Donnell: "So you're telling me there's a separtion of Church and State, the phrase 'separation of Church and State' is found in the first Amendment?"

...and then Coons pontificates about the Court's sacred right to legislate from the bench.

Coons and O'Donnell were debating in parallel, focusing on two separate issues. Coons was fixated on a hackneyed statist meme, i.e., "the text of the Constitution means whatever liberal judges want it to mean," and O'Donnell was focused on a more sophisticated point, i.e., the constitution is NOT a living, breathing document to be raped and abused at will. Every single word of the Constitution is critically important, as the Constitution is the only thing standing between the American people and an abusive Congress or a tyrannical majority.

Dan Riehl reminds us of what all this means, specifically as it relates to the First Amendment:
While the amendment is clear on the government establishing a religion - no doubt driven by previous events in England, the amendment itself does not mandate that all religion be driven out of government. Separation and establishment are two distinctly different things.
Coons' brand of willful ignorance has real-world consequences and implications:
The First Amendment was designed to protect religion from governmental interference and obstruction. Today, by contrast, the courts seem intent on protecting the people from religion.

Thus the ACLU and other far-left groups use the courts to banish religion from the public square. Christian conservatives like O'Donnell naturally find this disconcerting. The First Amendment, after all, protects the free exercise of religion. Yet the courts increasingly have been infringing upon this basic Constitutional liberty.

So while the elites cluck in disapproval at what they believe is O'Donnell's faux pas, the reality is she knows and understands the Constitution better than they do.
Lefties (and even some squishy Righties) do appear to be sincerely convinced that O'Donnell's didactic interrogation of Chris Coons indicates that she didn't know the answers to the questions she was asking. I'm not buying that. Later in the debate, O'Donnell demonstrated her in-depth familiarity with the First Amendment by challenging Chris Coons:
O’Donnell was later able to score some points of her own off the remark, revisiting the issue to ask Coons if he could identify the “five freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment.”

Coons named the separation of church and state, but could not identify the others — the freedoms of speech, press, to assemble and petition — and asked that O’Donnell allow the moderators ask the questions.

“I guess he can’t,” O’Donnell said.
I'm guessing the same. As Michelle Malkin put it, "When he got caught with his own intellectual pants down, Coons runs to the moderators for cover."

Neo-neocon provides astute analysis:
I have noticed a trend in the MSM that goes like this: the press decides that certain candidates on the right are idiots (Palin and O’Connell come to mind, and Bush before them). There is then a sort of lying-in-wait for the absurd utterance to reveal the utterly moronic nature of that person. However, since the press and pundits are not necessarily brilliant critical thinkers themselves, the utterance they fasten in is often (not always, but often) actually more intelligent than they realize. They may not agree with it, but it is seldom based on nothing, and they reveal their own ignorance in their laughing derision of it.
The controversy surrounding 1773-gate is another excellent example of this phenomenon. HillBuzz: "Whenever the Left attempts to attack and ridicule anyone, they normally just damage themselves, without realizing it."

Excellent discussion at neo-neocon and Michelle Malkin.

Update: Christine O'Donnell may be as "stupid" as Justice Scalia:


  1. This whole dispute, rehashed once again by two pygmies of Constitutional law in the video above, is only so much semantics.

    I would not even begin to dispute that the words "separation of church and state" are not found in the First Amendment. But then again, the word "federalism" isn't found in the Tenth Amendment, either. Neither are the phrases "right to assistance of legal counsel" nor "right to cross-examine adverse witnesses" found in either the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendments. But no sane person would dispute the contention that the Tenth Amendment is about federalism, nor would any sane person dispute that the right to be represented by a lawyer and to cross-examine adverse witnesses are part of what is meant by "due process" in the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments.

    What Coons doesn't know about the Constitution could fill a library. But that doesn't mean I find O'Donnell's brand of Constitutional literalism to be appealing by contrast.

  2. Quick add: the right to counsel is explicitly found in the Sixth Amendment. My point here is that the right to counsel is also part of "due process" in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

    Just so people don't go thinking I forgot about the Sixth Amendment.

  3. It's not just that the words "separation of church and state" aren't there, but that the concept isn't there either. The first amendment protects the church from the state, but it doesn't banish religion from the public square.

  4. I don't claim that religion is or ought to be banished from the public square. Evangelists are free to proselytize, even in a place like a public park. Politicians are free to offer their religion as one of the reasons why voters should consider selecting them, and they are free to rely on the moral teachings of their religion when drafting laws and voting on bills.

    What isn't allowed is governmental sponsorship of religion, governmental endorsement of religion, governmental evangelism. When the government remains silent and does not engage in a religious activity, it governs appropriately. The failure of the government to support religion in a particular instance (for instance, not having a Christmas tree in the lobby of your city hall) is not the same thing as the censorship or suppression of that religion. Religious expression is for individual people, not governmental institutions.

  5. I'm not sure O'Donnell does herself any favors, especially with moderate voters, by being openly dismissive and/or hostile to the idea of the Constitution being applied in anything other than a literal reading manner. There are a lot of people who don't like judicial activism, but if those same people were asked if they preferred a 100% literal interpretation or a moderate reasonable interpretation of the Constitution as applied to the laws, I'm guessing most would favor a moderate reasonable one. As an example, a literal reading would likely lead to people having no rights online whatsoever (since the internet was not conceived when the Constitution was written), whereas a moderate reasonable application would grant at least freedom of speech in online posts.

    I'm with @Transplanted Lawyer: I don't find O'Donnell's brand of distortion by strict literal reading any more comforting than Coons' willful ignorance of the distinction between literal content and judicial interpretation. This may appeal to her base, but I don't think it's a wise approach.

  6. O'Donnell was right; Coons was wrong:


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