I figured I ought to expand on the constitutional theory from my last post. It’s a point of some debate, at least within the public at large, and I’m really not sure what case law exists (if it does at all) to expound on the subject (although I’m reasonably sure there has been quite a bit of it).

During her keynote speech to “Tea Party Nation” in Nashville Saturday, former Alaskan governor and media sideshow Sarah Palin elicited cheers when she complained vociferously about the fact that a Nigerian man from Yemen named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — now more commonly-known (and more easily-pronounced) as the Underwear Bomber — has been granted legal representation in criminal proceedings against him stemming from his failed attempt to blow up a passenger jet as it landed in Detroit Christmas day.

Our U.S. constitution,” she called it, pointing out veterans in the audience, and derisively lambasting the president for extending its protections to non-citizens.

I hate to project too much into anything Palin says, because I’m not convinced she does a whole lot of deep thinking about it, but the fact is, her statement expresses a very specific — and foundational — legal theory on what the constitution is and how it works. This theory, roughly, is that by virtue of being a United States citizen, a person is granted specific rights that he or she would otherwise not have. Being a citizen of the United States is like being a member of an exclusive country club — by becoming a member, you gain access to things like the nice golf course, the well-appointed bar, and Miranda warnings. The key element here is that citizenship theoretically confers upon someone something they didn’t have before.

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I had initially decided not to watch Sarah Palin’s speech to “Tea Party Nation” Saturday night. Unfortunately, being the political rubbernecker that I am, I caved in and eventually watched nearly the entire address.

My first instinct was the correct one — it was a thing to be skipped. Palin deals in warmed-over conservative feel-good cliche, and she had at least 46 minutes worth of those Saturday evening, addressing the attendees of the “Tea Party Nation” in Nashville, who had each paid something like $600 per ticket.

Palin had clearly been prepped, but felt enough in her own element that she seemed to go “off-script” occasionally, often losing track of where she was in a sentence, and escaping by adding a string of dependent clauses which she would use to trail off wistfully before launching into a new statement.

Predictably, she made countless references to Ronald Reagan — which brings me to her first instance of where Palin should have felt a strong sense of cognitive dissonance. Early on in her speech, she lambasted President Barack Obama for the administration’s response to what has come to be known as the Christmas Day Panty Bomber incident. She decried the fact that the would-be bomber, one Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has been granted legal representation. She drew cheers as she repeatedly stated that Abdulmutallab had “lawyered up,” and suggested that he will now not be providing law enforcement with intelligence about where he was trained, who he had worked with, or if any more plans for attacks were in the works.

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