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Good News and Bad News for those seeking a guide to the Constitution
on May 4, 2014
In the immortal words of Shakespeare's Mark Antony, "Friends, Amazon Readers, and Constitutional Scholars, lend me your ears. I come neither to bury the Heritage Foundation nor to praise them." I saw another reviewer's 3-Star review -- although she hadn't read the book -- and decided to legitimize the 3-Star section with some content.
First, this is a physically beautiful book. Good paper, legible typeface, an all-around suitable adornment for a coffee table. Everybody should probably have a guide to our Constitution. This looked good in the Amazon listing, so I chose it. Although I still don't know of a better one, I have a few thoughts:
The Good News: As long as it's accurately printed, the Constitution itself really shouldn't be reviewed by anybody. What this book adds is excellent article-by-article, section-by-section, and clause-by-clause write-ups with "See Also", "Sugestions for Further Research", and "Significant Cases" listings. If you read through it, you'll be a lot wiser about how our Constitution works.
The Bad News: Maybe I had unrealistic expectations but this is not a research tool. I somehow imagined I could pick this up with some issue in mind and go right to it. Not hardly. Unless you already know where it's addressed in our Constitution, you'll probably have a hard time finding it.
The Irrelevant News: Knowing the Heritage Foundation is conservative, one might worry that their guide to the Constitution might be slanted. I don't think you'll find that to be the case. If you think about it, "The Oakland Raiders Guide to the Rules of Football" should be just as fair as the "San Francisco 49ers Guide to the Rules of Football," even though the two teams might be mortal enemies on the football field.
The Ironic News: The Chairman of the Editorial Advisory Board is Edwin Meese III. For those too young to remember, he was President Ronald Reagan's attorney general. While never convicted, he was forced to resign due to his involvement in two scandals. I guess he's a serious constitutional scholar, but nothing Meese could ever do would salvage my low opinion of him, and it seems somehow ironic that his name would adorn the cover of my guide to the Constitution.
I hasten to point out that, as with the Heritage Foundation, Edwin Meese's name probably says little about the reliability of the contents. My very favorite King James Bible is the "PTL Counselor's Edition." Along with the scripture itself, It's a truly wonderful guide -- and yet PTL stands for "Praise the Lord Club," the scandalous organization of Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker. Both fell from grace for a host of financial and sexual scandals, and Jim Bakker went to prison.
In summary, this is an attractive printing of the U.S. Constitution with excellent point-by-point coverage of every part. It's great for browsing, but unless you already know a great deal about constitutional issues, you won't find it very useful as a research tool -- or at least I didn't.