This morning, RNC Chairman Michael Steele came out of isolation and guest-hosted Bill Bennett’s Morning in America. During the program, a caller asked Steele about the constitutionality of the 90 percent bonus tax passed by the House yesterday. The caller said that he believed that the tax was unconstitutional because “the first amendment…specifically states that a law cannot be passed to specifically target a person or a group of people.”
The caller was apparently trying to reference the ban on bills of attainder in Article I of the U.S. Constitution, not the first amendment. Apparently unfamiliar with the purpose of the first amendment, Steele responded, “That’s right!”:
CALLER: I noticed a couple people now talking about the Constitution and I’m told on the law they are currently trying to pass in order to tax all of the bonus pay. Well I believe, well, actually I know it is against the constitution. I believe it is the first amendment that specifically states that a law cannot be passed to specifically target a person or a group of people.
STEELE: That’s right!
CALLER: And we’ve got a president who is supposedly a constitutional scholar.
STEELE: Right. Right.
Here’s what the first amendment actually addresses:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Earlier this month, Ken Blackwell, a former candidate for the RNC chairmanship responded to Steele’s recent flip-flopping on abortion by suggesting that Steele “re-read the Bible, the U.S. Constitution, and the 2008 GOP Platform.” Given Steele’s apparent lack of familiarity with the first amendment, it seems he may still be making his way through Blackwell’s reading list.