Earlier this week, Rep. Michele Bachmann announced her new Tea Party Caucus would host classes on the Constitution for Members of Congress taught by leading right-wingers. Yet, while Bachmann initially floated Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas as possible faculty, she now appears to be setting her sights a whole lot lower:
If tea party darling Michele Bachmann gets her way, conservative broadcaster Sean Hannity, Fox legal analyst Andrew Napolitano and David Barton, a Christian evangelist who has said church-state separation is “a myth,” will make up the faculty roster when the first classes of her new constitutional conservative caucus convene in the next Congress. . . .
“Professor Barton” is a regular lecturer at [Glenn] Beck’s “university.” He has a bachelor’s degree in Christian education from Oral Roberts University and is best known for his conservative group WallBuilders, which teaches that America was founded as a Christian nation.
“Scholars such as David Barton, members of the media who cherish [the founding] principles such as Sean Hannity, honorable commentators such as Judge Napolitano, honorable judges and justices, and leading legal minds will and have been invited to speak,” Brooke Bialke, Bachmann’s deputy chief of staff, said in an e-mail. “Topics ranging from the commerce clause to the intersection of constitutional principles with daily concerns such as Medicare will be covered.”
Of the three “scholars” named, only Napolitano, a former New Jersey judge who hosts “Freedom Watch” on Fox Business News, is a lawyer. Hannity is a college dropout.
Bachmann’s endorsement of Sean Hannity as a constitutional scholar is self-evidently ridiculous, but the sad truth is that Hannity may be the least radical of Bachmann’s three proposed instructors.
Napolitano is Fox News’ in house tenther, and he is a radical even by the tenther movement’s standards. Among other things, Napolitano believes that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a “swindler” who created an unconstitutional program called Social Security. He also believes that the United States Census is unconstitutional, and he even once claimed that “the 17th Amendment is the only part of the Constitution that is unconstitutional.”
Barton is an even bigger crank. Although Barton is best known as one of the right-wing “experts” behind the effort to replace Texas’ textbook standards with conservative propaganda, he is also a leading proponent of tentherism who once claimed that the entire federal highway system is unconstitutional. Barton called for states to place more “controls” on the press. He supported an Iowa gubernatorial candidate who promised to defy the Iowa Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision. And he once advised preachers to violate their tax exempt status, falsely claiming that the Constitution would protect them if they did so.
So it’s clear that Bachmann has no interest whatsoever in teaching lawmakers about what’s actually in the Constitution. Napolitano and Barton are firm believers in the notion that the Constitution means whatever they want it to mean, but they clearly have no genuine expertise on the document. It’s unclear if Bachmann will be able to follow through on her plan, now that she has lost her bid for a spot on the GOP leadership.