Akhil Reed Amar

  • Aired:  01/17/13
  •  | Views: 17,695

The legal scholar shares his book, "America's Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By." (5:24)

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT HAS A NEW BOOK CALLED AMERICA'S UNWRITTEN CONSTITUTION.

HE'S RIGHT THE CONSTITUTION WASN'T WRITTEN.

IT WAS DICK DATED BY JESUS.

PLEASE WELCOME AKHIL REED AMAR.

THANK YOU.

MR. AMAR THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

HAVEN'T BEEN ON THE SHOW IN A FEW YEARS.

YOU ARE ONE OF THESE EAST COAST IVY LEAGUE LIBERAL EDUCATORS, RIGHT?

YOU TEACH AT YALE.

>> GUILTY AS CHARGED.

>> Stephen: OKAY.

ALL RIGHT.

YOU HAVE YOURSELF A NEW BOOK HERE CALLED "AMERICA'S UNWRITTEN CONSTITUTION: THE PRECEDENT AND

PRINCIPLES WE LIVE BY." WHAT DO YOU MEAN UNWRITTEN CONSTITUTION.

THE CRIEWTION IS A -- CONSTITUTION SAY DOCUMENT, THE WORDS OF WHICH WE LIVE BY.

HOW CAN WE LIVE BY AN UNWRITTEN ONE?

>> WELL, I HAVE IT HERE.

>> Jon: THE CONSTITUTION.

THERE, YES --

>> Stephen: THE CONSTITUTION, YES I'M FAMILIAR.

IT'S A WRITTEN CONSTITUTION, OKAY?

>> YOU BELIEVE IN STUFF THAT IS NOT QUITE THERE THAT YOU THINK COMPLETES IT.

>> Stephen: IF IT'S NOT IN HERE, GO TO HELL.

>> HOW ABOUT LIMITED GOVERNMENT.

>> Stephen: OF COURSE LIMITED GOVERNMENT.

>> IT DOESN'T SAY THAT.

>> Stephen: IT'S LIMITED BY WHAT IS IN HERE.

IT IS A LIMITATION CHECK MATE.

KEEP GOING.

>> IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND THE WORDS OF DOCUMENT WE ALSO HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE SPIRIT AND

THAT'S PART OF THE UNWRITTEN CONSTITUTION.

I'M WITH YOU.

I DON'T WANT US TO LOSE THE VIRTUES OF A WRITTEN CONSTITUTION.

>> Stephen: YOU JUST LOST THIS ONE IT'S MINE NOW.

THIS SOUNDS LIKE WHERE ARE THE OTHER IDEAS COMING FROM THAT YOU CLAIM AREN'T IN HERE?

>> THAT'S THE TRICK.

HOW CAN WE GO BENEATH, BEYOND AND BEHIND THE DOCUMENT WITHOUT LOSING FAITH WITH THE DOCUMENT?

WHAT YOU.

>> Stephen: YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT JUDICIAL ACTIVEY.

IF YOU ARE ASSIGNING RIGHTS THAT ARE NOT IN HERE IS THE DEFINITION OF JUDICIAL ACTIVISM.

>> READING THE THING HAS A WHOLE.

LET'S TAKE A QUESTION FOR EXAMPLE WHO PRESIDES AT THE VICE PRESIDENT'S IMPEACHMENT?

THE TEXT SAYS THE VICE PRESIDENT PRESIDES OVER THE SENATE AND THE SENATE TRIES ALL IMPEACHMENTS.

DOES THAT MEAN THAT THE VICE PRESIDENT WOULD PRESIDE OVER HIS OWN IMPEACHMENT.

>> Stephen: YES, THAT IS WHY NO VICE PRESIDENT HAS EVER BEEN IMPEACHED.

HAS ANY VICE PRESIDENT EVER BEEN IMPEACHED?

>> NO.

>> Stephen: CHECKMATE AGAIN.

I SHOULD TEACH AT YALE.

OKAY.

OKAY.

>> YOU ARE DOING A GOOD JOB.

>> Stephen: THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

GO AHEAD.

WHAT ELSE?

WHAT ELSE?

>> SO HOW ABOUT UNENUMERATED RIGHTS.

>> Stephen: I DON'T KNOW THAT WORD.

>> IT MEANS NOT LISTED.

>> Stephen: IT SAYS ANYTHING YOU KNOW SET FORTH HERE SHALL GO TO THE SEVERAL STATES, RIGHT?

>> IT SAYS ANYTHING NOT LISTED HERE SHALL NOT BE DENIED OR DISPARAGED.

>> Stephen: THEY COVERED THAT.

>> FOR EXAMPLE, THEY COVERED IT BY SAYING WE DIDN'T LIST ALL THE RIGHTS.

THERE ARE ADDITIONAL RIGHTS ABOVE AND BEYOND THE ONES WE LISTED.

LIKE, WHERE DOES IT SAY THAT THE STATES CAN'T VIOLATE THE RIGHT TO HAVE A GUN IN YOUR HOME?

YOU BELIEVE IN HAVING A GUN IN YOUR HOME?

>> Stephen: I BELIEVE IN HAVING A GUN EVERYWHERE.

[ LAUGHTER ]

>> WHERE DOES IT SAY THAT STATES CAN'T MESS WITH THAT RIGHT?

>> Stephen: IT SAYS -- YOU ARE CONFUSING ME.

YOU ARE SAYING IT SAYS THAT THE STATES HAVE TO OBEY FEDERAL LAW.

>> AND SO FEDERAL LAW DOESN'T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL.

>> Stephen: THE SECOND AMENDMENT SAYS IT.

>> SO THE FEDS HAVE NO LAW AT ALL ON THIS AND NOW NEW YORK, JUST IMAGINE HYPOTHETICALLY NEW

YORK PASSES A LAW THAT RESTRICTS GUN RIGHTS.

>> Stephen: THEY DID.

>> DOES THE SECOND AMENDMENT PROTECT.

THAT IS ONLY ABOUT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS AGAINST STATE GOVERNMENTS?

IT TURNS OUT THERE'S A PASSAGE OF THE CONSTITUTION THAT TALKS ABOUT RIGHTS AGAINST STATE

GOVERNMENT BUT DOESN'T LIST THEM.

IT SAYS NO STATE SHALL MESS WITH OR ABRIDGE ANY PRIVILEGES OR IMMUNITIES OF CITIZENS.

IT DOESN'T SPECIFY WHAT THEY ARE.

THOSE ARE UNWRITTEN TO SOME EXTENT.

>> Stephen: WHERE IS THIS THE UNWRITTEN CONSTITUTION?

IS THAT THE PLOT OF THE THIRD NATIONAL TREASURE MOVIE?

DOES NICK CAGE FIND IT TATTOOED ON HIS BACK?

HOW DO YOU KNOW?

YOU MAY HAVE A POINT HERE.

>> LET'S TAKE THE PRESIDENCY ALL PRESIDENT DOZEN A WHOLE BUNCH OF THINGS THAT ARE NOT SPELLED OUT

IN SO MANY WORDS BUT THAT GEORGE WASHINGTON D. BEING ABLE TO SWEAR THEIR OATH OF OFFICE ON A BIBLE.

>> Stephen: IT'S WRITTEN IN THERE.

>> IT'S NOT IN THE WRITTEN CONSTITUTION.

>> Stephen: IT'S NOT?

>> IT'S NOT BUT GEORGE WASHINGTON --

>> Stephen: ALL RIGHT.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING ME.

AKHIL REED AMAR, "AMERICA'S UNWRITTEN CONSTITUTION." WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

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