President-elect Barack Obama believes the U.S. Constitution needs to be interpreted through the lens of current events and the U.S. Supreme Court needs to include empathy for the plight of minorities in its opinions, a new report has found.

The issues are raised in Fox News report in which Obama staff members affirm the Democrat’s goals. WND also reported Obama believes the Constitution is flawed, because it does not mandate redistribution of wealth, and he says the Supreme Court should have intervened years ago to accomplish that.

Fox News noted four of the Supreme Court justices are in their 70s, and Justice John Paul Stevens now is 88, so Obama is expected to leave a major footprint on the makeup of the court through possible appointments in the coming years.

Obama has stated repeatedly his desire for empathetic judges who “understand” the plight of minorities.

In a 2007 speech to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, he said, “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.”

Obama has committed himself to respecting the Constitution, but he said the founding document must be interpreted in the context of current affairs and events.

Melody Barnes, a senior domestic policy adviser to the Obama campaign, said in the Fox News report, “His view is that our society isn’t static and the law isn’t static as well. That the Constitution is a living and breathing document and that the law and the justices who interpret it have to understand that.”

Obama has criticized Justice Clarence Thomas, who is on the more conservative side of the philosophical spectrum in the Supreme Court, as not a strong jurist or legal thinker.

And Obama voted against both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, two appointees of President Bush who vote with Thomas on many issues.

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Obama doesn’t support their vision of the Constitution, essentially as a document whose provisions still are controlling all aspects of U.S. law.

“There’s nothing wrong with voting against nominees who don’t appear to share a broader vision of what the Constitution is about,” he told the pro-abortion audience in 2007.

He even raised the topic during a campaign event at Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, saying one of the most important jobs of the Supreme Court is to guard against “encroachment” on the separation of powers.

Obama has complained Roberts has given in to the White House too much while on the bench.

“I think he has been a little bit too … eager to give an administration … more power than I think the Constitution originally intended,” Obama said in the report.

Barnes told Fox News that Obama is looking for “empathy” on the part of justices.

As WND reported, Obama said in a 2001 radio interview said the Constitution is flawed in that it does not mandate or allow for redistribution of wealth.

Obama told Chicago’s public station WBEZ-FM that “redistributive change” is needed, pointing to what he regarded as a failure of the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren in its rulings on civil rights issues in the 1960s.

The Warren court, he said, failed to “break free from the essential constraints” in the U.S. Constitution and launch a major redistribution of wealth. But Obama, then an Illinois state lawmaker, said the legislative branch of government, rather than the courts, probably was the ideal avenue for accomplishing that goal.

In the 2001 interview, Obama said:

If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be OK

But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.

And that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court-focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.

The video is available here:

In his top-rated national radio show, Rush Limbaugh reacted.

The Constitution, he said, “most certainly does spell out things it must do on your behalf. He understands it. He just doesn’t like it.”

“He’s talking about giving things to people,” Limbaugh said. “This is perverted. Some people call this radical. I call it perverted.

“To me, ladies and gentlemen, the Constitution is a gift from God. It’s not a disappointment; it’s a blessing,” he said.

WND also has reported an associate at a Chicago law firm whose partner served on a finance committee for Obama has advocated simply abandoning the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that a president be a “natural-born” citizen.

The paper was written in 2006 by Sarah Herlihy, just two years after Obama had won a landslide election in Illinois to the U.S. Senate. Herlihy is listed as an associate at the Chicago firm of Kirkland & Ellis. A partner in the same firm, Bruce I. Ettelson, cites his membership on the finance committees for both  Obama and Sen. Richard Durbin on the corporate website.

The article by Herlihy is available online under law review articles from Kent University.

The issue of Obama’s own eligibility is the subject of nearly two dozen court cases in recent weeks, including at least two that have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Herlihy’s published paper reveals that the requirement likely was considered in a negative light by organizations linked to Obama in the months before he announced in 2007 his candidacy for the presidency.

“The natural born citizen requirement in Article II of the United States Constitution has been called the ‘stupidest provision’ in the Constitution, ‘undecidedly un-American,’ ‘blatantly discriminatory,’ and the ‘Constitution’s worst provision,'” Herlihy begins in her introduction to the paper titled, “Amending the Natural Born Citizen Requirement: Globalization as the Impetus and the Obstacle.”


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