'This Week' Transcript: The Battle for the Constitution

LEPORE: Therein lies the origins of this particular impasse that we are in now. I mean, this is a very old impasse. I think the sense of crisis is grossly exaggerated. We have a very adversarial journalistic world in which we're going to hear more about crisis than not, but the framing of that debate does indeed date to the progressive era when there was a set of arguments made that the document is a document, a piece of parchment, and it needs to be worshipped as such in the way that we might worship other documents that have different kinds of meaning to us in a kind of more epistemological way. That idea goes much further back, and I think indeed it can in many ways be traced to the founders themselves. When Jefferson said the Constitution should never be looked at as the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched, we find other kinds of --


AMANPOUR: You bring in sort of the religious aspect of it. And, today, again, it is something that so many people talk about it as if it was a religious document. There is no word "God" in the more than 4,000 words of the Constitution. Was it -- is it possible to say that it was divinely inspired, though it does not say--?

STENGEL: The Constitution, again, I go back to the comparison between the Declaration and the Constitution. The Constitution is a blueprint for the house. It doesn't tell you what color curtains to have or whether to have it two stories or three stories. It's a guideline, it is a road map. It's a kind of guardrail. Doesn't tell you where to be in the road, but how to prevent you from straying off.

I would say that the Constitution is resolutely irreligious, or outside of the Christian framework that the founders were working in with the Declaration and other things. I mean, it really is -- when people read it, it doesn't have any poetry in it. Right? It's just a guideline.

DYSON: See, the amendments -- this is why -- I get the point about the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But I would still argue that the amendments to the Constitution suggest that we are having doubts, skepticism. We are rethinking, we are trying to include a broader circle of privilege for those who have been historically locked out. Which means then that the exclusion of some people and the inclusion of others suggest politics, negotiation. The document itself, if Rick is right about being a blueprint for and not telling us what color the curtains are, but it does suggest that that fundamental document has to be opened up.

WILL: The framers were not narrowed and blinkered men. They were men of the enlightenment. They believed in progress, to which end they included in this document an amendment provision. They said there will be changes made.

The difference is, do you amend the Constitution by the casual weak interpretation of it, or do you candidly, when you want to change the structure of the government, change it by the amendment process they provided?

AMANPOUR: We're going to discuss that after a break and we're going to discuss some of the specific issues that are being really used in the political debate right now. So up next, we'll talk about war, taxes, health care. How does the Constitution address the great issues of our time? The roundtable weighs in. And later, living the American dream. The immigrant experience at a crucial crossroads.


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