'This Week' Transcript: The Battle for the Constitution


AMANPOUR: This week --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the Constitution.

AMANPOUR: A tug of war over the Constitution. The 200-year-old document that still inspires people all over the world. It's a reflection of America's past and its promise, and it's now at the heart of a fierce political debate. We examine the cornerstone of the U.S. government and the American dream, making sense of the melting pot as the country of immigrants grapples with tough times.

And then the dream deferred.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything was so insecure from what I thought. Everything changed.

AMANPOUR: As the rich get richer, millions of Americans are finding hope harder to come by. They're down, but not out.

AMANPOUR: Live from the Newseum in Washington, "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour, starts right now.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to our special Independence Day edition of the program from the night studio of the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

This week, focus on the founders. With Washington tied up in knots, thousands of American troops fighting overseas, and millions of citizens struggling to get by, we go back to the original blueprint of this democracy, the Constitution. A document that endures and guides the United States and is now at the heart of a fierce political battle to define just what this country stands for. Here's ABC's John Donvan.


JOHN DONVAN, ABC NEWS: The original lives under glass, has no price tag, is the world's oldest operative Constitution at 223 years, and it's shortest in written length, 4,400 not entirely correctly spelled words -- sorry, Pennsylvania. And while it's our habit to speak of it in reverential terms--

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a covenant we've made not only with ourselves but with all of mankind.

DONVAN: In holy language.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It provides a compass that can help us find our way.

DONVAN: As something sacred.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Constitution provides a perfect path towards a more perfect union.

DONVAN: Here's the other way we've long tended to treat the Constitution -- as wrapping paper, as in wrap yourself in it to make your case sound even better type of wrapping paper, to put a nice bow on it. Which is really nothing new. Every case that ever gets to the Supreme Court gets there because both sides argue they have the Constitution on their side. Richard Nixon, refusing to give up his tapes, said the Constitution protected him. He lost. Folks that want to burn the American flag say the Constitution protects them. They generally win. People who argue the Constitution protects the unborn have yet to win their battle.

The point is, the Constitution, which we think of as a set of rules, is really a departure point for a good, strong argument about the details. The details of who we are as a nation and what we stand for. Although this year, since the Tea Party arrived in force in the halls of Congress and actually launched its tenure with the reading of the Constitution--

REP. JOHN A. BOEHNER (R-OHIO), HOUSE SPEAKER: We the people of the United States.

DONVAN: The argument has become a more big picture thing. The Tea Party arguing that the country has slipped its constitutional moorings in a wholesale way.

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