Maryland Blogger Alliance

Alliance FAQs

Latest MBA Posts

July 23, 2008

That man must be carded

Professor Steven Calabresi writes that Obama doesn't meet the constitutional age requirement, because 35 years of age in 1789 has to be adjusted for inflation, so to speak.

Barack Obama is too young to be president. Yes I know he is 46 and the Constitution sets the presidential age qualification at 35 or higher, but Obama has said that we ought not to interpret the Constitution woodenly and formalistically. Perhaps we should look deeper at the presidential age limit. If we do, we will find that Obama really is too young to be president.

Many on the legal left these days advocate purposive, pragmatic interpretation of the Constitution. The idea is you look behind the text to see what function it played for the framers and you then translate the text so it will play that same function for us today. What does this mean for the presidential age qualification?

In 1789, the average life expectancy of a newborn was about 40 years, compared with about 78 today. A lot of this was because of infant mortality, but in 1789, even the average life expectancy of every man who reached age 18 was only about 47. This suggests that at best a 35-year-old age limit in 1789 might have functioned then about the way a 55- or 60-year-old age qualification would function today. On this account Obama may be old enough to drive and buy a glass of white wine, but he has a way to go before he can run for president.
He's obviously poking fun at the judges who argue in favor of a pragmatic interpretation of the Constitution that doesn't feel bound by the original meaning of the text.

I got this link through the Volokh Conspiracy, where commenters are ripping Calabresi for his effrontery. To be fair, some of them say they see the point but think it just isn't funny.

So I pose this question to you: (a) clever and amusing satire; (b) point noted but not funny; or (c) insulting crap from a McCain hack?