My first response would be, “I don’t know,” but I have actually come up with a reason.
I was just watching the video of her exchange with Coons at Law School debate broadcast on the AM station WDEL 1150. David Weigel has the video up on his blog here. I have read several quick blogs and stories about this but so far I think all have missed a key point.
The audience, mostly law students I imagine, laugh at what O’Donnell says.
The thing is this isn’t a joke. This is one of the things that extreme strict constructionist and/or literal interpretation i.e. the Constitution is a dead document types believe. It is an extreme example of it but it is what they do. ‘Separation of church and state’ are not in the Constitution exactly word for word but the phrase, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,” is generally interpreted as such. Jefferson sort of coined the phrase in his letter to Danbury Baptists, yes shocking before the rise of the evangelical religious right Baptists were for a separation of church and state.
If it isn’t in the Constitution word for word then it doesn’t count. Reminds me of an argument I got in at another forum when someone started a thread asking when the US became a Socialist country. Her claim was the United States form of gov’t is Capitalism and Obama was making the US a Socialist country destroying it so he should be removed from office.
After myself and several others pointed out that the neither socialism or capitalism are even forms of gov’t at all but really economic systems I asked her what form of gov’t does the US actually use. She dodged the question or ignored it for days. Then when I pressed her on it said she wasn’t going to answer because whatever she said I would just turn it around and use it against her and because I was attacking her and calling her stupid.
Then I explained what form of gov’t the US actually uses, federal constitutional representative democratic republic in long form, and where the various parts come from.
This got another angry post from one of the wing nut members on the forum who was a good bit smarter than the OP.
The US isn’t a constitutional republic full stop because the word ‘federal’ and “democratic’ are not used anywhere in the Constitution. That got a laugh line out of me too but he was dead serious. The Constitution never uses those two terms but it does describe mechanisms in the function of gov’t that are exactly what a federal democratic system would be.
Didn’t matter to him though he knows his Constitution, has been reading it and carrying it with him for over 50 years, and if the exact words aren’t in the Constitution then it isn’t in the Constitution.
O’Donnell seems to be another one of these types of truly literal strict constructionists and that is a scary thought for most anyone in this country.
The gaffe isn’t that she doesn’t know what is in the Constitution, though from the exchange on the 14th, 16th and 17th amendments she doesn’t have a very good idea of what is in the Constitution. In fact she gets the 17th amendment wrong saying at around 3:40 that “it gives the power for the state gov’t to determine who represents you in Washington,” but then she does sort of get it at least partially right by mentioning free elections.
Just for reference the 17th amendment is generally called the direct election of senators amendment.
Also she seems honestly surprised that the 14th amendment is the amendment that establishes the modern definition for citizenship and gives you the equal protection clause.
Lastly I agree with the moderator as anyone who is campaigning at least somewhat on tax reform should know what the 16th amendment is.