Patterico's Pontifications


Day Seven of Stengel-gate: I Write a Letter to David Eisner, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 8:20 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Exactly seven days ago I published here at Patterico’s Pontifications a piece outlining thirteen clear factual errors in Richard Stengel’s essay on the Constitution.  The next day, I published a substantially similar piece at Big Journalism, and by then the list of errors had grown to fourteen.

I said at the time that I considered it a journalistic scandal that such an error-ridden piece appeared in Time magazine, a once-respected publication.  I have dubbed this scandal “Stengel-gate.”  I also considered it scandalous because of who the author, Richard  Stengel, was:

The author is not only the Managing Editor for Time, but he spent two years as President and CEO of the National Constitution Center.  And even today, he works with the National Constitution Center’s Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution, whose stated mission is “to help both professional journalists and students interested in journalism understand constitutional issues more deeply.”  That is right.  He is there to help journalists understand the Constitution better.

It has been seven days, and reportedly Patterico’s got six thousand hits in an hour, a week ago, very likely because of my original piece.  The story has even appeared on Fox News.  And yet there is apparently no correction, no retraction of the story, or even a defense of it.

So frankly in an effort to keep the heat on, I decided to explore the other end of the scandal: what on earth was he doing working at something called the National Constitution Center?  I plan to spend several days discussing that issue and to kick it off, I decided to write a letter to its current President and CEO, the man holding the position that Richard Stengel once occupied: David Eisner.

So tonight I have written to him directly.  You can see the letter I wrote below the fold (the format is slightly altered by wordpress itself).

I do not know if he will respond or how he will respond.  But whatever his reaction is, even a non-response, will reflect on him and his organization.  And that in and of itself is noteworthy.


David Eisner

President and Chief Executive Officer

National Constitution Center,

525 Arch Street

Independence Mall

Philadelphia, PA 19106

[email omitted]

Dear Mr. Eisner,

My name is Aaron Worthing, and I write to you as a concerned member of the public.  I wanted to alert you about the recent statements of one of your members that calls into question his fitness to serve at the National Constitution Center.  Specifically, I wanted to talk about Richard Stengel, who used to serve as President and CEO of your organization, and still serves on the Board of Advisors for the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution.  This program, as you know, is designed to help journalists to understand the Constitution more deeply.  As an attorney and as a private citizen, I consider that to be a laudable goal, very much worth pursuing.

However, I am deeply concerned about what role Mr. Stengel might be playing in your organization given the shocking lack of knowledge that he has recently demonstrated in regards to the Constitution, in his work as Managing Editor of Time magazine.  On June 23, Time magazine published a cover story by him entitled “One Document, Under Siege,” discussing the Constitution and its application to four present controversies.  I was stunned to discover fourteen clear errors in that Time article and published a piece outlining those errors at Big Journalism.  Eight of those errors specifically relate to the interpretation of the Constitution and are generally obvious on the face of the document.  The most remarkable paragraph in his piece made this patently false statement about the Constitution:

If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government, it sure doesn’t say so. Article I, Section 8, the longest section of the longest article of the Constitution, is a drumroll of congressional power. And it ends with the “necessary and proper” clause, which delegates to Congress the power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” Limited government indeed.

(emphasis added.)

That is a direct quote from him, and it does not appear to be taken out of context.  I invite you to read his original piece to verify that he did actually say it.  I will admit that I could hardly believe it myself when I first saw it.

There are seven other errors that directly relate to the Constitution.  They are:

  1. The Constitution is not law.
  2. The Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment emancipated the slaves.
  3. The Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment granted the right to vote to African Americans.
  4. The original Constitution declared that black people were to be counted as three-fifths of a person.
  5. The original, unamended Constitution prohibited women from voting.
  6. The Commerce Clause grants Congress the power to tax individuals based on whether they buy a product or service.
  7. Social Security is a debt within the meaning of Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Each of these claims are patently false, and the majority of them can be proven false by doing nothing more than reading the Constitution itself.  Indeed many of these points are in my opinion common knowledge.  I invite you to read the linked materials and make up your own mind on the subject.

But I wish to ask you, sir, two questions:

First, what is Mr. Stengel’s exact role in the National Constitution Center?  Specifically, does he teach others about the Constitution?

Second, does the National Constitution Center have any official statement regarding the serial inaccuracies that appeared in Time, a national magazine, regarding the Constitution?

I will note that your website states that your organization as a whole is “dedicated to increasing public understanding of, and appreciation for, the Constitution, its history, and its contemporary relevance” and therefore I have to believe that once you are made aware of these errors, you would be eager to seek that this information be corrected.

I thank you for taking the time to read this email and to consider the issues that it raises.  I eagerly await your response.


Aaron Worthing

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

60 Responses to “Day Seven of Stengel-gate: I Write a Letter to David Eisner, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center”

  1. Well written, Aaron. Your response, I fear, though, will arrive around the time Satan starts chucking snowballs with Hitler and Stalin.

    either orr (58d2a4)

  2. either orr

    > around the time Satan starts chucking snowballs with Hitler and Stalin.

    You forgot bin Laden! :-) He’s getting 72 virgin gay men.

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  3. Aaron, Osama Looney Bin Laden wouldn’t know what to do with a snowball. He’d probably think it was some reference to the drugs the Taliban grow in Afghanistan.

    either orr (58d2a4)

  4. Nice letter. It presumes they give a damn about the Constitution instead of that they’re just another Leftist advocacy group. That’s certainly a polite presumption, but I’m not sure it will turn out to be an accurate one.

    Beldar (3895f0)

  5. Hmpf. My presumption may have been too harsh. Their website suggests someone’s gone to considerable trouble to try to assemble a bipartisan board of trustees and some heavy-hitters, both liberal and conservative, among their “visiting scholars.”

    Perhaps they’ll give you a serious answer, Aaron. I hope so.

    Beldar (3895f0)

  6. I’d print and send a hard-copy by CM/RRR.

    Beldar (3895f0)

  7. Excellent letter, Aaron. It will be interesting to see if a response will be forthcoming. Wouldn’t think it prudent for Mr. Eisner to ignore it.

    ColonelHaiku (822dce)

  8. Not to respond, is to respond.

    Beautiful job, Aaron.

    Ed from SFV (7d7851)

  9. Beldar

    CM? RRR?

    what does that stand for?

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  10. Beldar

    that being said, I will probably print and send it tomorrow. And cc their press office.

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  11. CM? RRR?
    what does that stand for?

    CM = Certified Mail
    RRR = Return Recepti Requested

    Stoutcat (fa51b7)

  12. “National Constitution Center”

    Gimme a break. It’s an arm of the Annenberg Foundation.

    You’ve probably heard of them, they love the idea of Constitutional government so much that they’ve funded projects headed up by that staunch constitutionalist and former communist/weatherman terrorist, Bill Ayers.

    Hell, they have so much contempt for the idea of constitutional government that they even paid Barack Obama for awhile (back before he became alleged POTUS and wannabe dictator).

    Dave Surls (93eff9)

  13. And they are proud of that Obama Philadelphia speech,where he threw his own grandmother ‘under
    the bus’ to obfuscate his ties to Jeremiah Wright

    ian cormac (d380ce)

  14. I think Beldar’s comment rather covers anything I would say.

    Very good letter, and strong points.

    Dianna (f12db5)

  15. aron–

    You will probably get his well reasoned and comprehensive reply via twitter.

    elissa (fb4a7e)

  16. “Their website suggests someone’s gone to considerable trouble to try to assemble a bipartisan board of trustees and some heavy-hitters…”

    Dude, c’mon!

    The Chairman of the Board of Trustees is that great champion of the Constitution…Bill “look, Ma, I can commit perjury and get away with it” Clinton!

    Methinks the National Center is a bit of a joke.

    Dave Surls (93eff9)

  17. Per Beldar’s observation @5 about the board of directors and visiting scholars, why not send a cc. of your letter to each of them, as well, Aaron? You know, just to keep them in the loop.

    elissa (fb4a7e)

  18. OT, yes I know there’s no such thing, but how about
    those Remarks from Obama, re Lincoln and the InterContinental Railroad, mull that thought for a while,

    ian cormac (d380ce)

  19. Aaron,
    You haven’t mentioned his appearance on Sunday’s “This Week”. He was “explaining” the constitution to the rubes and George Will. the vid’s are out there. Good times!!

    Chris (eafa5f)

  20. elissa, I was thinking the same thing. All board members & scholars should be aware that their organization has been found out, so to speak…

    Aaron, a very good letter, and most importantly, a necessary one. Will look forward to any response you receive and I simply can’t imagine you won’t receive one, especially if you include board members and scholars…that many people representing the organization knowing – they can’t possibly ignore it.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  21. Dana

    let’s start by sending it to him and the press office. if that fails, i might start bugging the other people involved, especially if they lean conservative.

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  22. Just keep us posted.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  23. The letter’s a good idea either way: If they’re really concerned about the Constitution, they’ll speak and act. If they’re just a lefty group, you’ll help expose and document that.

    I think I’d hold off on notifying any trustees directly until you see what response Mr. Eisner makes, but that’s certainly a possible next step if you get stonewalled.

    Beldar (3895f0)

  24. Oh, and yes, CM/RRR = certified mail, return receipt requested. Even if someone in the mail room signs, certified mail almost invariably gets handled differently, with higher priority, in most organizations. In terms of demanding attention, it gets excellent bang for the buck. It’s awfully easy, by contrast, to pretend that an email just got lost in some spam filter. If I’m really out to build a paper trail, I’ll send something by email, CM/RRR, and first class mail — the last because there’s a legal presumption of receipt that flows from evidence (which you can give) of mailing, and unlike CM/RRR, mere inaction can’t generally result in a properly addressed first class letter being refused and returned to sender.

    Beldar (3895f0)

  25. dana

    > Just keep us posted.

    You know I will! :-)

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  26. “Per Beldar’s observation @5 about the board of directors and visiting scholars, why not send a cc. of your letter to each of them, as well, Aaron?”

    Good idea.

    Maybe you can get some pointers from Slick Willy on how one goes about engaging in perjury and obstruction of justice, while simultaneously executing the laws of the land.

    I’m sure the explanation would be quite edifying.

    Dave Surls (93eff9)

  27. Here, for anyone who missed it, is the full This Week episode on the Constitution aired last Sunday it is in 3 parts. George Will did a stellar job, but he was outnumbered.–13987422

    elissa (fb4a7e)

  28. Happy to see you are not letting issue go, Aaron.
    You have the “fight”. You inspire.

    cap'n john's nephew (28dda5)

  29. *this* issue

    cap'n john's nephew (28dda5)

  30. They consider the Constitution “a living, breathing” document, and can’t wait to pull the plug.

    dfbaskwill (c021f2)

  31. cap’n

    don’t worry, i am fluent in typo. :-)

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  32. It is remarkable that a guy whose essential “take” form the Constitution is, “f*** the 10th Amendment and the enumerated powers, Congress has plenary power to do anything not barred by a specific Amendment” thought we needed a whole “Constitution center” to “understand” that, um, complex view.

    Mitch (e40959)

  33. Mitch

    ah, but here’s the terrible truth. The Constitution center is just nothing more than the nation’s largest shredder. literally. you just go there with a copy of the const. and throw it in.


    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  34. Gimme a break. It’s an arm of the Annenberg Foundation.

    Another arm of which is “Annenberg Political FactCheck”, that oh-so-neutral-and-reliable source that Obama chose to show his “certification” that he was pretending was a birth certificate.

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  35. The Peter Jennings Center for blah, blah, blah.

    Now that’s pretty twisted.

    Jennings, a Canadian who would not say the word “terrorist” and whose mother was “a virulent anti-American, and whose blood courses through (his) veins” is the titled honoree for young journalists to emulate in learning more “deeply” about the meaning of OUR Constitution.

    The indoctrination of leftists by leftists to give an “interpretive dance” version of Our Constitution gives rise to incompetents teaching malcontents how to write dysfunctional polemics for the brain dead.

    cfbleachers (fb9900)

  36. cf

    to be fair, jennings did become a citizen of the US after 9-11. fwiw…

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  37. I reecall one rather distasteful moment, the 30th anniversary of the Munich massacre, when he seemed
    to excuse it, because the palestinian submission
    for the Olympics was turned down,

    ian cormac (d380ce)

  38. The National Constitution Center is under Independence Mall right in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Independence Hall was where the Constitution was debated and ratified (as well as the Declaration of Independence). It’s a very special place. The (ugly) Constitution Center was built some 10 or 15 years ago.

    As a former (and in my heart continuing) Philadelphian, I am deeply grieved at how our heritage is being mangled. For Philadelphia to take the lead in this makes me sick. Egyptians living in the shadow of the Sphinx forgot how to read hieroglyphics. But this – this is a deliberate and malicious misrepresentation of the past.

    Amphipolis (b120ce)

  39. It’s a very ‘e pleb nista’ moment, this is probably what the Romans felt like around 100 BC.

    ian cormac (d380ce)

  40. ian

    > It’s a very ‘e pleb nista’ moment

    um, what does that mean?

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  41. What you don’t remember your Trek trivia, that is what Kirk discovers is the phrase for ‘we the people’ on a planet, that once had a similar
    historical development as earth.

    ian cormac (d380ce)

  42. Ian,

    You said a worship word!

    Mitch (890cbf)

  43. oh, right, the yanks and the comms, if memory serves.

    and the yanks completely forgot what america was about.

    it was great fun watching him emote while saying the pledge.

    i pledge… allegiance! to the! united! states! of America!

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  44. Aaron, he went through the citizenship process. Whether he ever took up the defense of his adopted homeland, or merely put up a show to keep his cushy job…one that allowed him to side with our enemies, is another matter.

    I never once, ever, got the feeling that Jennings was Pro-America. Like most leftists, he carried the stench of leftism. And you can’t paper over that, if it’s true.

    cfbleachers (fb9900)

  45. On the one hand, if they choose to follow the wisdom of their Constitutional scholar/professor POTUS, Havard alum Barack Obama, throwing Stengel under the bus is not only possible but mandatory.

    OTOH, if the hue & cry over this is limited, for the most part, to the comments section of the online posting of the story, well . . .

    Icy Texan (a24921)

  46. icy

    we’ll see if we can avoid the second scenario…

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  47. None of it matters, AW.
    The Constitution is just a construct of a bunch of dead, white, European-descended oligarchs, and has no relevance to the enlightened, multi-cultural, diversity that “alters and illuminates” our times.
    Please, do not attempt to interject reality into the cloistered halls of the NCC, the Left does not deal well with the cognitive dissonance that permeates their milieu. They have enough problems righting all of the grant requests that occupy their time to maintain their cash-flow.

    AD-RtR/OS! (c036a6)

  48. Oopss…
    “writing” v. “righting”

    AD-RtR/OS! (c036a6)

  49. “dedicated to increasing public understanding of, and appreciation for, the Constitution, its history, and its contemporary relevance”

    That word explains it all. Do you need to add a caveat to the relevance?

    Haimerej (9c54b7)

  50. caveat may not be the right word, but you get my drift…

    Haimerej (9c54b7)

  51. One might think that “contemporary relevance” could refer to an examination and explanation of just how relevant the COTUS still is.

    One might. But in this case . . . nah.

    Icy Texan (c3206e)

  52. Ah yes! Theocratic Oligarchy, that is often the order of the day..

    O-mah (4de175)

  53. “…in Time magazine, a once-respected publication.”

    Ah-hah-hah-hah! Chuckle chuckle! Good one.

    Oh, wait… were you serious?

    A Mindful Webworker (709887)

  54. mindful

    at some point in history, they were respected, right?


    ah crap.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  55. The left seems to have hundreds of these organizations turning out dozens of reports each that are endlessly cited by the MSM as authoritative sources. Most are never challenged and if they are, the challenger is referred to the propaganda generator and the general public never gets the refutation.

    dunce (b89258)

  56. The left seems to have hundreds of these organizations turning out dozens of reports each that are endlessly cited by the MSM as authoritative sources.

    Beats working. (That goes for both the organizations and the MSM.)

    Mitch (890cbf)

  57. Today’s TIME is basically THE NATION with more pictures.

    Mitch (890cbf)

  58. the lefties tell us
    the Constitution is dead
    when say it lives breathes

    ColonelHaiku (822dce)

  59. All part of the “Constitution for 2020″ propaganda blitz devised by such left-wing notable freedom lovers as George Soros and Cass Sunstein. I’ve linked to the Big Gov’t post at mine of June 27 (Right is RIGHT…)

    Bob Mack (06aad2)

  60. AMAR:I think it is because thanks in part to constitutional events that took place in the mid-’60s, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we’ve witnessed in our lifetime a huge polarization of the political process, the end of conservative Democrats, Southern Democrats, the end of liberal Republicans, so-called Rockefeller Republicans from an earlier era.

    So the Democratic Party is more liberal than ever before. The Republican Party is more conservative than ever before, and so that means actually our politics are more partisan and polarized. This is not unique in American history. That happened in the 1860s. Not a single Democrat voted for the 14th Amendment, and virtually every Republican except one voted for it

    ian cormac (d380ce)

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