Is Sarah Palin Mocking the Constitution?

A while back, Barack Obama chided Sarah Palin for a line in her speech at the Republican National Convention that seemed to mock the individual rights protected by the Constitution.

Then came last week’s enigmatic interview with Katie Couric. Responding to a specific question from Couric concerning Roe v. Wade, Palin conceded that the Constitution protects privacy, and then suggested that that protection should not be secured by federal government. Watch it:

PALIN: I think it should be a states issue not a federal government–mandated–mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I’m in that sense a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. Now foundationally, also, though, it’s no secret that I’m pro life that I believe in a culture of life is very important for this country. Personally that’s what I would like to see further embraced by America.

COURIC: Do you think there’s an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

PALIN: I do. Yeah, I do.

COURIC: …the cornerstone of Roe v Wade

PALIN: I do. And I believe that –individual states can handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in an issue like that.
This is, to say the least, an unorthodox way of thinking about the Constitution and the Supreme Court. Most conservative critics of Roe challenge whether there is a constitutionally-protected right to privacy at all (the Court has held that privacy is a component of the “liberty” protected by the 14th Amendment) or whether reproductive rights are correctly part of that privacy. What Palin seems (though clarity was not the strong point of this interview) to be saying is something very different: that privacy is protected by the Constitution, but enforcement of this right should be left to the states.

If that’s what she means, she should meet her friends Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun. We fought a Civil War over the issue of states’ rights and in its wake, we passed the 14th Amendment, which makes the federal government, the primary protector of constitutionally-secured individual rights and liberties.

Under Marbury v. Madison (one of those pesky little cases Governor Palin couldn’t name), it’s the Supreme Court that “says yes or no” on questions of constitutional rights and states are not free to disregard these rulings. Hopefully, Governor Palin will clarify tonight that she wasn’t intending to mock the 14th Amendment when she said that states can “handle” constitutionally-protected rights.