A new, improved Constitution? The Daily Show writer Kevin Bleyer took on the task with his new book Me the People: One Man's Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America. He talks with Lawrence O'Donnell at a Writers Bloc event this week.
L.A. WEEKLY: Is Me the People a good beach read?
KEVIN BLEYER: Are you kidding? Me the People is the best beach read of the summer. It's got intrigue, backstabbing, high drama and sweaty men in tight britches and powdered wigs. Think of it as 50 Shades of Red, White & Blue.
How much of an expert on the Constitution were you before you wrote this book?
On a scale of 1-to-James Madison, I'd say I was about a Glenn Beck. Just enough to get me into trouble. Let's put it this way: At the outset, the only difference between me and actual experts on the Constitution was that they are actually experts on the Constitution. But a lack of expertise is hardly an obstacle in 2012; at a time when more Americans can name the Three Stooges than the three branches of government, I can proudly claim to be an expert in the Constitution by one fact alone: I have read the Constitution of the United States. To bolster that, I did three years of research, so not only do I know how to spell "Gouverneur Morris," I now know who he is.
Do you have a favorite amendment?
Oh my, that's like asking if I have a favorite child. So yes, of course I do: the one that gives me the right to say almost anything I want, including absurd and borderline inexcusable things like "I have a favorite child," even when I don't have a favorite child, or any child at all for that matter. So: the First Amendment. After all, it's the amendment that the entire book ultimately hinges on, isn't it?
If you could add one, what would it be?
I would add an amendment that lets me, Kevin Bleyer, add unlimited amendments. My wish is to have an infinite number of wishes. Considering the service I've just provided America, I'd say that's not too much to ask.
Which of the Founding Fathers do you find the most inspiring?
I've just rewritten the Constitution, so I'd be a fool not to give Thomas Jefferson all the credit in the world; Jefferson, after all, is the Founding Father who proposed that every constitution be rewritten every 19 years, by each generation. In that sense, he told me to write this book. I'd say that's pretty inspiring.
Who gave you the hardest time about rewriting the Constitution?
So far, only the entire state of Nebraska. In an effort to coax the states to play nice with each other at all times -- something Article IV has tried but failed to do for 225 years -- I make the patently obvious case that it's high time we rank the states. That way, at long last, we know who is really in charge around here. In my ranking, Nebraska, for a variety of reasons largely to do with its small population, is relegated to 49th out of 50, and some Nebraskans have let me know their displeasure. It's gotten so ugly, I'm now deathly afraid of what will happen when Rhode Island notices it comes in dead last. I expect I'll get a strongly worded letter from both of its citizens.
After writing Me the People, do you love America more?
Does it have to be a competition? But yes, I do, if such a thing were even possible. I've always loved America, but now that I've fixed the founding charter, I feel responsible for her. I have "skin in the game," as Republicans might say. And I've tried to help organize my community, as Democrats would applaud.And in all sincerity, I defy anyone to take a closer look at the story of our country's founding and not feel some pride of authorship. I hope the sheer pleasure I had in researching the Constitution comes across in this book; I'm told it does, and that's very satisfying.
What public figure would you most like to read Me the People?
Representative John Boehner. I've always wanted to write a tear-jerker, and I'm fairly certain that's how he'd respond.
What do you hope people gain from it?
There is no hope. I insist that each and every reader come away with a deeper understanding of the arguments the Framers had back in 1787, how they might inform the arguments we have in 2012, and at least three anecdotes about the Founding Fathers to regale their friends. Don't worry, I've done all the heavy lifting. And while many of my fixes to the Constitution are utterly indefensible, they are certainly debatable. Which is the point. The Founders debated them, so now it's our turn to debate them. But let's laugh while we do. Because that beats yelling.
Writers Bloc presents Kevin Bleyer in conversation with Lawrence O'Donnell at the Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills; Sat., June 30, 7:30 p.m.; $20. Resv: firstname.lastname@example.org. --Libby Molyneaux