Fox News is waging total war against the 14th Amendment and its "alleged" ability to confer citizenship on anyone born on United States soil. The lone voice of reason is Bill O'Reilly, who went so far as to quote the amendment in its entirety on his show last night.
But as Andrew O'Hehir noted yesterday, it's not the plain text of the amendment that conservative legal scholars are challenging. "Essentially, if we are free to go back after 140-odd years and decide that the 14th Amendment does not, in fact, confer automatic citizenship on everyone born in the United States, then all sorts of newly narrowed re-readings of the Constitution become possible."
For example, "[d]oes the federal government really have the authority to demand a national income tax? Can it enforce environmental regulations on private businesses and landowners? Were the 'states' rights' questions apparently settled by the Civil War merely crushed by federal tyranny, as neo-Confederates argue to this day?"
O'Hehir and conservative legal scholars are, however, three or four speculative steps ahead of the pressing concerns of Fox News' correspondents, whose focus on the bearing of the 14th Amendment on immigration policy possesses the clarity that only white-hot hate and favorable polling forecasts can bring. On "Hannity" Thursday evening, conservative radio host Mark Levin said that "of course Trump is right" in interpreting the 14th Amendment as restrictively as he does.
"If you want a policy of open borders, that anybody born here should become a United States citizen, you amend the Constitution. We don't have to amend the Constitution. It says what we say it says," Levin argued unconvincingly, given that the text reads "[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” The upswell of support for Levin's "it says what we say it says" argument isn't based on the amendment as written so much as conservative's attempt to define the terms by which it can be interpreted.
In other words, Fox News is trying to take control of the narrative, and for the second time in as many weeks, a prominent prime-time host is defying network directives. Megyn Kelly's reluctance to kowtow to Trump resulted in her taking a two-week vacation, and during her absence presidential hopefuls like Mike Huckabee have praised Trump's draconian immigration policy, and even offered more draconian ones, like Rick Santorum's. Bill O'Reilly has just returned from his summer hiatus, so it's highly unlikely that Roger Ailes is about to offer him another -- but should O'Reilly abruptly vanish in the next few days, it'll strongly suggest that Kelly didn't disappear so much as she was disappeared, the first casualty in Fox News' latest assault on the foundational American values it claims to cherish.
Watch Sean Hannity's interview with Mark Levin via Fox News below.
Watch Rick Santorum discuss his immigration policy on "The Kelly File" below.