Constitutional Conversations in Tredyffrin Township

What do you get when you mix a Republican T/E School Board member with a recently elected Tredyffrin Township Republican committee person? The answer, as I discovered on Saturday, is a new township cable show, ‘Constitutional Conversations’ co-hosted by T/E School Board member Dr. Rich Brake and M-4 Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee man Dennis Gallagher.

Flipping TV channels, I was surprised to see Rich Brake on a township cable show.  I caught the last 5 minutes of Constitutional Conversations and heard Gallagher mention that this was “In Order for Form a More Perfect Union”, Part 1 of a 5-part series on the Constitution, co-hosted by Brake and Gallagher

I discovered that this new cable show, which made its debut on Thursday, June 28, has an associated blog called Constitutional Conversations, www.constitutional-conversations.com where you can watch the show’s segments.  The site also offers some background on the co-hosts and the background of their show.  According to their blog,

“ … Constitutional Conversations was conceived at the grassroots level in Tredyffrin Township in Chester County, PA. In the latter part of 2011 Dr. Richard Brake, a resident of Tredyffrin and co-host of Constitutional Conversations, gave a lecture on the Constitution which was attended by some Tredyffrin community leaders. After the lecture the township leaders approached Dr. Brake requesting him to produce a series on the Constitution for the township’s public access television station. They felt that such a series would be an excellent educational opportunity for the township residents and also a wise use of the township’s public access television facilities.

Subsequently Dr. Brake collaborated with Dennis Gallagher, also a resident of Tredyffrin, to produce a five part series on the Constitution entitled Constitutional Conversations. The purpose of this series is to tell the story behind how America’s Constitution came into being, the debates amongst America’s founding fathers as to its design, and the various debates throughout America’s history that continue up to today as to how America’s Constitution should be interpreted in our modern society.”

Most of us know Rich Brake as a member of the T/E School Board.  In addition to his elected position, Brake serves as the National Director of Education at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Wilmington, DE. According to their website, “ISI seeks to enhance the rising generation’s knowledge of our nation’s founding principles — limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, the rule of law, market economy, and moral norms.”  Brake is listed online as a member of two local Tea Party groups, Chester County Patriots and Valley Forge Patriots.  Brake and I have been playing ‘email tag’ over the last month, trying to schedule a meeting to discuss a Constitution class he was giving for local TTGOP committee people and his involvement in the Tea Party movement (The June Constitution class was ultimately cancelled).

I was not familiar with Dennis Gallagher except that the show bio indicates is the TTRC Committeeman for M-4, which includes part of Chesterbrook.  In the last election, Gallagher ousted Jim Bailey (a friend of mine) by a very small margin, to serve as Republican M-4 Committeeman.  The cable show identified Gallagher as a ‘Constitution Scholar’ and a bit of research indicated that he is the founder and editor of  Political Policy, www.politicalpolicy.net, a blog whose “ … mission is to advance traditional conservatism and preserve America’s First Principles.”

It appears that Gallagher and Brake may have been blood brothers in a former life … apparently sharing similar views on traditional conservatism, limited government and Founding Father principles, they have come together for ‘Constitutional Conversations’ to discuss and educate the public on the Constitution.  Looking ahead to upcoming topics to be discussed on the cable show, they have scheduled Part 5: Health Care and the Constitution for August 20.

In last week’s landmark ruling, the Supreme Court announced that in a 5-4 decision (with Justice Kennedy dissenting and Chief Justice Roberts writing the decision) that Obamacare, for the most part is constitutional.  It could be interesting to hear the discussion of the health care decision by the Supreme Court discussed by Brake and Gallagher in the final segment of Constitutional Conversations.

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Update:  For the first time since I began Community Matters nearly 3 years ago, I substantially edited an article after it was posted.  Originally when I posted this article on ‘Constitutional Conversations’, I included comments from local attorney John Petersen.  Within a span of less than 24 hours, I received some negative comments and emails about my post and Petersen’s remarks. As a result, I made the decision to edit the post and  remove his comments.

I need to be clear … Mr. Petersen did not volunteer to give his remarks on this post, I asked for his comments on Constitutional Conversations and then posted those comments.  However today, I made the decision to remove his remarks along with the associated comments.  Regrettably, I did not notify Mr. Petersen until after I removed his remarks.   As a result of my actions and decision to remove his comments and associated comments, Mr. Petersen wants to set the record straight on this matter and I am honoring that request.   Below are Mr. Petersen’s new updated remarks on this blog post. 

I’d like to respond to the comments re: the objections over my solicited comments re: Messer’s Brake and Gallagher and their foray into the world constitutional analysis. Accordingly, I’m happy to provide the substance of my point here.

Context is everything. So… when folks look at the “Constitutional Conversations”, they should to look at that in the context of these items:

Rich Brake:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSkd63MnntA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPbFY8PJ8cs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dn5RTnqyPAI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGkCa9wREIs

Dennis Gallagher:
http://www.politicalpolicy.net/
https://twitter.com/#!/grandestparty

If you are going to be considered a “Scholar” – then the body of your work, your statements, etc needs to be looked at in its entirely. You cannot simply cherry pick the things you want.

So…if we are going to evaluate, then let’s evaluate the whole cloth. If you view the cable show on its own, in a vacuum, then you lack the necessary context of what these guys are about. They are quite clever – starting with the seemingly innocuous historical facts. But look how it ends – with health care? It’s not like they leave these extreme political positions at the door. They have a right to say what they want. Folks have a right to be fully informed about what these guys stand for and that their real agenda is advancing their own political view points. It’s kind of ironic when much of what they say is about how the “Left” has captured the media, academia, etc. It’s actually more hypocritical than ironic. That was MY point – that these guys are not really acting in the role of “Constitutional Scholar”. Rather, they are acting as covert politicos that are using the constitutional topic as a pre-text.  One may say “Gee John, that’s just YOUR opinion.” To that, I’d say “Yes, it’s my opinion, but it is an informed opinion.” I’d also say to those same people “You are entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts.” My only exception to this are places like school board meetings where recently, Brake has decided to use that platform as part of his “Constitutional Scholar” outlet. I think that is way out-of-bounds.

With that, let’s confront the question of whether these two guys are “Constitutional Scholars.” This matter needs to be settled before it is determined whether getting into the sum and substance of these shows is warranted. If one can argue that these two are not constitutional scholars in spite of the fact that they call themselves that, we can settle the matter right there. That would seem to me to be a reasonable approach.

As to whether they are “Constitutional Scholars” – I’d have to ask them for their credentials. I get the fact that Brake has a PhD – in American Politics. I get that he knows a lot of historical facts. But what I also get is that much of what he says is laced with a very specific political agenda. For backup on that assertion, I cite the YouTube links listed above.

As for Gallagher, sorry to have to be the voice of reason here, but part way through an online school for an MA in History with a concentration in American History simply does not rate one the title of “Constitutional Scholar.”  That, coupled with his tweets, blog posts, etc – give evidence to what is also a very definite political viewpoint that are clearly, deep rooted beliefs.

Note, I’m not judging Gallagher’s and Brake’s political view points. I’m indifferent as their viewpoints don’t affect me one bit. I don’t agree with them, but that is not the point. They have every right to express their view points. That said, one of them is an elected official and one of them is an elected committeeman. They have direct involvement in the political process which makes them public/semi-public personalities. When you place your views in the market place of ideas, you invite scrutiny. Whether you are able to withstand/tolerate that scrutiny is another matter.

To be a constitutional scholar, you need to be a lawyer, a law professor and somebody who spends the bulk of their professional life in that arena. Likely, you were  a SCOTUS clerk or at the very least, a clerk at the Court of Appeals. You likely have written a horn book and have NUMEROUS law review articles. You do that, you are a constitutional scholar.  People like Erwin Chemerinsky, Jonathan Turley, Lawrence Lessig, Laurance Tribe, Cass Sunstein, Akhil Amar, etc. These folks are the real deal. I’m a lawyer and have studied constitutional law – and I don’t consider myself even close to being a constitutional scholar. And based on the aforementioned criteria, neither is Brake nor Gallagher. In my opinion, it says a lot about a person who is willing to have a label applied to them that they have not earned. They are certainly not shy about expressing their opinion on their forum. They should “Scholarly” enough to withstand some criticism. Certainly, Dr. Brake had to do that when he had to defend his dissertation. Shying away from the criticism and not realizing it’s a two-way street says a lot about a person. It’s one thing to lecture and get into 1-way conversations. I think Dr. Brake would cite that is a problem with the “Liberal Academic Establishment.”

And with that, since they are not Constitutional Scholars, I really don’t need to get into the sum and substance of what they are talking about. But if called upon to do so, I’m more than happy to engage.

29 Comments

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  1. I don’t see how Brake/Gallagher can have much to say about the healthcare and the Constitution. Chief Justice Roberts said the individual mandate was allowed – not under the commerce clause of the constitution, but as a tax. Roberts wrote, “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness”. Obama may have the constitutional argument on his side over this Supreme Court ruling, but I think the decision energizes the base on both sides. Personally, I’d like to see the presidential candidates place a greater focus on jobs and the economy.

    [Reply]

  2. Pattye:

    I want to thank you for promoting the Constitutional Conversations series to the community. For those who actually view each of the five ½ hour segments I’m sure they will find the series an enlightening, entertaining and .unbiased representation of the rich story of America’s most precious document, the U.S. Constitution. I also feel that utilizing the township’s TV facilities to produce the series was a wise use of taxpayer’s dollars; a concept woefully missing in government today.

    However I would like to clarify a few points in your post to set the facts straight.

    1.You write in your post that, “In the last election, Gallagher ousted Jim Bailey (a friend of mine) by a very small margin, to serve as Republican M-4 Committeeman.” The actual election results showed that I received 56.7% of the vote compared to Mr. Bailey’s 43.3%. I will leave my election results up to your readers to decide whether in fact those results represent a “very small margin”.

    2. You write that, “Gallagher also lists ‘Conservative Blog Central, Conservative bloggers working to take back America’ http://www.conservativeblogscentral.blogspot.com as another political blog in his control.” My relationship with Conservative Blog Central (“CBC”) simply extends to publishing privileges which I share, I might add, with hundreds of other bloggers who have the same privileges with CBC. Therefore I certainly do not have any “control” over CBC beyond that relationship. In the spirit of transparency I also have a similar relationship with a blog entitled The Constitution Club at http://constitutionclub.org/about-2/ and have published articles in “Conservative Battleline”, “The Imaginative Conservative” and “The Patriot Post”. The only blog in which I exercise total control and take full responsibility is my personal blog “Political Policy”.

    3. You inserted in your post a comment from someone who writes, “It should also be noted that Mr. Gallagher was EJ Richter’s handpicked challenger (which should tell you everything you need to know) to former TTGOP committeeman Jim Bailey …” The person who penned this is actually quite amusing and I found his overall comments very entertaining. You’re quite fortunate to have someone such as him who frequents your blog with the purpose of providing comedic respites. But this comment is far and away his most ridiculous and I must share this with Mrs. Richter for a hearty laugh. As a matter of fact Mrs. Richter and I never laid eyes on each other until a chance meeting one week or so before the election. But I’m sure she’ll be flattered to be referred to as somewhat of a “kingmaker”. I hope I have put his lie to rest. His other inane, immature comments do not warrant further critique.

    That’s it. I simply wanted to set the record straight on a few things.

    Your suggestion to stage a public debate on opposing viewpoints on the Constitution is not without merit. I personally feel that America needs to return to public square, community-based type debates. It energizes the community body and spirit and is an excellent opportunity to aggregate a discussion of national issues that have a significant local impact, such as the unintended consequences of an ObamaCare-type legislation.

    But serious topics demand serious participants. The individual I referred to above who wrote the comment about me being “handpicked” by E.J. Richter was suggested by you as a participant in a community debate, but I’m sure the community can dredge up worthier individuals with the same perspective as him who view America’s Constitution as a bête noire based on their so-called “progressive” ideologies. He may serve a purpose for comedic relief as a gadfly on your blog or in other community conversations, but I feel that debates on topics such as the Constitution deserve and warrant serious people. The residents of Tredyffrin township have suffered enough over the last four years with immature, adolescent antics from the national government; they don’t need to experience it at the local level also with people such as him playing court jester in the township building.

    Feel free to contact me in the future in the event you feel the need to confirm facts, and again thank you for promoting Constitutional Conversations to the residents of Tredyffrin township.

    Regards,
    Dennis Gallagher

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    Dennis, I do not know you, nor you me. While I think it is important to correct the record, I don’t want you to think you have to explain yourself above and beyond what you have said. Conservatives need not feel guilty (not saying you are) and we do not have to explain nor defend ourselves to the liberal mis information machine. But your points were well taken, clarity is the winner here, and thank you for your service to the community.

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    flyersfan Reply:

    I dont think it is a pejorative. Only angry minds may. It defines a philosophy of political social and economic thought, just as conservative does. And I think liberals like to be called “progressives ” now. Wonder why?

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    Just a thought Reply:

    Mr. Gallagher, you said –

    “The actual election results showed that I received 56.7% of the vote compared to Mr. Bailey’s 43.3%. I will leave my election results up to your readers to decide whether in fact those results represent a “very small margin”.”

    Can you tell me what the actual vote count was? I am not being critical – just curious. I think the overall number of votes cast is the determining factor when considering what a 13% spread represents.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    127 to 97 Gallagher defeated Bailey.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Chester County Results:
    http://www.chesco.org/election/lib/election/results/617f.htm

  3. Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. Benjamin Franklin

    Happy Independence Day!

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  4. Sooooo . . . some local cable company refers to Dennis Gallagher as a “constitutional scholar” . . . .

    And John Petersen thinks that the credentials of each of these gentlemen comes a little, or a lot, short of what you would expect to be able to deserve that moniker . . ..

    Is that it?

    I stand by my earlier comment, which was deleted.

    M.A.

    [Reply]

  5. ok ill bite the constitution ceases to exist in anything near its glorious original form

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    Thank god our constitution no longer exists in it’s original form. Have we forgotten that blacks were slaves and women could not vote? What is “glorious” about the constitution is it’s flexibility – a living document that has changed with the times.

    Without specifically addressing the question of mr. Gallagher or dr. Brake, it is certainly true that many hold themselves out to be experts on the constitution when in fact they are not. Some politicians are successful in this regard, but only because the average American is appallingly ignorant of the constitution.

    I am continually amazed at the claims of those who favor a “strict construction” of the constitution. Perhaps I am a strict constructionist too. But People may mean something rather different when they use that phrase. Under a strict construction, I fail to see how it is constitutional to hold prisoners indefinitely without the right to a speedy trial (by jury, not bench trial or military tribunal), or use torture (er, “enhanced interrogation”). Does violence (pun intended) to the fifth amendment right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself, does it not?

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    Bikini Boy Reply:

    As an extension to the comment “Thank God the Constitution no longer exists in [its] original form”.

    I was listening to an exhilarating debate with Justice Scalia, a known Constitutional Originalist, on this very issue. The summary he came to this function is that issues of the current society (including items like sex discrimination) are not the function of the Constitution, but of the legislative branch. I guess maybe another way of phrasing “evolutionist vs originalist” is how strongly one views the Constitution as a human rights document versus an anti-tyranny document, respectively. One common example of this is how we have far more restrictions on cigarettes than guns since guns, not cigarettes, have constitutional protection.

    I’d love to paraphrase Scalia’s arguments but this man is far wiser than I and I will share the link for all to hear for themselves.

    Mr. Scalia is a fascinating and superbly brilliant man. Certainly one of the most brilliant legal minds I have ever come across. And, note, I am not a lawyer, simply a citizen who would just love to learn more. It is fascinating to see how this amazing document is interpreted.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvttIukZEtM

    [Reply]

    Kevin grewell Reply:

    John,

    We seem to be in agreement once again. I was of course referring to the the defense authorization act, and I forgot to mention several other rights it abrogated- right to habeus corpus, right to an attorney, right to confront your accusers and see the evidence against you.

    All of these rights (as you well know – I am doing this for the benefit of readers) make up what we call “due process” which is fundamental to our criminal justice system. There are two “due process” clauses, one in the 5th amendment and one in the 14th. To paraphrase, no person can be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process. Note that the constitution protects “person(s)” – it does not restrict the protection to “citizens”. This is a common misconception many on the right have – it is ok if it only applies to terrorists or “enemy combatants” – but the defense authorization act potentially would allow arrest and indefinite detainment of “terrorists” (how defined? Who gets to make that determination? Not a jury if your peers in open court, with representation by counsel!!??) the act could result in detainment not only of alien “terrorists” but also of citizens.

    This is not just a slippery slope – it is a greased slide.

    [Reply]

  6. It was not sold by Congress or the POTUS as a tax though. Not sure how Roberts came to that rationale.

    Also, the tax is less than the cost of a policy. This creates a disincentive to work and only expands the welfare state.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    objective polling appears to put the majority of folks behind and for this law?

    Please expound. I don’t believe what you said is true. “objective polling”?

    [Reply]

    MD Reply:

    Every single poll I have seen (from numerous organizations) has those who want repeal greater than those who don’t by a significant margin. Please provide a link to a poll that shows otherwise. I spent an hour looking and couldn’t find one.

    [Reply]

  7. since it is defined as a tax, it will take only simple majority, non filibusterable 51 votes in senate to get rid of it.. and kill the snake at its head. Just need that 51 votes

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  8. The health care debate is far from over — and this “tax” is no different than the requirement that you carry liability insurance on your car if you want to drive….a state law by the way.
    Roberts narrowed the use of the commerce clause — nothing more. If you talk to hospital administrators, they will tell you that this won’t do a thing to help with the problem of the uninsured until we address immigration. It’s not just unemployed people who are in need of benefits — it’s those who won’t produce any kind of ID….
    And when you have a SCOTUS that has votes you can completely anticipate, in what way is that a group of judges. Roberts was always going to write this decision — and used it to further narrow the commerce clause. Nothing more.

    [Reply]

  9. Pattye,

    Thank you for shining a light on the backgrounds and affiliations of Dr. Brake and Mr. Gallagher.

    Tredyffrin taxpayers – who are paying for this – need to encourage programming that presents contrasting viewpoints – even if no debate forum materializes.

    These self-described Constitutional scholars are entitled to their opinions. But facts are facts. And your post has helped the programs’ viewers understand that the “Constitutional conversations” are between two ultra-conservative partisans with clear anti-Obama and anti-Affordable Care Act agendas.

    The timing of this series is interesting. As he argued several months ago at a TTGOP-sponsored event, Dr. Brake views the ACA’s individual mandate as unconstitutional under the Commerce clause.

    Clearly, his scholarly view did not prevail.

    Now those opposed to the Affordable Care Act – many of whom know little about its benefits but are against it on ideological grounds – will have to pin their hopes on a Romney presidency. One in which the lucky few will continue to have employer-based healthcare, the rest will pay unregulated prices for limited benefits, receive vastly reduced government-run care – or go without, as 50 million Americans do now.

    Romney pledges to repeal “Obamacare” on Day 1 ( a busy day) and cut $ three trillion from the federal budget. The old, the poor and the disabled will suffer in ways no Republican will talk about. The middle class and working poor will find their safety net has even bigger holes.

    For Brake and Gallagher, the race is on to “inform” and persuade. Thankfully, very few will seek to learn the facts from two Tea Partiers before making an informed decision in November.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    commerce clause didnt cut it.. hopefully in january the whole thing comes down..,even if the great one is re-elected,perish the thought, there is a lot of law to be deciphered and governors, especially republican ones may be back in court. This is what happens when tyranny raises its ugly heads, in this most divided and unhappy country. Failure.. Not working. Time to look elsewhere.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    Kate the old poor disabled line doesn’t cut it. True, under Obama there are more “poor” but with Obamacare there will be less old.. Cutting Medicare by 500 mil doesn’t help the old.

    So partisan.. so tired of it.; thats why there are never any solutions..

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    flyersfan Reply:

    proof… Britian…

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    I mean UK.. (not mispelled too!)

    [Reply]

  10. Kate–I think it is 50M (?) residents. As I said above, my friends in health care say all this is moot unless you address immigration, as that is the population (undocumented residents) that are a key demographic in the health care struggle…and are filling hospital ERs. A friend that runs a major hospital in MA says the system works there because there is such a small agrarian population. And Brake may not have really erred–the Commerce clause wasn’t relevant to the narrow ruling as construed by JR.

    Taxpayers provide the tv facilities. Is there competition for air time?

    [Reply]

  11. Kate

    Supreme court did in fact rule that the commerce clause does not provide authority for congress to enact the individual mandate – or at least 5 of 9 came out that way.

    Roberts found authority in the taxing power.

    So mr brake’s scholarly view did in fact prevail, if you read the opinions.

    Also, since when is public access TV paid for by taxpayers? I thought the utilities had to provide this as a condition of their license . . . . .

    M.A.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    pattye, seems like two posters are wading into that gray area again, after so many months of cordial discourse around here.. I enjoy the education that goes on here. Keep it up tone..thanx

    [Reply]

    Just a thought Reply:

    It’s true that Comcast and Verizon provide the funding for TE broadcasts – but the corporations write off the costs against taxable income, so in the end, aren’t taxpayers actually footing the bill?

    [Reply]

  12. On another note, has anyone here played the classic computer game Day of the Tentacle? Essentially, in this game, to win it you must convince George Washington to pass a constitutional amendment that every American must [purchase and] have a vacuum cleaner in their basement.

    This, of course, is necessary to save the human race from mutant tentacles with arms.

    Interesting concept, predating the ACA issue by almost 20 years.

    GEORGE WASHINGTON: “Ah, here’s a suggestion. It says: ‘George says that every American should have a vacuum cleaner in their basement!’ What do you think, gentlemen?”

    JOHN HANCOCK: “Um… whatever you say, George,” said Hancock. “Your n-name’s on it…I’m sure you m-m-must have a good reason f-for suggesting it.”

    GEORGE WASHINGTON: “Yes,” said George, a slightly baffled expression on his face. “It’s strange… I don’t quite… well, I’m sure I had a reason for it. If there are no objections, we shall add it to the constitution immediately!”

    Nobody spoke up. “No? Good! And so shall it be law.” George went back to the window.

    Hancock looked at Jefferson. “What’s a ‘vacuum cleaner’?”

    [Reply]

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