Audie Award Nominee, Humor, 2013
The United States Constitution promised a "More Perfect Union". It’s a shame no one bothered to write a more perfect Constitution - one that didn’t trigger more than two centuries of arguments about what the darn thing actually says.
Perfection is at hand. A new, improved Constitution is here. And you are about to listen to it.
But first, some historical context: In the 18th century, a lawyer named James Madison gathered his friends in Philadelphia and over four long months, wrote four short pages: the Constitution of the United States of America. Not bad.
In the 19th century, a president named Abraham Lincoln freed an entire people from the flaws in that Constitution by signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Pretty impressive.
And in the 20th century, a doctor at the Bethesda Naval Hospital delivered a baby - but not just any baby. Because in the 21st century, that baby would become a man, that man would become a patriot, and that patriot would rescue a country... by single-handedly rewriting that Constitution.
Why? We think of our Constitution as the painstakingly designed blueprint drawn up by, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, an “assembly of demigods” who laid the foundation for the sturdiest republic ever created. The truth is, it was no blueprint at all but an Etch-A-Sketch, a haphazard series of blunders, shaken clean and redrawn countless times during a summer of petty debates, drunken ramblings, and desperate compromise - as much the product of an “assembly of demigods” as a confederacy of dunces.
No wonder George Washington wished it “had been made more perfect.” No wonder Benjamin Franklin stomached it only “with all its faults.” The Constitution they wrote is a hot mess. For starters, it doesn’t mention slavery, or democracy, or even Facebook; it plays favorites among the states; it has typos, smudges, and misspellings; and its Preamble, its most famous passage, was written by a man with a peg leg. Which, if you think about it, gives our Constitution hardly a leg to stand on.
[Pause for laughter.]
Now stop laughing. Because you are about to listen to no mere audiobook, but the most important document of our time. Its creator, Daily Show writer Kevin Bleyer, paid every price, bore every burden, and saved every receipt in his quest to assure the salvation of our nation’s founding charter. He flew to Greece, the birthplace of democracy. He bused to Philly, the home of independence. He went toe-to-toe (face-to-face) with Scalia. He added nightly confabs with James Madison to his daily consultations with Jon Stewart. He tracked down not one but two John Hancocks - to make his version twice as official. He even read the Constitution of the United States.
So prepare yourselves, fellow patriots, for the most significant literary event of the 21st, 20th, 19th, and latter part of the 18th centuries. Me the People won’t just form a "More Perfect Union". It will save America.
©2012 Kevin Bleyer (P)2012 Random House Audio
“I would rather read a constitution written by Kevin Bleyer than by the sharpest minds in the country.” (Jon Stewart)
“The Constitution has served us well for centuries. Thanks to Kevin Bleyer, those days are over.” (Stephen Colbert)
“Two centuries from now, the finest robot documentarians from around the world will climb over one another to make the definitive film on the genesis of Kevin Bleyer’s brilliant constitution. Which makes me glad I’m alive today.” (Ken Burns, human director of The Civil War, The Congress, and Prohibition)
Love me some audio books.
Insufferable know-it-alls who "dabble" in comedy.
How truly entertained he is by himself.
Smugness of epic proportions.
Less a formulation of a "new" constitution than an exploration of the history and terms of the current one, Bleyer does a remarkable job of describing describing both the substance and the relatively chaotic backstory of the United States Constitution. The framers, although undoubtedly brilliant and visionary, were also very human and had many misgivings about the quality and durability of the document they were creating. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson was quite explicit: no generation should have the authority to bind the next and ideally the Constitution should be written anew by each generation with laws suitable for its own time and needs.
Bleyer takes such august authority as his starting point to facetiously frame his own version of a suitable constitution for our time. While his tone is amusingly light-hearted and sprinkled with frequently hilarious anecdotes from both the times of the founders and of our own (including a luncheon interview with Supreme Court Justice Scalia), what comes across clearly is that the framers would have been shocked, even appalled, to learn that the Constitution they patched together would be considered sacrosanct more than 200 years later. More than that, they probably would have been horrified to learn that their "original intent" (as if there was ONE original intent) would have been considered controlling in interpreting that Constitution by numerous Supreme Court Justices, including Justice Scalia, himself.
Bleyer does a real service in accurately conveying both constitutional principles and the difficulties in their interpretation in an accessible and entertaining style. Whether the reader is new to the subject or thinks that he/she "knows" the Constitution, the book inspires an appreciation of both the privileges and the responsibilities belonging to those who live in a constitutionally governed democratic society and does so in a way that is non-confrontational and, yes, fun!
The information and how it was presented
Good book, but I there was too much fluff. I was pleased with the amount of information, but the other half of the book was just distracting fluff. For example, his description of his lunch with a member of a supreme court, he fills the transcript with so many useless and annoying comments it's hard to not just shut it off.
Also, it was my impression that he was going to develop a better and more informed proposal for a new constitution, and despite being very informative about the origins and consequences of most articles in the constitution, the good journey doesn't culminate in a good destination.. The constitution is essentially a jestful rant with all the "u"'s removed from words like "behaviour."
It ranks in the top five of the government/history books I've listened too.
When one of the delegates gets sauced rants for hours until he is exhausted, demands he be allowed to pick up where he leaves off in the morning then walks out of the convention.
Kevin Bleyer was very entertaining in his reading.
What I took away from this book is how essential cooperation and compromise was in forming our government. I think those of us who love government and politics have at some point in time invoked the names of some founding father or other in hopes it would win us an argument. It seems though, that on their own each of these men were flawed in very serious ways, not so much that they were bad men or unfit for the roles they played. But, enough that if any one of them were to have written our constitution alone I don't believe it would have stood for so long. Don't get me wrong though, I learned all this while laughing my tail off. Great book, give it a listen
Yes, it's a fun way to learn some things about history. Funny, irreverent...
How the author puts life into the founding fathers.
The department of beer.
No. I broke it into 3 days. I think that worked well.
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