Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Strong constitution, weak leader
Special to the Daily
“He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient … he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed …” — Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section 3.
“I taught constitutional law for 10 years. I take the Constitution very seriously. The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all, and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America.” —Senator Barack Obama at a Lancaster, Pennsylvania Town Hall Meeting, 2008.
“Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” — President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, February 2014.
Paging Barack Obama: 2008 wants its “constitutional scholar” back. So do the rest of us.
It’s not only remarkable hypocrisy that’s on display here. It’s not just breathtaking disdain for the average American’s memory — or ability to use Google for research, for that matter. Not just an ego so big one can see it clearly from space. And since the president has been careful to point out on numerous occasions that he “taught constitutional law” it’s not stupidity or ignorance either. He knows what the document says. He simply doesn’t care.
In this, Barack Obama mirrors most other prominent progressive politicians, a line that stretches back to Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. It was the former’s comment during negotiations over the national coal strike of 1902 that set the tone for modern presidents: cautioned by a congressman that his threat to nationalize the mines was unconstitutional, Teddy roared “To Hell with the Constitution, when the people want coal!” The current president would doubtless concur.
When creating our Federal government, the Founders were careful to separate legislative and executive powers and to hedge each about with prohibitions against usurpation by specifying what each branch could do, and by noting that anything not “enumerated” — listed by name — was off limits. Thanks to over a century of diligent Progressive undermining, these barriers are nearly flat and we are well along the path to one-man rule.
“Executive Orders” is one tactic of our “my will be done” president. Through these, his administration has extended its regulatory reach into hitherto untouched regions of politics, economics and social life; think of the EPA’s newly-acquired power to regulate carbon dioxide or the ad-hoc “supercommittee” created late last year from various government agencies, given authority to act to decrease the “impact of climate change” within their various purviews. Or a “Council” created in September 2011 to “Accelerate Investment in Industrial Energy Efficiency” through an executive order the gist of which was “spend more on efficiency — or else.” Emphasis on the “or else” part.
Obamaniacs will insist that “George Bush issued more Executive Orders,” and numerically, he did. But the content was not the same. One of my favorites from 2007 directed federal offices in Washington, D.C. to close early on Dec. 24. Another promised protection for stripped bass and red drum fish. My favorite from 2006 forbade federal “taking” of private property via eminent domain, save for specific and very limited purposes.
The president recently moved beyond executive orders, perhaps finding them tedious — or out of concern for a written record of his “transformative” wrecking. Channeling France’s Louis XIV, he has taken to simply announcing changes to laws he finds politically inconvenient — the employer mandate in Obamacare, for example. It’s worth remembering that actions like this have been considered beyond the pale since Richard Nixon; for example, in the 1998 Clinton v. New York Supreme Court decision, Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, said bluntly: “There is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend, or to repeal statutes.”
He will continue to use the apparatus of government to reward friends and punish enemies, most of these actions occurring in darkness, as with EPA rulemaking to favor the products of big donors and corporate pets like General Electric, or the use of the IRS to target conservative groups.
And he will continue his administration’s five-year history of selective enforcement of the nation’s laws, from cramming gay marriage down the throats of the states whose citizens have decided not to allow it, to punishing those who reject same-day voter registration, to continuing to play with immigration, loosening security requirements for issuing visas, downplaying border and workplace enforcement and creating new categories of “undeportables.” How’s that for “faithful execution?”
What are we to do about it? Remember, it’s 2014.
Morgan Liddick lives in Summit County.
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