It is ironic that just days before the 40th anniversary of the Watergate burglary we should also witness a jaw-dropping act of constitutional defiance by the current president. Then the issue was whether the president was above the law and could bend and stretch the powers of his office for whatever end he dubbed worthy. This time the issue is whether the president can write Congress out of the Constitution.
The topic now is the Dream Act. In 2011 President Obama explained:
In 2012 Obama invoked the “it’s the right thing to do” clause of Article 1, which makes the “ we can ignore the enumerated powers” clause of Article 2 look like child’s play in the game of unconstitutional power grabbing.
Irony of ironies, it is John Yoo, the bogeyman of the left, who reminded us that the president had abused his power:
President Obama’s claim that he can refuse to deport 800,000 aliens here in the country illegally illustrates the unprecedented stretching of the Constitution and the rule of law. He is laying claim to presidential power that goes even beyond that claimed by the Bush administration, in which I served. There is a world of difference in refusing to enforce laws that violate the Constitution (Bush) and refusing to enforce laws because of disagreements over policy (Obama).
Under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, the president has the duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” This provision was included to make sure that the president could not simply choose, as the British King had, to cancel legislation simply because he disagreed with it. President Obama cannot refuse to carry out a congressional statute simply because he thinks it advances the wrong policy. To do so violates the very core of his constitutional duties.
As Yoo notes, if Obama can systematically amend legislation without Congress, then “President Romney could lower tax rates simply by saying he will not use enforcement resources to prosecute anyone who refuses to pay capital-gains tax. He could repeal Obamacare simply by refusing to fine or prosecute anyone who violates it.” Not enforce the Dodd-Frank financial legislation? Sure. Tell the Environmental Protection Agency to cease all enforcement actions? Fine.
That the media elites who bleated about President George W. Bush’s purported “shredding” of the Constitution are silent is tribute to the left’s intellectual hypocrisy and the strength of the totalitarian temptation. If it serves liberal ends then, presto, it is legal.
This is not the first time this president has shown indifference to the rule of law. The commerce clause? Puleez. The individual mandate is the right thing to do. Hand out bushels of Obamacare waivers to political allies? Of course, it is the right thing to do. Invent privileges to avoid investigation. Appoint rafts of czars outside the Senate confirmation process. Trample on General Motors bondholders’ interests to bail out the United Auto Workers. Use taxpayers’ money to reward fat-cat contributors peddling “green” energy snake oil. It is all the right thing to do.
The president’s ambitions are unlimited. He wanted to force contractors to divulge campaign donations. David Axelrod wants to rewrite the First Amendment. And it’s accepted practice now to harass donors to your opponents. Richard Nixon is applauding from the grave.
In a nation of laws we replace whim and imperial favoritism with neutral laws that treat rich and poor, Democratic constituent and Republican donor all the same. And in our constitutional democracy power is enumerated, divided and balanced. But the system works only if leaders exercise self-restraint and adhere to their oaths of office. This president does not. It is an abomination, and for this alone the voters should toss him from office.
This is a much bigger deal than immigration. It is bigger than one election. It is about whether we’re going to have the rule of law or the rule of Obama, and whether Congress can be bypassed whenever the president doesn’t get what he wants.
Congress was accused of risking financial bankruptcy in the showdown over the debt. Obama risks constitutional bankruptcy. The chattering class yawns.