Our Lawless Constitutional Law Professor

“I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution.”
Barack Obama, March 30, 2007

From CNSNews:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopolous” that President Barack Obama’s presidency is becoming “increasingly lawless,” because the president is “actually contradicting law” or “proposing new laws without going through Congress.”

“We have an increasingly lawless presidency,” said Ryan.

“We have an increasingly lawless presidency where he is actually doing the job of Congress, writing new policies and new laws without going through Congress,” Ryan said. “Presidents don’t write laws. Congress does, and when he does things like he did in health care – delaying mandates that the law said was supposed to occur when they were supposed to occur, that’s not his job.”

“The job of Congress is to change laws if he doesn’t like them – not the presidency. So executive orders are one thing, but executive orders that actually change the statute, that’s totally different,” Ryan said.

Stephanopolous asked Ryan if he really thought Obama’s proposals are unconstitutional, pointing out that the rate of the president’s executive orders is far behind Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton.

According to the National Archives Federal Register, Obama has signed 167 executive orders as of Dec. 23, 2013. President George W. Bush signed 291 executive orders, and his father, President George H.W. Bush signed 166 executive orders. President Bill Clinton signed 364 executive orders.

“It’s not the number of executive orders. It’s the scope of the executive orders,” said Ryan. “It’s the fact that he’s actually contradicting law like in the health care case, or proposing new laws without going through Congress, George. That’s the issue. So this is a big concern. We have an increasingly lawless presidency.”

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It Depends

VDH explains how noble lies become truth to followers of Leftism:

All presidents have, at one time or another, fudged on the truth. Most politicians pad their résumés and airbrush away their sins. But what is new about political lying is the present notion that lies are not necessarily lies anymore — a reflection of the relativism that infects our entire culture.

Postmodernism (the cultural fad “after modernism”) went well beyond questioning norms and rules. It attacked the very idea of having any rules at all. Postmodernist relativists claimed that things like “truth” were mere fictions to preserve elite privilege. Unfortunately, bad ideas like that have a habit of poisoning an entire society — and now they have.

Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was recently caught fabricating her own autobiography. She exaggerated her earlier ordeals, lied about the age at which she divorced, and was untruthful about how she paid for her Harvard Law School education.

When caught, Davis did not apologize for lying. Instead, she lamely offered that “my language should be tighter.” Apparently, only old fogies still believe in truth and falsehood — period. In contrast, Davis knows that promoting a progressive feminist agenda is “truth,” and she only needs to be “tighter” about her fabrications to neutralize her reactionary critics.

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren for years falsely claimed that she was a Native American. That fabricated ancestry proved useful in upping her career trajectory. When pressed about her racial background during her 2012 campaign, the Harvard law professor denied any deliberate misrepresentation and went on to be elected. Such progressive crusaders assume that they serve the greater truth of social change.

In the gospel of postmodern relativism, what did it matter if the president of the United States promised that Obamacare would not alter existing health-care plans when it was clear that it would? Instead, the good intentions of universal health care are the only truth that matters.

For that matter, the “law” that requires a president to enforce legislation passed by Congress is likewise a construct. If ignoring bothersome laws — whether the individual mandate and timetable of Obamacare, or federal immigration law — serves a greater social justice, then such dereliction also becomes “truth.” Blindly enforcing legalistic details of the law that are deemed no longer in the interest of the people would be the real lie, or so the reasoning goes.

Without notions of objective truth there can never be lies, just competing narratives and discourses. Stories that supposedly serve the noble majority are true; those that supposedly don’t become lies — the facts are irrelevant. When Senator Hillary Clinton in 2007 heard the factual details of the successful Iraq surge as related by General David Petraeus, she said they required a “suspension of disbelief.” In her postmodern sensibility, fighting an unpopular war was a lie, but opposing it was the truth — and the actual metrics for whether the surge was working or not were simply an irrelevant narrative.

Later, as secretary of state, Clinton dismissed the circumstances surrounding the murders in Benghazi with the callous exclamation, “What difference does it make?” She had a postmodern point. If President Obama, then–United Nations ambassador Susan Rice, and Clinton herself all wrongly and deliberately assured the nation that a politically incorrect video had triggered the attacks in Benghazi, were they not on the right side of opposing religious bias and helping a progressive president to be reelected? How could that good intention be a lie?

If Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied under oath to Congress that the National Security Agency does not snoop on American citizens, how can that be perjury if Clapper’s goal was to silence Obama’s right-wing critics? For that matter, if Clapper wanted to show tolerance for Islamists, how could it be a lie when he testified earlier that the radical Muslim Brotherhood was “largely secular”?

By what arbitrary rules can one claim that “Piss Christ” or other provocative anti-Christian art is blasphemous or inferior if its apparent purpose is to lessen the influence of a purportedly pernicious religion? Was Obama’s autobiography truth or fiction, or something in between — as hinted by the president himself when he was caught in untruths and then backed away from some of his stories, claiming they were now just “composites”?

Part of old America still abides by absolute truth and falsity. A door is either hung plumb or not. The calibrations of the Atlas rocket either are accurate and it takes off or inaccurate and it blows up. Noble intentions cannot make prime numbers like five or seven divisible.

But outside of math and science, whose natural truth man so far cannot impugn, almost everything else in America has become “it depends.” Admissions, hiring, evaluations, autobiographies, and the statements of politicians and government officials all become truthful if they serve the correct cause — and damn any reactionary discrepancies.

To paraphrase George Orwell, everything is relative, but some things are more relative than others.

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Ovation for Lawlessness

Allen West with a way to trim some fat from the federal leviathan:

I have an idea to cut government spending immediately. Every Member of Congress who stood and applauded when Obama said he can take steps without legislation can be immediately fired since they agree they are irrelevant — including their staff. Their constituents can then live under the rule of edict instead of the rule of law. I think that would save us a whole bunch of money — including their congressional pensions since they abandoned their duties.

Not to mention that they should be fired for giving an ovation to Obama’s boastful threat to continue violating the Constitution by bypassing Congress — something that specifically contradicts their Oath of Office.

Embarrassment

It infuriates me that Barack Obama, our supposedly responsible, supposedly honorable leader, stands in front of the country and repeats, with histrionic assuredness, the widely discredited pablum that women earn 3/4 of what men earn for the same work:

“You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”

No, Mr. Obama, you are an embarrassment.

Our Imperial President

Ted Cruz on the brazen lawlessness of Barack Obama:

Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the president’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat. On Monday, Mr. Obama acted unilaterally to raise the minimum wage paid by federal contracts, the first of many executive actions the White House promised would be a theme of his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The president’s taste for unilateral action to circumvent Congress should concern every citizen, regardless of party or ideology. The great 18th-century political philosopher Montesquieu observed: “There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates.” America’s Founding Fathers took this warning to heart, and we should too.

Rule of law doesn’t simply mean that society has laws; dictatorships are often characterized by an abundance of laws. Rather, rule of law means that we are a nation ruled by laws, not men. That no one—and especially not the president—is above the law. For that reason, the U.S. Constitution imposes on every president the express duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Yet rather than honor this duty, President Obama has openly defied it by repeatedly suspending, delaying and waiving portions of the laws he is charged to enforce. When Mr. Obama disagreed with federal immigration laws, he instructed the Justice Department to cease enforcing the laws. He did the same thing with federal welfare law, drug laws and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

On many of those policy issues, reasonable minds can disagree. Mr. Obama may be right that some of those laws should be changed. But the typical way to voice that policy disagreement, for the preceding 43 presidents, has been to work with Congress to change the law. If the president cannot persuade Congress, then the next step is to take the case to the American people. As President Reagan put it: “If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat” of electoral accountability.

President Obama has a different approach. As he said recently, describing his executive powers: “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.” Under the Constitution, that is not the way federal law is supposed to work.

The Obama administration has been so brazen in its attempts to expand federal power that the Supreme Court has unanimously rejected the Justice Department’s efforts to expand federal power nine times since January 2012.

There is no example of lawlessness more egregious than the enforcement—or nonenforcement—of the president’s signature policy, the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Obama has repeatedly declared that “it’s the law of the land.” Yet he has repeatedly violated ObamaCare’s statutory text.

The law says that businesses with 50 or more full-time employees will face the employer mandate on Jan. 1, 2014. President Obama changed that, granting a one-year waiver to employers. How did he do so? Not by going to Congress to change the text of the law, but through a blog post by an assistant secretary at Treasury announcing the change.

The law says that only Americans who have access to state-run exchanges will be subject to employer penalties and may obtain ObamaCare premium subsidies. This was done to entice the states to create exchanges. But, when 34 states decided not to establish state-run exchanges, the Obama administration announced that the statutory words “established by State” would also mean “established by the federal government.”

The law says that members of Congress and their staffs’ health coverage must be an ObamaCare exchange plan, which would prevent them from receiving their current federal-employee health subsidies, just like millions of Americans who can’t receive such benefits. At the behest of Senate Democrats, the Obama administration instead granted a special exemption (deeming “individual” plans to be “group” plans) to members of Congress and their staffs so they could keep their pre-existing health subsidies.

Most strikingly, when over five million Americans found their health insurance plans canceled because ObamaCare made their plans illegal—despite the president’s promise “if you like your plan, you can keep it”—President Obama simply held a news conference where he told private insurance companies to disobey the law and issue plans that ObamaCare regulated out of existence.

In other words, rather than go to Congress and try to provide relief to the millions who are hurting because of the “train wreck” of ObamaCare (as one Senate Democrat put it), the president instructed private companies to violate the law and said he would in effect give them a get-out-of-jail-free card—for one year, and one year only. Moreover, in a move reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s looking-glass world, President Obama simultaneously issued a veto threat if Congress passed legislation doing what he was then ordering.

In the more than two centuries of our nation’s history, there is simply no precedent for the White House wantonly ignoring federal law and asking private companies to do the same. As my colleague Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa asked, “This was the law. How can they change the law?”

Similarly, 11 state attorneys general recently wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying that the continuing changes to ObamaCare are “flatly illegal under federal constitutional and statutory law.” The attorneys general correctly observed that “the only way to fix this problem-ridden law is to enact changes lawfully: through Congressional action.”

In the past, when Republican presidents abused their power, many Republicans—and the press—rightly called them to account. Today many in Congress—and the press—have chosen to give President Obama a pass on his pattern of lawlessness, perhaps letting partisan loyalty to the man supersede their fidelity to the law.

But this should not be a partisan issue. In time, the country will have another president from another party. For all those who are silent now: What would they think of a Republican president who announced that he was going to ignore the law, or unilaterally change the law? Imagine a future president setting aside environmental laws, or tax laws, or labor laws, or tort laws with which he or she disagreed.

That would be wrong—and it is the Obama precedent that is opening the door for future lawlessness. As Montesquieu knew, an imperial presidency threatens the liberty of every citizen. Because when a president can pick and choose which laws to follow and which to ignore, he is no longer a president.

And the citizenry yawns.

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The Teflon President

From Roger Kimball:

The best line of the day comes from “Obama’s Belated Defense of the NSA,” Andrew McCarthy’s reflection on Obama’s speech about spooks, spying, and national security yesterday. No, it’s not his characterization, toward the end of his essay, of Obama’s behavior as a “toxic mix of passive unseriousness and active harm.” That’s the second-best line of the day, a grimly accurate summary of what this Potemkin President is all about. But the best line comes at the top, at the very beginning of McCarthy’s column: “It is very hard to take President Obama seriously.”

Bingo. The architect of “the most transparent administration in history”; a man who repeatedly promised the public that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it, period”; the fellow who put it about that the slaughter of four Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, was caused by an internet video; the guy who has twice raised his right hand and sworn to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” to the best of his ability while also (just last week, for example) announcing out of the other side of the orifice his intention to proceed with his agenda “with or without Congress” — how can you take this man seriously, where by “seriously” I mean, how can you trust him?

The brief answer is, “You can’t.” You can’t trust him. He has willfully and repeatedly lied to the American people about all manner of things touching their vital interests. It’s almost comical, or at least it would be if Obama’s behavior didn’t intrude so blatantly upon issues of individual liberty, economic dynamism, and national security. Think about it. One the one hand, Obama has spent the last five years governing as if he were a dictator. Any time he doesn’t like a law, he flouts it, “waiving” it without authority for groups he likes (Obamacare, for example, is the law of the land, except if you are a member of Congress or belong to a favored union). His Justice Department is dedicated to an agenda of racialist activism.

But, on the other hand, he never seems to be held to account. I’m not saying there isn’t plenty of criticism. There is. I’ve tried to contribute my fair share in this column and elsewhere. But here’s the thing: the criticism never seems to get traction. It bounces around in the echo chamber of conservative angst but never seems to penetrate into the broader consciousness. To me, it is astounding that Obama has (so far) weathered the scandal of Benghazi with only minimal damage. I cannot understand how his deployment of the IRS as a political weapon can proceed without instigating widespread demonstrations, if not worse. How is it, I’ve wondered, that Obama can have blatantly lied about so many aspects of Obamacare without there being a serious backlash? I am really at something of a loss. Perhaps it has something to do with his mastery of the art that Gertrude Stein described as “knowing how far to go in going too far.” He salts his mendacity with dollops of, not truth, exactly, but with dollops of earnest equivocation that might be mistaken as truths by the credulous and unwary. He is aided, moreover, by the inertia of affluence and stupefying national power. The United States commands extraordinary resources, economically and militarily. It takes time to degrade them. And although the middle class is much worse off now than when Obama came in to office, and although the country’s military might has been seriously diminished these last several years, there is still a long way to go before the public at large will sit up and take notice.

By then, alas, the damage will likely be irrecoverable and Obama will be long gone. Much as you might like to believe otherwise, the world is not standing still. It is an increasingly dangerous place, and the United States is increasingly poorly equipped to respond with authority. Whose tocsin is sufficiently clear, and bright, and persuasive to rouse an indifferent public, a complicit media, and a self-serving political elite into action? What we are witnessing is not only a concerted attack on the Constitution (how abstract that sounds) but also an assault on our way of life: our habits of individual liberty and free enterprise, our assumption of national security and global prerogative. The hour is late. Who will recall us from our dogmatic slumbers?

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Government by Mere Mortals

From Mark Steyn:

Not everyone at the Mandela jamboree was doing selfies with the Danish pastry. One reader passed along this photograph: No sign of Barack buddy David Cameron, but here are three of the Queen’s other prime ministers – Australia’s Tony Abbott, Canada’s Stephen Harper, New Zealand’s John Key – having a working lunch ahead of the memorial service. All three are conservatives, and, while there are many who’d like a bit more red meat with respect to this or that, every single one of them is well to the right of President Obama. Come to think of it, their respective leftie (Liberal/Labour) predecessors (Julia Gillard, Paul Martin, Helen Clark) were also to the right of President Obama. For a supposed “right of center” nation, it is striking how at odds with its allies America is.

But what I like about the photo is its ordinariness, right down to the restaurant decor, the wall print of wine bottles, and the spare chair. The Obama cult doesn’t seem to allow for anything so low-key – see, for example, this absurd scene from the US Embassy in London. After five years under the klieg lights of Obama glamor, there’s something to be said for being governed by non-messiahs.

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Obama Finally Discovers That Big Government Is Too Big

From Mediaite:

On Fox News Sunday, Fox News contributor George Will had a chuckle over President Barack Obama’s comment in a recent interview that seemed to place some blame for the woeful rollout of the Affordable Care Act on cumbersome government agencies.

“Not to put too fine a point on it,” host Chris Wallace said, “but it’s those outdated agencies the president talks about that he, under Obamacare, is going to have oversee about a sixth of the economy. ”

“The education of this president is a protracted and often amusing process — as it was this week — as he continues to alight upon the obvious with a sense of profound and original discovery,” Will replied. “He’s alighting on what is obvious to governors. This is really why we should have governors more often than senators as president.”

“The president is saying the trouble with big government is it’s so darned big,” he continued. “And like a lot of other big organisms — dinosaurs spring to mind — it has a simple nervous system, it’s sclerotic, it’s governed by inertia, and it’s hard to move. This from a man who’s devoted his life to increasing the power of government as an instrument of the redistribution of income, because government is wiser than markets at that. It’s, as I say, highly amusing.”

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Bias by Omission

On November 23, USA Today published an article listing the top five best- and worst-run states. In the article, the authors say that, “While each state is different, the best-run states share certain characteristics, as do the worst run.” But they completely omit probably the most important characteristic in how well a state is run: that is, who is running the state. A revealing pattern arises when you look at the party affiliation of the governor and legislatures running the best- and worst-run states.

The Five Best-Run States

1. North Dakota:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Large Republican majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Republican majority

2. Wyoming:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Large Republican majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Republican majority

3. Iowa:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Slight Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Slight Republican majority

4. Nebraska:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Legislature (unicameral and nonpartisan) – the vast majority of its members are Republicans

5. Utah:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Large Republican majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Republican majority

The Five Worst-Run States

46. Nevada:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Slight Democrat majority
  • Assembly – Large Democrat majority

47. Rhode Island:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Democrat majority

48. Illinois:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Democrat majority

49. New Mexico:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Democrat majority

50. California:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • Assembly – Large Democrat majority