From The Patriot Post:
Barack Obama claims to be a “professor of constitutional law,” but a genuine constitutional scholar, George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley, a self-acknowledged liberal Obama supporter, has offered severe criticism of Obama’s “über presidency,” his abuse of executive orders and regulations to bypass Congress.
When asked by Fox News host Megyn Kelly how he would respond “to those who say many presidents have issued executive orders on immigration,” Turley responded, “This would be unprecedented, and I think it would be an unprecedented threat to the balance of powers.”
In July, Turley gave congressional testimony concerning Obama’s abuse of executive orders: “When the president went to Congress and said he would go it alone, it obviously raises a concern. There’s no license for going it alone in our system, and what he’s done is very problematic. He’s told agencies not to enforce some laws [and] has effectively rewritten laws through active interpretation that I find very problematic.”
He continued: “Our system is changing in a dangerous and destabilizing way. What’s emerging is an imperial presidency, an über presidency. … The president’s pledge to effectively govern alone is alarming but what is most alarming is his ability to fulfill that pledge. When a president can govern alone, he can become a government unto himself, which is precisely the danger that the Framers sought to avoid in the establishment of our tripartite system of government. … Obama has repeatedly violated this [separation of powers] doctrine in the circumvention of Congress in areas ranging from health care to immigration law to environmental law. … What we are witnessing today is one of the greatest challenges to our constitutional system in the history of this country. We are in the midst of a constitutional crisis with sweeping implications for our system of government. There could be no greater danger for individual liberty. I think the framers would be horrified. … We are now at the constitutional tipping point for our system. … No one in our system can ‘go it alone’ – not Congress, not the courts, and not the president.”
Turley reiterated this week: “[Obama has] become a government of one. … It’s becoming a particularly dangerous moment if the president is going to go forward, particularly after this election, to defy the will of Congress yet again. … What the president is suggesting is tearing at the very fabric of the Constitution. We have a separation of powers … to protect Liberty, to keep any branch from assuming so much authority that they become a threat to Liberty. … The Democrats are creating something very, very dangerous. They’re creating a president who can go it alone – the very danger that are framers sought to avoid in our Constitution. … I hope he does not get away with it.”
From Myron Magnet:
Anyone who believes the talk about how Barack Obama is already a lame-duck president, detached and irrelevant, is deluding himself. President Obama has accomplished more or less what he set out to accomplish. He has made himself the most consequential and transformative president since Lyndon Johnson. His foreign policy has been more systematically destructive of the world order and American power than LBJ’s Vietnam War. His wrong-headed domestic policy has proved more catastrophic and intentionally hard to correct than Johnson’s madcap War on Poverty, whose consequences still bedevil our society.
On the domestic front, Obama has overturned American health care, one-sixth of the nation’s economy and an industry that affects everyone. True, Obamacare is a mess, but it has destroyed the existing health-insurance system, and it will take the next administration, along with the health and insurance industries, a long time both to figure out what a crazy tangle Obamacare has created and then to untangle the confusion, some of it intentional, some inadvertent. Do we want employer-funded health insurance? Mutual insurance companies? An individual tax deduction for health-insurance premiums? Catastrophic care coverage? National rather than state-regulated insurance companies? What do we do about those with pre-existing conditions? What do we do with those supposedly “covered” by Obamacare? Obama has preempted the option of a slow, Burkean evolution to a better and more rational arrangement from the employer-paid system that grew half-accidentally out of World War II price controls. Now we have anarchy, and it will require leadership and vision beyond what America usually can call upon to hose out Obama’s Augean stables and create order.
Meanwhile, the president has overturned the Constitution to keep his command-and-control health-insurance scheme alive. The law that Congress wrote (but didn’t read, under the shameless leadership of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi) turned out to be, as was inevitable, filled with holes and errors. No matter: a presidential edict a day keeps collapse away. But the Constitution doesn’t allow for government by executive edict. That’s for monarchy or dictatorship. Nevertheless, after such an example, it will take us some time to reestablish the principle that the president’s duty is to see that the laws are faithfully executed, and that his power doesn’t go beyond that—doesn’t extend, for example, to abolishing our national border.
Now that the days of Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and Daniel Webster—not to mention Sam Ervin—are almost mythical memories, we live in the less lofty era of Elizabeth Warren and Charlie Rangel, and under the shadow of the 1974 Budget Act, by which the House of Representatives threw away its power of the purse, weakening the Madisonian machinery of checks and balances. As a result, we have a presidency more imperial than Richard Nixon would have dared imagine, and it will take time to restore something resembling our constitutional order. History will remember Reid and Pelosi as being nearly as important as Clay or Calhoun—but with a completely different valuation, diminishing the power and prestige of their institutions by abusing them, like Joe McCarthy or Martin Dies. And if the administrative state conceived in the Progressive Era, and brought to fruition by the New Deal, intentionally overturned the Founding Fathers’ constitutional order, Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board—free of oversight by the people’s elected representatives—or the Dodd-Frank Act’s similarly anti-democratic Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have taken that fourth branch of government (utterly unsanctioned by the Constitution, as Franklin Roosevelt said, even as he was expanding it) to anti-constitutional extremes that make a mockery of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” and would have the Founding Fathers spinning in their graves.
Abroad, we see the ruin that an incoherent American foreign policy and wanton abdication of power has permitted. If President Obama thought President George W. Bush’s freedom agenda naïve—and, to be sure, how can tribal peoples with tribal loyalties and medieval customs develop overnight the rule of law, sanctity of contract, disinterested administration, and rational discourse that it took Western civilization centuries to nurture—why would he and his remarkably maladroit secretaries of state expect the Arab Spring to produce exactly that impossible outcome? Why would the president stick so long by the sectarian bigot Nuri al-Maliki, who can only bring about chaos, division, and bloodshed? Why would Obama not arm the Kurds and let them form their own semi-autonomous region, oil-rich and grateful for U.S. support—if only they had it? Why would he tell Israel to stop interdicting terrorist missiles from Gaza, until our democratic ally, Benjamin Netanyahu, finally told him to shut up, while meanwhile anarchy rages across the blood-drenched region, as the Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad fights off the seventh-century fanatics of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, one tyranny against another, with collateral damage measured in tens of thousands of bodies—and not one word from the Leader of the Free World? And one would have said of Russian czar Vladimir Putin what Max Eastman once wrote of Ernest Hemingway—“Come out from behind that false hair on your chest, Ernest. We all know you”—except that this administration’s “reset” of U.S. relations with Russia, meaning meek acquiescence in all that Russia does, has turned a paper tiger into a real one, with almost 20,000 soldiers on the Ukrainian border, armed with the most modern engines of murder, as they have already shown with a feral smirk.
It is proverbially easy to destroy something but hard to build it up. Faced with such wreckage of policies and systems laboriously constructed by Americans over decades and centuries, who knows where to start the work of repair, and how to do it? And that’s the final, intentional destruction Barack Obama has wrought: he has the Republican opposition, already creaking with ideological strains, in internal turmoil about almost everything, since everything is so out of joint.
“Show our critics a great man,” wrote historian and biographer Thomas Carlyle, “they begin to what they call ‘account’ for him. . . . He was the ‘creature of the Time,’ they say; the Time called him forth, the Time did everything, he nothing. . . . The Time call forth? Alas, we have known Times call loudly enough for their great man; but not find him when they called! . . . [T]he Time, calling its loudest, had to go down to confusion and wreck because he would not come when called.” The present time is calling loudly, too, and we must hope that leaders of vision, courage, eloquence, patriotism, and prudence will step forward to start us on the work of repair.
From The Wall Street Journal:
“ObamaCare” is useful shorthand for the Affordable Care Act not least because the law increasingly means whatever President Obama says it does on any given day. His latest lawless rewrite arrived on Monday as the White House decided to delay the law’s employer mandate for another year and in some cases maybe forever.
“I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution.”
— Barack Obama, March 30, 2007
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.”
From Walter E. Williams:
Here’s a question that I’ve asked in the past that needs to be revisited. Unless one wishes to obfuscate, it has a simple yes or no answer. If one group of people prefers strong government control and management of people’s lives while another group prefers liberty and desires to be left alone, should they be required to enter into conflict with one another and risk bloodshed and loss of life in order to impose their preferences on the other group? Yes or no. My answer is no; they should be able to peaceably part company and go their separate ways.
The problem our nation faces is very much like a marriage in which one partner has an established pattern of ignoring and breaking the marital vows. Moreover, the offending partner has no intention to mend his ways. Of course, the marriage can remain intact while one party tries to impose his will on the other and engages in the deviousness of one-upsmanship and retaliation. Rather than domination or submission by one party, or domestic violence, a more peaceable alternative is separation.
I believe our nation is at a point where there are enough irreconcilable differences between those Americans who want to control other Americans and those Americans who want to be left alone that separation is the only peaceable alternative. Just as in a marriage where vows are broken, our rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution have been grossly violated by a government instituted to protect them. These constitutional violations have increased independent of whether there’s been a Democrat-controlled Washington or a Republican-controlled Washington.
There is no evidence that Americans who are responsible for and support constitutional abrogation have any intention of mending their ways. You say, “Williams, what do you mean by constitutional abrogation?” Let’s look at the magnitude of the violations.
Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution lists the activities for which Congress is authorized to tax and spend. Nowhere on that list is there authority for Congress to tax and spend for: Medicare, Social Security, public education, farm subsidies, bank and business bailouts, food stamps and thousands of other activities that account for roughly two-thirds of the federal budget. Neither is there authority for congressional mandates to citizens about what type of health insurance they must purchase, how states and people may use their land, the speed at which they can drive, whether a library has wheelchair ramps, and the gallons of water used per toilet flush. The list of congressional violations of both the letter and spirit of the Constitution is virtually without end. Our derelict Supreme Court has given Congress sanction to do just about anything for which they can muster a majority vote.
James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, explained in Federalist Paper No. 45: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. … The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.” Our founder’s constitutional vision of limited federal government has been consigned to the dustbin of history.
Americans have several options. We can like sheep submit to those who have contempt for liberty and our Constitution. We can resist, fight and risk bloodshed and death in an attempt to force America’s tyrants to respect our liberties and Constitution. A superior alternative is to find a way to peaceably separate into states whose citizens respect liberty and the Constitution. My personal preference is a restoration of the constitutional values of limited government that made us a great nation.
From Charles C.W. Cooke:
A political cartoon, published in a newspaper at some point in the early 1990s, has long been burned into my memory. In it, newly elected President Clinton is being shown around the White House by a man in a butler’s uniform. Clinton arrives at a wall on which sit an abundance of political levers and buttons and, thrilled, his eyes widen. Yet he is quickly disappointed. “Sorry, sir,” the orderly’s speech bubble reads, “but these are all connected to Congress.”
The brinkmanship, gridlock, and rancor that the fight over the continuing resolution has yielded is disliked, at least in some manner, by almost everyone involved. But opinions as to what might be done about it vary wildly. On Friday, Wonkblog’s Dylan Matthews provided a suggestion: Americans, he wrote, “oughta start thinking seriously about how to prevent divided government from ever happening again.”
This is not partisan posturing. On the contrary, Matthews earnestly and consistently believes that America’s system is intrinsically unviable, and that it is to blame for our current predicament. And he is tapping into a sentiment that is reasonably popular among his peers. The last time that the United States teetered toward a shutdown or a default, Slate’s Matthew Yglesias wrote at length about what he regards as the “long-simmering problems with the basic structure of American political institutions.” Were Yglesias to draw the next panel of the old cartoon, he would presumably have Clinton do some rewiring.
This line is not a new one. Hostility toward America’s rigid separation of powers has a rich, if unappealing, history on the Left. Woodrow Wilson — a man whose animus to the constitutional order that he had sworn to uphold approached almost treasonable levels — was savvy enough to recognize that the expansive long-term ambitions of the Progressive movement were simply incompatible with the country’s founding documents. In consequence, Wilson proposed, Americans should change their expectations of government, invest their democratic ambitions in one man (the president), and abandon the country’s messy political settlement in favor of a streamlined and “efficient” state that was more akin to that in the Kaiser’s Germany or in the King’s Britain. “The Constitution,” Wilson wrote, “was not made to fit us like a straitjacket. In its elasticity lies its chief greatness.”
While his insistence that the Constitution was not supposed to be a “straitjacket” is incorrect, Wilson and his descendants are correct in their basic complaint: Separation of powers is inefficient; it is an obstacle to substantial change; and it will not only “allow” gridlock but it is explicitly designed to encourage it. Where they are wrong is to conclude that this should change with the times. The Constitution is the product of abiding insight into politics — an insight that does not change with the wind. Rather amazingly, Yglesias claims the opposite to be the case: The problem of gridlock, he wrote in 2011, stems directly from the Founders’ having had “little in the way of experience to guide them in thinking about how political institutions would evolve.”
This is not simply untrue, it is the perfect opposite of the truth. Having watched the radical transformation of the British system during the 17th and 18th centuries — and studied undulations of the classical world, for good measure — most of the Founders were strikingly well versed in political theory. The introduction of limiting tools such as the rule of law, term restrictions, a codified constitution, a bill of rights, and divided government were intended to dispense with the presumption, famously termed “elective dictatorship” by Lord Hailsham, that the man who is voted in as leader every four or so years should have carte blanche to get things done. In other words, the Founders sought to block precisely what Yglesias and his cohorts covet. Nobody is perfect, of course, but I would wager everything I own that the architects of America were more au courant with the vagaries of human nature and the concentrating tendency of political actors than are the writers at Slate.
In some respects, Wilson has got his wish. Witness, for example, the peculiar manner in which many citizens, journalists, and legislators have presumed that Obama’s wishes for the congressionally designed budget should be the national starting point. Why? Because he won election to head up the executive branch, obviously! It seems that our debate has been upside-down from the start: Constitutionally speaking, if any elections should suggest the direction of the budget and of the laws, they are the 435 that determine the composition of the House. Alas, this no longer appears to be the case.
The truth that dare not speak its name is that the pronounced disharmony on show in the United States has a clear root cause — and it is not the structure of government. Democrats who complain that the House is being particularly obstinate are absolutely correct — it is. But rarely do they stop and ask “Why?” It seems obvious to me that at the root of our interminable trench warfare is the fact that one party made the regrettable decision to push through the most controversial piece of social legislation in a century without a single opposition vote. That party was, of course, entirely within its rights to do this when unified government presented them with the chance. Nevertheless, it is childish for it to complain that, the other side having been given a clear mandate to try to undo the measure, it is now doing just that. Elections do indeed “have consequences” — and that means all of them.
Critics of the United States correctly, if oddly, point out that the system of separated powers works only here. “We are the only country in the world in which . . .” is a typically witless refrain. In South America, where presidential democracies have been tried, gridlock has customarily led to the president “speaking for the people” by ordering a military coup and removing from the equation the legislators who demonstrated the temerity to serve as a check and a balance.
As a result of its mature political heritage and its British roots, the United States was spared this trend, blossoming quickly into a country in which the conflict that usually results from divided government is virtuously accepted by the people as the price of liberty. In America, Yale’s Juan Linz argues, strife that has led to violence in less-developed nations has become regarded as “normal.” Make no mistake: Dylan Matthews and his myopic ilk would unashamedly like to change this, rendering illegitimate the positions of the minority and subjugating the exquisite fractiousness of Congress to the imperium of a national leader. This is, of course, a prerogative they enjoy as free men. But there is nothing “progressive” about it at all.