The Executive Order Controversy
On Friday, 3/16/2012, President Obama issued an executive order called "National Defense Resources Preparedness" (NDRP), posting it on the White House's official website.
Almost immediately, the blogosphere exploded with the news. Citizens began calling their TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers, demanding coverage. At the time of this writing, the furor has yet to abate.
The NDRP traces its origin to the Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950, which attempted to establish a framework for placing the nation on a "war footing" as quickly and in as efficient a manner as possible should events warrant. In an age of highly industrialized warfare, the basic building blocks of military success are composed of mundane elements such as supply chains, resource availability, parts, access to raw materials, and skilled labor.
Over the years, the DPA has seen many revisions, and the executive orders issued to implement those revisions presupposed an imminent threat of war. In 1994, then-President Clinton issued Executive Order 12919, which expanded the provisions of the DPA rather dramatically, declaring its applicability to peacetime.
The need for the DPA is legitimate. A great deal of our energy infrastructure, utilities, and financial system are in fact entirely private enterprises, not public/government entities. Getting the government running again in the event of a catastrophic attack is one thing, but not providing the same reconstitution effort for the privately owned elements of the nation's infrastructure would still leave us without electric power generation, food distribution, etc.
In the event of cataclysmic war or a natural disaster of similar scope, we could not afford to wait on the private sector to recover at an ordinary pace with purely private funds. Under such circumstances, the need would be urgent and the resources few.
The issue is how to balance the necessity of granting sufficient power to the only entity large enough to do the job -- government -- while still maintaining the private ownership and control of the means of production and the economy as a whole.
The Executive order issued by Obama on 3/16 is largely a restatement of the 1994 Clinton order with a few functional changes. It moves the authority for implementing the provisions of the DPA from the director of FEMA to the Department of Homeland Security, which did not exist at the time of Clinton's presidency. There have been pedestrian additions of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, to the purview of the secretary of energy (as well as a curiously specific redefinition of bottled water as a "food resource" rather than a water resource), but nothing is particularly out of step with the order Obama's EO supersedes.
So what is the problem? Well, considering that the authority of the DPA has never been meaningfully exercised, and that the pre-emption of authority claimed by the Clinton-era EO 12919 has been similarly dormant, why would the Obama administration choose this particular time to update an obscure and unused authority? It is this question many believe must be asked and answered, and sooner rather than later.
In an attempt to provide that answer, allow me to don an appropriately stylish tinfoil hat before I present a plausible scenario.
1) In early March 2012, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it is the position of this administration that international organizations such as NATO or the United Nations have at least as much, if not more authority to deploy U.S. troops, with or without congressional notice or permission.
2) A week later, the NAACP petitioned the U.N. Human Rights Council to involve themselves in our election process -- specifically our November presidential election, in order to monitor the vote for instances of voter suppression. It is the fantasy of the NAACP that laws requiring presentation of a photo ID to cast a ballot are in actuality thinly veiled efforts to keep the poor, elderly, and non-white populations from voting, presumably for Obama.
3) Attorney General Eric Holder has spent his tenure creating a hair-trigger system of race-conscious prosecutions, most notably in reference to cases involving voter fraud. His previous employee, J. Christian Adams, has built a second career from simply exposing the injustice of Holder's Department of Justice.
4) Most recently, Holder struck another blow against the concept of verifiable voting by forestalling Texas's proposed Voter ID law, saying it "goes against the arc of history." Aside from the attorney general basing his decisions on perceived "historical arcs" rather than clear and established law, the end result is the same: the creation of an air of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming election.
Now (as I adjust my tinfoil hat to a jauntier angle), let me tie these points together.
By employing repetitive reporting of "uncertainty about the reliability of the presidential election tally" by the major media, compounded by expressions of the same uncertainty by administration officials, the left could install that narrative amongst the segments of the population that pay little or no attention to the day-to-day practice of politics.
Could the NAACP then, with support from the Department of Justice and the administration, make the case to the U.N. that the election was in fact tainted, and subsequently persuade the member nations of the U.N. to declare the election invalid? It is possible, and such a declaration is certain to bring chaos to the streets of every major city in our country, as well as a great deal of smaller ones. To restore order, the president might need to deploy troops. Should the Congress resist the move, the administration might simply appeal to the U.N., which could request/order the deployment of troops by a willing and complicit Secretary Panetta.
And of course, President Obama would simply continue in office, for the sake of stability, until this could all be sorted out.
Perhaps it now makes sense for the administration to have updated an unused executive order, preparing their legal argument and framework for the imposition of peacetime martial law. Liberty, once lost, is seldom regained.
Yes, it is far-fetched, but it is also distressingly possible. The sad fact in America today is that we have a president so disdainful of our foundational law and freedoms as to make the far-fetched seem queasily reasonable.
The timing of this executive order is jarring, even if the specific changes to the order are not. The power it conveys is staggering and cannot be safely entrusted to a single branch of government, much less to a single man. The Congress needs to reassert control over the exercise and implementation of the Defense Production Act before it can be utilized by a power-hungry cabal of leftists eager to fundamentally transform America. There is a door no one has locked, and our home is not secure. Close the door, lock it, and throw away that key.
The author writes from Omaha, NE and welcomes visitors to his website at www.readmorejoe.com.