Obama: Against the Law
You'd think that, having taught law at least part-time, President Obama would have more respect for the subject. As it is, more than a dozen major scandals and Supreme Court reversals have rocked his administration, all of them attributable to the president's determination to override the law. One can only imagine what he was teaching those law students back in Chicago.
The list of scandals and court reversals is long and sobering. Last Friday, the president announced that he would not enforce the law requiring deportation of illegal aliens. In short, Obama has thus decided that politics trumps the rule of law. Of course, this is nothing new for this president, but the blatant manner in which it was announced, purely for political gain, is deplorable.
Obama's attempt to legislate from the Oval Office betrays a colossal arrogance. The frightening thing is that he actually believes he can govern in opposition to the wishes of the American people and their representatives in Congress. Not since the 1930s, when FDR attempted to stack the Supreme Court, have we seen a president who believed he was so far above the law. But at least FDR backed down in the face of popular opposition -- Obama continues with agency power-grabs, doubtful recess appointments, stonewalling of Congress, and blatant disregard for the law even in the face of public outrage.
This is the case with the Fast and Furious cover-up involving the possible perjury of the president's attorney general in testimony before Congress. Last week, during Senate hearings, Sen. John Cornyn told Eric Holder that the latter was not following "basic standards of political independence and accountability" and that he should resign. Cornyn is by no means the only one calling for more accountability. Rep. Darrell Issa has charged Holder with a cover-up and threatened to hold him in contempt of Congress. Even a staff writer for the liberal Atlantic magazine appears to have had enough of Holder.
Then there is "Obamaleaks" -- the apparent White House policy of leaking classified information to journalists. As the Washington Post put it, the leaks seem to be designed "to make Obama look good" on foreign affairs. And the leaks involved are not just flattering vignettes of Obama in the Situation Room; they reveal the most closely guarded secrets about overseas intelligence operations and tactics.
At this moment, Private Bradley Manning awaits trial on charges that may carry the death penalty for his alleged involvement in leaks which caused damage to our national reputation and our ability to conduct diplomacy. But Obamaleaks is far more damaging than Wikileaks. It involves disclosures to the enemy of America's tactical secrets, the operation of its intelligence networks, and its secret intelligence relationships with other nation states. All of this to gain a few votes in an election year.
This unfolding scandal may result in the resignation of high-ranking officials in the administration, if not of Obama himself. The fact that the leaks have come from multiple sources, not just from a single rogue source, suggests that Obamaleaks has been orchestrated from the highest level.
Still, I suppose that a president who is willing to ignore the law on immigration and other grave issues would not hesitate to see our national security secrets published for all to read. The question is how he thinks he can get away with it.
After all, he has been reversed so many times that even the four liberal justices on the Supreme Court are getting tired of it. Even Justices Sotomayer and Kagan voted with conservatives to reverse the Obama EPA on its policy of refusing judicial review of agency rulings on wetland designation under the Clean Water Act. Under the law, as interpreted by a radical EPA, any American whose property collects even a puddle of water following a spring rain can find himself being ordered to demolish his home, or begin paying an immediate fine of $75,000 a day. It was the contention of the EPA, and of Obama, who sided with them, that this tyranny could be condoned and that homeowners had absolutely no right of appeal.
Even now, Obama believes that, following judicial review, homeowners whose property is "wet" must demolish their homes at once or pay a $75,000 daily fine, even if those properties are located within an established suburban development.
Once again, it is the outrageous arrogance of this administration, and of the president, on display. Sackett v. EPA should never have come to the court in the first place, because any right-thinking president would have blocked the EPA from its illegal power-grab. But, clearly, Obama did not see anything wrong with ordering homeowners to demolish their home or face a $75,000 daily fine.
This raises the question: if Obama thinks he can order Americans who disagree with his policies out of their home, without so much as a day in court, what outrage would he not be willing to perpetrate to further his agenda? In the wetlands case, he was willing to destroy a couple's dream home and seize their life's savings. Is he also willing to jail his political opponents, locking them up without judicial review, or worse?
He certainly seems willing to deny them the right to work. That was the effect of his National Labor Relations Board's effort to block production of the Boeing Dreamliner aircraft in South Carolina. That action was so outrageous that the NLRB backed down under pressure, but the idea that Obama's pro-union appointees can block construction of a legitimate business, just because it takes place in a right-to-work state, shows once again how far Obama is willing to go. It appears that this president is not just ignoring the law; he is sneering at it.
There's also Obama's troubling rush to judgment in the Trayvon Martin case. Even before preliminary evidence was in, and long before charges were ever brought, the president quite passionately took the side of Martin ("if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon") against a Hispanic who appears to have been defending himself against a potentially lethal attack. Not only was the president's statement unfounded and ill-advised, but it came at a moment when large mobs were threatening violence. Instead of standing up for the rule of law and awaiting the outcome of judicial process, the president acted like he was part of the mob, and it appears that his motivation was racial.
That seems to be the case as well in the Justice Department's attempt to suppress voter ID laws in Texas, Florida, South Carolina, and other states. Amazingly, it seems, the administration insists that these states ignore their own election laws so as to enable election fraud -- fraud that might help Obama in his re-election effort. When is the last time America has seen a Justice Department filing suit to defend the "right" of one political party to practice election fraud?
And there are all those cases still working their way through the courts, including ObamaCare. The president's strategy seems to be to flout the law at every turn, wait for the Court to reverse his actions, and then pursue his goals by flouting the law in some other way. This tactic of staying one step ahead of the law may gain him favor with his base, but in the long run it will earn him a reputation as the most iniquitous chief executive in American history.
Obama took an oath to defend the Constitution. As Sackett v. EPA proves, there is not much effort to do so in his administration.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).