Two Good Signs

Last week, which began miserably enough with the defilement of the Bibles of both President Lincoln and Rev. King in support of a political program neither would have tolerated, ended much better than anyone had any right to expect.

As the week wound down, the agenda of our would-be Augustan overlord received two stiff blows from the judiciary. The first was a decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that Obama's appointments to the NLRB while claiming that Congress was "in recess" (it wasn't, by any rational measure) were unconstitutional, rendering all actions taken by the Board since that date null and void. The decision throws the Board into chaos, which is exactly where it belongs, since the majority of its members played right along with Obama's stunt with no visible signs of scruples.

The decision was unusually firmly worded, setting rigid conditions for when a recess appointment may be made -- namely, when Congress has adjourned sine die, that is, when it has reached the end of session, and at no other time. Noel Canning goes a long way toward undercutting Obama's Il Ducesque attempts to govern by means of executive decree.

The second case, American Petroleum Institute v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 12-01330 involves that candidate for most-out-of-control government agency (lots of competition there, granted), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA's talented and lovely Lisa Jackson had ordered a number of U.S. refineries, under the threat of heavy fines, to purchase a certain amount of cellulosic biofuels for purposes of blending, despite the fact that this class of synthetic fuel is not commercially available for any amount of money. With that mandate, the administration took a step beyond Orwell. It's as if the IngSoc dictatorship demanded that the masses swear allegiance to Big Brother without telling them the words. The mandate cost refineries nearly $7 million in fines in 2011, an amount predicted to rise to over $8 million for 2012.

The suit, brought by the American Petroleum Institute on behalf of the beleaguered refineries, contended that the EPA had acted beyond its authority. The court agreed, adding that the mandate effectively rewarded biofuel manufacturers for not creating a product, discouraging any efforts to actually initiate production.

The decisions undercut two assumptions that have been taken as Gospel by conservatives since the 2012 election: that Obama is unstoppable, and that there is no force in government that is interested in or capable of trying. Conservatives have forgotten the old adage about the mills of justice. While they may grind slowly, it is given to no man -- not even the One -- to escape them completely. Obama's effort to govern through extraconstitutional decree has suffered two body blows, an outcome that should encourage renewed opposition efforts across the board.

These judicial actions are also symbolic. At what should have been his hour of greatest triumph, with his opponents scattered and the country lying ripe before him, Obama has suffered a pair of pratfalls that everyone but he should have known was coming. Striking as they do to at the very basis of his method of governance, these decisions will cast a chill across the entire spectrum of his "transformative" program. Obama has been humiliated by the same American system he was attempting to defy. Separation of powers worked exactly as it was supposed to.

There will be more to come. Avalanches begin with the movement of a single rock. Let this one start here.