When Barack Obama was running for the presidency, we were urged to take comfort in the brilliant young man’s candidacy because Obama had been a constitutional law professor.
And, indeed, it appears that as president Obama is renewing our interest in that very document. Just not in the way we were led to anticipate. The subhead on Bill McGurn’s column in the Wall Street Journal today reads:
Thanks to [Obama’s] executive overreach, Americans take a renewed interest in our fundamental governing document.
Those who screamed bloody murder that George W. Bush was “shredding” the Constitution (mostly professors and pundits) are largely silent now. But a new group—citizens—has become alarmed:
This awakening started with the tumultuous legislative path to Mr. Obama's health-care victory. Along the way, Americans watching were given an education in words like "cloture" and "filibuster," and saw the leaders of the Democratic House and Senate consider a maneuver whereby the House would "deem" the Senate version of the health-care bill to have passed without having to vote on it. That left a bad taste.
McGurn cites other examples that might be interpreted as ignoring our founding document: hiring “czars” who manage vital chunks of our economy but are not subjected to congressional scrutiny, going to not-war with Libya without seeking congressional approval, and the recent “recess” appoints made when the Congress wasn’t technically in recess.
Michael Barone expresses similar concerns in a column on President Obama's “recess” appointments. The piece rather chillingly headlined “One Man Rule.” Barone sees in the president a “scorn” for the Constitution:
That scorn has been expressed most recently in his “recess” appointments of members of the National Labor Relations Board and the chairmanship of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The quotation marks are appropriate because when he made the appointments the Senate was not in recess as the Constitution requires.
Barone argues that the “recess” appointments were made because they would be good for campaign ads:
That’s substantiated by the explanation for the appointment you can find at my.barackobama.com: “When Congress refuses to act, he will.”
Barone is not one for incendiary writing, so I was surprised by the next sentence:
This looks uncomfortably close to the view taken by King Louis XIV. “L’etat, c’est moi,” he is supposed to have said, and you don’t need John Kerry’s or Mitt Romney’s command of French to know that that means one-man rule.
There will be so many fundamental issues on trial in the upcoming presidential election: for example, to what extent is the U.S. going to retain a free-market economy?
The left has always thought that it knows what is best for us and must be willing to do it—i.e., if Congress won’t act, I will—even if the strict authorization for their actions is nowhere to be found in precedent.
Along with the free-market, the idea of the Constitution as an inviolable document, unless amended, will be on trial. Is it a “living” document that can be made to say what current authorities want it to say, or is it the most important piece of paper in our nation’s history?
We get to decide.