This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published July 8, 2011 on The Washington Times website.
When Timothy F. Geithner whipped out his pocket Constitution in May to address the debt-ceiling issue, the rivers in Hades must have been packed with ice-skaters.
Consult the Constitution? The Treasury secretary appeared to be out of order in an administration whose standard operating procedure is flouting the rule of law. Of course, even the devil can quote Scripture.
On Wednesday, President Obama was asked at the Twitter news conference whether he could raise the debt ceiling by invoking the 14th Amendment’s Section 4, which says in part:
“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”
The point of this passage was to clean up the Civil War’s fiscal mess, not to let a future profligate president off the hook. But liberals are suggesting it could be used precisely for that.
Standing seemingly above the clatter, Mr. Obama twittered:
“I don’t think we should even get to the constitutional issue. Congress has a responsibility to make sure we pay our bills. We’ve always paid them in the past. The notion that the United States would default on its debt is just irresponsible.”
Sounds good, but we don’t have to default. We can pay our debtors first and then whack away at spending. But while we’re on the topic, let’s recap the ways the Obama administration has exemplified irresponsibility and thumbed its nose at the rule of law.
First, the spending. If nothing is done to cut Mr. Obama’s Visa card in half, the total U.S. debt, now at $14.3 trillion, will rise to $20 trillion by 2020. As Peter Ferrara notes in his new book, America’s Ticking Bankruptcy Bomb, “more debt will be run up in one term under President Obama than under all the presidents in history – from George Washington to George W. Bush – combined.”
Here’s more, in no particular order:
Forcing people to buy health insurance. The most famous requirement in the 2,700-page Obamacare law goes beyond any previous federal claim to regulate commercial activity and extends it to merely being a living, breathing human being. Mr. Obama sold the law by saying it does not constitute a tax, and then his attorneys claimed in court that it is constitutional precisely because it is a new tax.
Launching a war in Libya.Under the War Powers Act, Mr. Obama had 60 days to get congressional approval after the bombs started dropping in Tripoli, but he didn’t bother.
Refusing to enforce the federal Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman for all federal purposes and allows states to reject unions that don’t comport with their marriage laws. Mr. Obama, who pretends to support marriage even while doing everything possible to destroy it, is bound by oath to enforce the law, not eviscerate it. Even the liberal San Francisco Chronicle marveled at the Obamanistas’ audacity:
“The latest San Francisco court filing on same-sex marriage reads like a gay rights manifesto: It rejects tradition, morals and procreation as justifications for marriage restrictions and concludes that a federal ban on spousal benefits was unconstitutionally based on ‘animus’ – dislike, rooted in prejudice – toward gays and lesbians. The brief comes not from Lambda Legal or the American Civil Liberties Union but the Obama administration’s Justice Department.”
Does anyone really believe that marriage as created by God is protected in the law solely to marginalize homosexuals?
Goosing the nation’s armed forces. Wielding a spectacularly misleading survey, Mr. Obama and his cronies are on the verge of homosexualizing the military despite failing to make the case that this won’t hurt readiness, morale, retention or recruitment.
Injecting race into the Voting Rights Act. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. declined to prosecute New Black Panther Party members caught on video openly intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008. Two former Justice Department employees testified that Voting Section employees were told they shouldn’t enforce portions of the law if the complainants are white.
Using the EPA to enforce a radical environmental ag-enda. In 2008, the Senate voted against the “cap-and-trade” bill that would have created a carbon-tax system and vast federal power to interfere in the energy market. So the Environmental Protection Agency declared carbon dioxide a pollutant and has embarked on a massive scheme to impose cap-and-trade through bureaucratic power. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama’s green fascists have virtually shut down new oil exploration and drilling.
Allowing the FCC to grab the Internet. Congress and a federal appeals court specifically rejected the Federal Communications Commission’s claim to have regulatory authority over the Internet. Yet the FCC released “net neutrality” rules in December 2010 and on July 1 issued “guidelines” for implementing them. The FCC has no more authority over the Internet than it does over your local movie theater or coin laundry.
Attacking a state for upholding federal law. In July 2010, the Justice Department sued Arizona for enacting a statute that requires local law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration laws. Meanwhile, the Justice Department continues to ignore “sanctuary cities” that openly violate federal law.
Giving a foreign leader a platform to denounce an American state. In May 2010, Mexican President Felipe Calderon addressed Congress, where he blasted Arizona’s immigration policy to cheers from mostly Democrats. Later, Mr. Obama joined him at a White House press conference where both men trashed Arizona.
Using the National Labor Relations Board as a goon squad. The NLRB sued in April 2010 to stop the Boeing Co.’s new $750 million Dreamliner plant in right-to-work South Carolina because unions in Washington state objected. Nowhere in the Constitution does the federal government have the right to tell businesses where they can operate. This kind of thuggishness happens under communist five-year plans, not in America.
There’s much more, as Washington’s extralegal reach grows daily. Mr. Geithner’s pocket Constitution would make a nice bookmark for the Federal Register’s thousands of new pages. It probably won’t be used for much more than that.
As the late Joseph Sobran quipped, “The Constitution poses no threat to our form of government.”
That is, unless We the People begin to apply it to hold the Obama administration and its toadies accountable for unleashing legal and fiscal anarchy on our country.