This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published January 9, 2012 in The Washington Times.
Back in 1973, when the Nixon administration was under fire for Watergate, Press Secretary Ron Ziegler uttered an unforgettable response when caught in a lie during a news conference: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”
Well, the Obama administration just topped that by essentially declaring the U.S. Constitution “inoperative.” President Obama did not use that term when making an illegal recess appointment of Richard Cordray to the new post of consumer czar on Wednesday, but he might as well have.
Mr. Cordray now heads the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which will do its best to strangle any thought that business owners might have of getting out from under oppressive bureaucracy long enough to create any new jobs that aren’t in the government.
Remember, these are the same folks who thought it was a great idea to let Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, bring the magic of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the financial sector with the awful Dodd-Frank law. But merit aside, the Cordray appointment was made outside constitutional bounds.
Here’s what the official White House blog says about why the administration staged the Cordray coup:
“The Constitution gives the president the authority to make temporary recess appointments to fill vacant positions when the Senate is in recess. … In an overt attempt to prevent the president from exercising his authority during this period, Republican senators insisted on using a gimmick called ‘pro forma’ sessions, which are sessions during which no Senate business is conducted and instead one or two senators simply gavel in and out of session in a matter of seconds.”
What the White House regards as “gimmicks” are the letter of the law of the Constitution. Article I, Section 5, says “Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.”
Under Speaker John A. Boehner, the House has not granted the Senate adjournment. So, like it or not, Majority Leader Harry Reid’s do-nothing Senate, which has not passed a budget in three years, is still in session. In 2007, Mr. Reid refused to adjourn the Senate in order to block President George W. Bush’s recess appointments. Unlike Mr. Obama, Mr. Bush abided by the Constitution and backed off.
Mr. Obama also loaded up the National Labor Relations Board with three recess appointees who won’t threaten the conviviality of the current labor-union-packed board, whose hobby appears to be sticking needles into a voodoo doll shaped like South Carolina.
The NLRB not only issued orders halting South Carolina’s voter-approved measure to preserve secret ballots in union elections, but tried to close a brand-new Boeing factory and move it to union-shackled Washington state. Just the other day, the Justice Department ordered South Carolina to halt enforcement of its photo-ID law, which discourages voter fraud.
You can almost see officials sitting around in the White House, exclaiming, “What will it take to provoke South Carolina into bombarding Fort Sumter again? Should we outlaw barbecue, golf, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and mint juleps?”
The Obama administration’s lawlessness is becoming so obvious that nearly everyone outside the liberal mainstream media has caught on. Many Americans are appalled, but hard-core leftists are delighted. They regard the Constitution as a sham document that enables an oppressive, racist, sexist, homophobic society of the rich to oppress college students.
They give a pass to Hollywood moguls, of course, and they think it’s great fun to misquote the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom while going about scrubbing the public square clean of America’s Christian heritage.
You almost have to admire Mr. Obama’s audacity, which he warned us about in his autobiographies. He openly trashed the U.S. Supreme Court last January during his State of the Union address, knowing the justices who were present could not respond to his bald-faced mischaracterization of their ruling striking down the odious McCain-Feingold muzzling of political speech.
He told us he wanted the United States to get along better with other nations and then sent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton abroad to lecture them on their stubborn resistance to abortion, homosexuality and global-warming extremism.
He said he wanted to be a healer, bringing the races together. But he appointed an attorney general whose hobby, when not sharpening needles for South Carolina, seems to be stirring up racial animosity and trying to frame Texas gun dealers.
Mr. Obama’s piece de resistance, though, was ramming the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, down America’s throat while assuring us that we could keep our current health insurance. The lies, evasions, backroom deals and front-room bribes could fill a dozen books.
When Obamacare was being debated, the administration insisted that the individual mandate was not a tax. After more than half the states sued to halt this unconstitutional mess, Mr. Obama’s lawyers told courts it was a tax after all. Apparently, the previous claim became “inoperative.”
If the constitutional order is not restored and Obamacare is not struck down or repealed, enemies of the state, such as older people who refuse to go gently into the night, might routinely start hearing scarier things than lies, such as: “That patient is now inoperative.”