This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published September 14, 2012 on The Washington Times website.
Constitution Day is Monday, Sept. 17, so I compiled a non-exhaustive list of the ways Barack Obama has violated the Constitution.
First, let’s dispense with a persistent media trope, which is that President Obama was a constitutional law professor in Chicago. Former University of Chicago Law School Interim Dean Richard Epstein blew a hole through that recently with his recollection that New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor’s claim that Mr. Obama was offered tenure is false. Mr. Obama was never even a law professor, just a part-time lecturer.
“[U]nder no circumstances would an offer to Obama be tenured,” Mr. Epstein told the Daily Caller. “The thought that the law school could have made a tenure offer to a person with no academic writing was out of the question.”
Now for some examples of Mr. Obama’s violations:
Launching an illegal war in Libya. Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the power to declare war. Under the congressionally enacted War Powers Act, Mr. Obama had 60 days to get congressional approval after U.S. bombs started dropping in Tripoli, but he didn’t bother. Putting the Muslim Brotherhood in charge of yet another Arab nation appeared to be a higher priority than following the law.
Undermining the nation’s armed forces. Article II, Section 2, names the president commander in chief. Instead of asserting American power, Mr. Obama projects weakness, emboldening our enemies. The murder of our ambassador and three other staff members in Benghazi, Libya, and the attacks on our embassies in Egypt and Yemen are bitter fruit of that reality. In addition, Mr. Obama rammed through Congress a bill homosexualizing the military despite failing to make the case that this won’t hurt readiness, morale, retention or recruitment. He is unfit to be commander in chief.
Violating religious freedom. Mr. Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services ignored the First Amendment by issuing a Soviet-style order to Catholic and other faith-based institutions to violate their beliefs and provide insurance covering abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilizations.
Appointing agency “czars” without Senate approval. Article II, Section 2, gives the president the power to appoint ambassadors, judges and top agency officials, but only with the “advice and consent of the Senate.” Mr. Obama has appointed, without Senate approval, more than two dozen czars in federal agencies.
Making illegal recess appointments. Article II, Section 2 allows the president to “fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate.” While the Senate was in session, Mr. Obama made recess appointments of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three members of the National Labor Relations Board.
Forcing Americans to buy health insurance. Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the power to regulate commerce and levy taxes. It does not give Congress the power to force Americans to engage in commerce. During policy debates in 2009, the White House denied that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was a “tax.” But in court, the administration argued that it was a tax after all. In a shocking ruling, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. bought the logic, upholding this unconstitutional monstrosity.
Refusing to enforce laws that he doesn’t like. Article II, Section 3 states that the president “shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Mr. Obama directed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to ignore the Defense of Marriage Act and even work against it in the federal courts. Mr. Holder also suspended newly enacted photo ID voter laws in Texas and South Carolina.
Stonewalling on Fast and Furious. The Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “walked” more than 2,000 firearms to drug gangs across the border to Mexico. U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed, along with at least 100 Mexicans. The administration has shown contempt for Congress, and Mr. Holder denied knowing about the debacle despite evidence indicating otherwise. This is not “faithfully” executing the law or defending America’s sovereign borders.
Violating equal protection and voting rights. The 14th Amendment guarantees “due process” and “equal protection of the laws.” The 15th Amendment guarantees that “the right of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race.” Mr. Holder ditched the case of New Black Panther Party members videotaped intimidating Philadelphia voters in 2008. Two former Justice Department officials testified that employees were told to ignore white complainants.
Using the EPA to attack America’s energy industry. In 2010, the Senate refused to pass the “cap-and-trade” bill that would have created a carbon-tax system, vastly increasing federal power over energy. The Environmental Protection Agency declared carbon dioxide a pollutant anyway and began exerting raw bureaucratic power. Mr. Obama’s green zealots nixed the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada and virtually shut down new oil exploration and drilling.
Allowing the FCC to grab the Internet. The Telecommunications Act gives the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authority over wire and broadcasting, but not broadband. Congress and a federal appeals court rejected the FCC’s claims of authority, yet the FCC released “net neutrality” rules in December 2010. This violates the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. The FCC has no more authority over the Internet than it does over the musings of Vice President Joseph R. Biden.
Attacking a state for upholding federal law. The 10th Amendment says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In July 2010, the Justice Department sued Arizona for a law requiring state officials to enforce federal immigration laws. Nothing in the Constitution prohibits states from assisting in enforcing federal laws. Meanwhile, the Justice Department ignores “sanctuary cities” that openly violate federal law.
Giving a foreign leader platforms to denounce an American state. In May 2010, Mexican President Felipe Calderon addressed Congress, where he blasted Arizona to cheers from Democrats. Mr. Obama joined him later at a White House press conference where both men trashed Arizona. The president takes an oath that he will “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” which guarantees that states are part of the United States, not part of a foreign country by default.
Using the National Labor Relations Board as a goon squad. The NLRB sued in April 2010 to shut down the Boeing Co.’s new $750 million Dreamliner plant in right-to-work South Carolina because unions objected. Nowhere does the Constitution give the federal government the power to tell businesses where they can operate.
There’s so much more, but I’ve run out of room. When liberals write the history of the Obama era, they’ll have to perform contortions to cover up the sheer amount of lawlessness.