Remembering Obama’s Imperial Presidency
© Jack Cashill
The chattering classes seem to agree with the ACLU that President Trump is “a one-man constitutional crisis.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, “Trump declares war on the Constitution.” As the Huffington Post sees it, “Donald Trump really wishes he were a dictator.” Salon proves less harsh than some Trump critics, arguing, “Trump’s not Hitler, he’s Mussolini.”
Not that long ago, however, these same people were urging President Barack Obama to ignore the courts and Congress and do what he had to do to transform America the way they would like to see it transformed.
New Yorker editor and Obama sycophant, David Remnick, got a sense of the left’s urgency for action while accompanying Obama on a west coast fund raising tour. In this account from early 2014, Remnick described a reoccurring phenomenon:
"It happened again: another heckler broke into Obama's speech. A man in the balcony repeatedly shouted out, 'Executive order!,' demanding that the President bypass Congress with more unilateral actions."
According to Remnick, Obama confirmed to the audience that, yes, people did want him to sign more executive orders and "basically nullify Congress." At that point, wrote Remnick, "Many in the crowd applauded their approval. Yes! Nullify it!"
By 2014, Obama did not need much encouragement to nullify Congress. He had been nullifying it for years.
Since year one of the Bush administration, Congress had been trying to pass the awkwardly titled Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, better known as the DREAM Act.
This was an idealized acronym concocted to paper over what was essentially a crime, a geopolitical B & E, breaking and entering.
Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Orrin Hatch first introduced the bill in the Senate in August 2001. This was still another bi-partisan fandango in the allegedly polarizing Bush era.
In a nutshell, this bill would have provided permanent residency to those illegal aliens who had arrived in the United States as minors and behaved themselves well enough not to get their mug shot plastered on the Post Office wall.
Although President Bush supported immigration reform, as did President Obama, neither the DREAM Act nor any major immigration bill made it to their desks. The reason was simple enough: no variation of such a bill could muster adequate congressional support.
In 2009, eight powerful U.S. Senators sponsored still another version of the DREAM Act. Among the sponsors were two Republicans, Richard Lugar and Mel Martinez, as well as independent Joseph Lieberman.
During this two-year period, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Still, the will was not there, nor was the White House leadership, to pass this bill out of the Senate.
In his 2006 book, “Audacity of Hope,” Obama argued that robust congressional debates were a sign of a healthy system of checks and balances, one that “encouraged the very process of information gathering, analysis, and argument.”
Once Obama ascended to the presidency, all those checks and balances just made it harder for him to transform America.
His constituencies, especially labor and the Hispanic lobby, wanted action, not gathering and arguing. They started leaning on him to ignore Congress and act unilaterally.
One minor obstacle stood in the way, and that was Article I, section 7 of the Constitution. This article informed Congress in some detail on how to turn an idea into a law.
Obama could not enforce the DREAM Act, said Nicholas Rosenkrantz, a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, “by pretending that it passed when it did not.”
As late as March 2011, legal scholar Obama seemed to agree. “America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the President, am obligated to enforce the law,” he told a Univision audience.
"With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order,” added Obama, “that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed.”
By June 2012, what Obama said in March 2011 seemed as stale as a morning-after bowl of tortilla chips. The president had lost his taste for all that legislative analysis and argument given that the result was “an absence of any immigration action from Congress. "
Five months before the presidential election Obama knew the media would give him a pass, and he hoped that Latinos would give him their vote.
So he decided to dispense with debate and fix immigration policy by his own lights, confident he could make that policy “more fair, more efficient, and more just.”
This fix started with a presidentially guaranteed relief from deportation for the so-called “Dreamers.” On top of that came the right to apply for work authorization, both guarantees in full defiance of existing federal law.
“There has long been a general consensus that a president cannot refuse to enforce a law that is considered constitutionally sound,” said constitutional Jonathan Turley. That chapter was apparently missing from Obama’s law books.
The speech that introduced this change of immigration policy was littered with enough lies and half-truths to stir Rep. Joe “You Lie” Wilson from the grave, let alone his seat.
It was not “immunity,” not a “path to citizenship,” only “temporary,” said Obama, who surely planned to turn a million or so of these undocumented Democrats into grateful voters as soon as he could get away with it.
When the time came, he would urge them to think the way he encouraged all Latinos to think on Election Day: “We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.”
And the left thinks Trump is a dictator? Please!