Gov­ern­ment Should Be Of Laws, Not Men


For those of you who are long-time read­ers of my col­umn you might rec­og­nize part of what I am about to write. But, cer­tain things seem to need to be re­peated from time to time lest we for­get and go astray.

Once upon a time in what some­times seems like an­other lifetime, I was in the Jaycees. In case you aren’t fa­mil­iar with them, it is a civic club for younger pro­fes­sion­als and I was in a club in South Carolina when I was in the Air Force. I am now what they re­fer to as an Ex­hausted Rooster (an old guy) be­cause I no longer fit in the age bracket for ac­tive mem­ber­ship.

But, even though it has been 30-plus years since I was a mem­ber, I still re­mem­ber some of the lessons I learned. One of those lessons comes from a line in the Jaycee Creed and it served me well as a leg­is­la­tor. It says “that gov­ern­ment should be of laws rather than of men.”

As a mem­ber of the Mis­souri Gen­eral As­sem­bly I took an oath that I would up­hold the con­sti­tu­tion of the state of Mis­souri and the United States. Wouldn’t think that would re­quire a lot of ex­pla­na­tion, but ap­par­ently it does.

The Jaycee Creed ba­si­cally re­flects the oath that I took, in that our gov­ern­ment must be gov­erned by laws rather than men (and women) who think that they are above the laws. Un­for­tu­nately, a whole lot of the peo­ple in this coun­try don’t seem to grasp that very ba­sic con­cept.

For the last eight years prior to this year, our pres­i­dent made it a point to make laws by “a phone and a pen” (his words, not mine) and in some cases just merely told the Depart­ment of Jus­tice to not en­force laws that were al­ready in place. He jus­ti­fied his ac­tions by not­ing that Congress couldn’t get anything done so he was going to do it by him­self.

Obama wasn’t the only pres­i­dent that used ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions to ad­vance their per­sonal agen­das, so I’m not sin­gling him out per se. Of course, I’m not sure any of the pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents ex­pressly told the DOJ to ig­nore laws — but they may have.

The is­sue is that we now have a pres­i­dent that says we are going to ac­tu­ally en­force ex­ist­ing laws – specif­i­cally with re­gards to im­mi­gra­tion. And the back­lash has been swift and harsh. He has been called a racist and ac­cused of be­ing cruel and in­hu­mane and all be­cause he had the au­dac­ity to keep his oath to up­hold the Con­sti­tu­tion.

How dare he take such a bold stance and de­fend the laws that Congress en­acted? You would think that he ac­tu­ally re­spected the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers that our Found­ing Fa­thers spent so much time putting into the doc­u­ments that have served us so well for over two cen­turies.

There are a lot of laws that I’m sure we can all sin­gle out that we would like to ig­nore. But, for­tu­nately that is not how the sys­tem works in this coun­try. We have a whole host of peo­ple who think that if the ma­jor­ity of those polled don’t agree with a law and they think it is “wrong” then the pres­i­dent has the right to just skip en­forc­ing that par­tic­u­lar law. That is, un­less that pres­i­dent would hap­pen to be called Trump and then I’m sure they would have quite a dif­fer­ent opin­ion.

We have an in­sti­tu­tion called Congress whose mem­bers are specif­i­cally given the re­spon­si­bil­ity and au­thor­ity to make laws. The pres­i­dent is specif­i­cally given the re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­force ALL the laws and not just the ones he likes. And, if he doesn’t agree, then he can al­ways ask that other part of the three legged stool of democ­racy (the Supreme Court) to rule as to whether or not the law is con­sti­tu­tional.

The cur­rent na­tional de­bate over im­mi­gra­tion is very heated and pas­sions on both sides have be­come in­flamed. If we don’t like cer­tain laws and their im­pli­ca­tions, then it is our right as cit­i­zens to stand up and voice our con­cerns to the body that is given the au­thor­ity to change those laws.

But, it is not our right as cit­i­zens of a free so­ci­ety that is gov­erned by laws rather than of men, to ask or ex­pect our Pres­i­dent to ig­nore the laws that have been writ­ten and passed by Congress. To ac­cept this ac­tion is to shame the sac­ri­fices of those who have fought and died so that we can be free from the tyranny of a dic­ta­tor­ship.

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