White House door­mat Con­sti­tu­tion at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity


The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Frank J. Gaffney Jr.

When Barack Obama be­came pres­i­dent of the United States, he swore an oath to “pre­serve, pro­tect and de­fend our Con­sti­tu­tion.” Un­for­tu­nately, ev­i­dence has ac­cu­mu­lated ever since that he feels no obli­ga­tion to honor his com­mit­ment.

In fact, Mr. Obama has been vi­o­lat­ing that oath, left and, well, left. Here are a few of the most egre­gious ex­am­ples:

Un­der the pres­i­dent’s health care leg­is­la­tion, now uni­ver­sally known as Oba­macare, Amer­i­cans are com­pelled to pur­chase health care. The con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of this mea­sure is be­ing tested in court at this writ­ing. But such a man­date smacks of big-gov­ern­ment over­reach that must be struck down by the Supreme Court.

Then, in Jan­uary, there were Mr. Obama’s “re­cess” ap­point­ments of sev­eral con­tro­ver­sial nom­i­nees to po­si­tions re­quir­ing Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion. For the first time in the coun­try’s his­tory, a pres­i­dent made such ap­point­ments when the Se­nate was not ac­tu­ally in re­cess.

On the ba­sis of this prece­dent, Mr. Obama (or his suc­ces­sors) may choose to flout sen­a­tors’ con­sti­tu­tional pre­rog­a­tive even fur­ther — say by mak­ing re­cess ap­point­ments when the Se­nate breaks for lunch. Given the lack of out­cry or mean­ing­ful push-back from sen­a­tors to date, why not?

The lat­est, and one of the most omi­nous, ex­am­ples of Mr. Obama’s low re­gard for the Con­sti­tu­tion came to light in con­gres­sional tes­ti­mony last week by Sec­re­tary of De­fense Leon E. Panetta. He told in­cred­u­lous sen­a­tors that the United States would only go to war in Syria if it got in­ter­na­tional per­mis­sion. Wher­ever you come down on the ad­vis­abil­ity of Amer­ica en­gag­ing mil­i­tar­ily in yet an­other Mid­dle East­ern na­tion, if we de­cide it is in our na­tional in­ter­est to do so, it should be up to our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives, not the United Na­tions, the Arab League or some other mul­ti­lat­eral en­tity.

Mr. Panetta added true in­sult to con­sti­tu­tional in­jury. He de­clared that the ad­min­is­tra­tion might or might not in­form Congress should it de­cide to use force. Pre­sum­ably, any such decision would, like the U.S. in­ter­ven­tion in Libya, be dressed up as a hu­man­i­tar­ian op­er­a­tion. Its true pur­pose, how­ever, surely would be to top­ple the Syr­ian regime of Bashar As­sad — a gov­ern­ment that, like Moam­mar Gad­hafi’s, it was as­sid­u­ously ro­manc­ing un­til re­cently.

These were not mis­state­ments or Freudian slips on the part of the de­fense sec­re­tary. In his hear­ing be­fore the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, Mr. Panetta de­clined sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties to clar­ify or re­vise his po­si­tion. Con­se­quently, one can only con­clude that Team Obama has em­braced the sort of diminu­tion of U.S. sovereignty that helped scup­per John Kerry’s pres­i­den­tial bid in 2004, when he pledged to seek U.N. per­mis­sion be­fore en­gag­ing in mil­i­tary ac­tion.

Many years ago, I had the priv­i­lege of work­ing for the late, truly great Demo­cratic Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jack­son. It is in­con­ceiv­able to me that such anti-con­sti­tu­tional mis­con­duct — by a pres­i­dent of ei­ther party — would be tol­er­ated were he still in the U.S. Se­nate.

Scoop Jack­son would have been af­fronted by the dire im­pli­ca­tions of such be­hav­ior for the sys­tem of checks and bal­ances that is en­shrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion and is sup­posed to limit the scope and po­ten­tial for abuse of the gov­ern­ment it char­ters. He would never have stood for rel­e­gat­ing our na­tional se­cu­rity de­ci­sions to the say-so of oth­ers or hav­ing our mil­i­tary be, as Mr. Obama once put it, “vol­un­teered” by them.

Ever the level-headed politi­cian, Jack­son would have rec­og­nized the va­lid­ity in such cases of the adage “What goes around comes around.” Mr. Obama is cre­at­ing prece­dents to­day that a fu­ture Re­pub­li­can pres­i­dent could ex­ploit to the detri­ment of his par­ti­san ri­vals. Some of them may turn out to be the very leg­is­la­tors who to­day are largely turn­ing a blind eye to what this chief ex­ec­u­tive is do­ing, ev­i­dently on the grounds that the ends jus­tify the means.

It is strik­ing that few, if any, Democrats in Congress ap­pear to rec­og­nize the peril to our coun­try posed by Mr. Obama’s anti-con­sti­tu­tional be­hav­ior. Even more amaz­ing is that none of them seems to ap­pre­ci­ate that they have a vested in­ter­est in shoring up the Con­sti­tu­tion, not al­low­ing it to be evis­cer­ated, piece by piece. If they al­low this to con­tinue, they surely will rue the day at some point in the fu­ture when an­other com­man­der in chief is run­ning roughshod over their in­sti­tu­tional du­ties, pre­rog­a­tives and pol­icy pref­er­ences.

Nat­u­rally, in the course of a na­tional elec­tion, Demo­cratic politi­cians are reluc­tant to part com­pany from the man at the top of their ticket, es­pe­cially in ways that might be seen to align them with his crit­ics. Still, vi­o­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion is the sort of thing that should com­pel them to do so. Af­ter all, they also took an oath to “sup­port and de­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion.” I feel sure Scoop Jack­son would do so, were he alive to­day. The coun­try ur­gently needs his suc­ces­sors on Capi­tol Hill — on both sides of the aisle — to chan­nel his char­ac­ter and fidelity to the oath of of­fice that they all have sworn.


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