August 6 2014
The Washington Post editorial board has some sound advice for President Obama: don’t tear up the Constitution. They actually used those words.
The editorial board, hardly a hotbed of liberals, was addressing threats by the former adjunct professor of constitutional law that he will take base-rallying but unconstitutional action with regard to immigration. The editorial board writes:
Obstinate, hopelessly partisan and incapable of problem-solving, Congress is a mess. But that doesn’t grant the president license to tear up the Constitution. As Mr. Obama himself said last fall: “If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws.” To act on his own, the president said, would violate those laws.
Mr. Obama now seems to be jettisoning that stance in the name of rallying his political base. He is considering extending temporary protection from deportation to millions of illegal immigrants, including the parents of U.S.-born children and others who have lived in the United States for years. Conceivably, this would give Democrats a political boost in 2016. Just as conceivably, it would trigger a constitutional showdown with congressional Republicans, who could make a cogent argument that Mr. Obama had overstepped his authority.
I would argue that Congress is sometimes supposed to be obstinate. But the editorial captures the potential lawlessness of what the president is threatening when he says he can’t “wait for” Congress to act. Sorry, but that is how things work under the Constitution.
Meanwhile, the current White House talk of impeachment is cynical political posturing but also possibly a pre-emptive strike if the president grants unilateral amnesty, which would clearly be a provocation.
Ross Douthat wrote about how radical such amnesty would be—and how supine the press and political class appear to be so far in his Sunday column:
The president may get the occasional rebuke for impeachment-baiting, but what the White House wants to do on immigration is assumed to be reasonable, legitimate, within normal political bounds.
It is not: It would be lawless, reckless, a leap into the antidemocratic dark.
And an American political class that lets this Rubicon be crossed without demurral will deserve to live with the consequences for the republic, in what remains of this presidency and in presidencies yet to come.
President Obama sometimes seems a frivolous figure lately, more interested in golfing and parties and going to Martha's Vineyard than the hard work of governing. Sometimes it seems that we have a fun-loving prince rather than a seasoned, second-term president. It would be a bitter irony of history if such a man, who is in the killer rabbit phase of his presidency, tore up the Constitution.