The president doesn’t love the same country I do. As a former artillery battery commander, a career private sector lawyer and present-day visiting professor of law in Russia and Eastern Europe, I love the country that President Obama inherited. He loves the country he’s trying to transform it into.
One of the major differences between us relates to respect for the rule of law. The fundamental purpose of my foreign teaching is to advance the rule of law, as opposed to the rule of man, in countries formerly dominated by the Soviet Union. The president has made my endeavor more difficult by demonstrating, time and again, his lack of deference to our laws, including the U.S. Constitution. He’s constantly pushing the envelope. As National Review observed in September, “This president is testing the limits of our system.”
For example, not only does the president refuse to enforce the nation’s immigration laws concerning illegal aliens — contrary to his oath of office — he sued to stop Arizona from enforcing its own immigration laws. His partial success in court has not induced him to step up law enforcement. In the same vein, he ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the duly enacted Defense of Marriage Act. The president decides what laws to enforce.
In the General Motors and Chrysler Chapter 11 cases, the federal government bludgeoned the parties into distorting the bankruptcy laws to ride roughshod over the bondholders and deliver control of GM to the government and Chrysler to its union.
In a state-of-the-union address given before U.S. Supreme Court justices, the president disdained the court by stating that one of its decisions opened the floodgates to foreign political campaign contributions, which prompted Justice Samuel Alito to mouth “untrue.” The president was wrong in criticizing the court and wrong in the substance of his criticism. Foreign political campaign contributions were then, and are now, banned by federal law. Without respect for the courts, there can be no respect for the rule of law.
There seems to be no end to the examples of the president’s cavalier attitude toward the law. According to the Heritage Foundation, an independent American oil-and-gas company has sued him for blocking allegedly legitimate efforts to produce oil from offshore wells.
On the constitutional side, the administration, armed with a Democrat Congress, ramrodded through the Obamacare legislation, unconcerned about its constitutionality. The Supreme Court approved the bulk of that legislation as constitutional by a 5-4 vote, facilitated by a chief justice who pulled his arms out of their sockets in stretching for a constitutional basis — the power to tax — that few people thought applied.
Next, the Department of Health and Human Services mandated that religious institutions suffer serious financial penalties unless they provide health-insurance coverage for sterilization, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, whether those practices offend core tenets of the institutions’ religions. The mandate is a frontal attack on the First Amendment right of freedom of religion, probably the most serious and unimaginable assault on religious liberty in our lifetimes. The assault prompted the filing of a flurry of lawsuits by the American Catholic Bishops, the University of Notre Dame and numerous other institutions and businesses to set aside the mandate. Although some of the suits have been dismissed, mostly for prematurity, several courts have held on substantive grounds against the implementation of that mandate.
That’s not the only attack of the Obama Administration on the Catholic Church. In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that religious institutions are exempt from the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. Notwithstanding, the NLRB has decided that Manhattan College, in New York, St. Xavier University, in Chicago, and Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, are not sufficiently religious to qualify for the exemption. Not only is the NLRB thumbing its nose at Supreme Court precedent, it is arrogant for it to give itself the authority to decide which religious universities are religious enough.
We also have the president, after several years of refusal by the Congress to enact the Dream Act, announcing in lieu of deportation a work-permit program for 800,000 illegal immigrants. Indifferent to the constitutional separation of powers, the president has “enacted legislation” himself for which many observers fail to see any constitutional basis. The president’s disdain for the Supreme Court is exceeded only by his disdain for the Congress.
As a mark of that disdain, Eric Holder, Obama’s attorney general, whose job it is to enforce the law, stiffed the United States Senate with respect to the production of documents in the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal, intransigence that led some senators to call for Holder’s resignation. The president asserted executive privilege to bail him out.
Finally, as recently as Jan. 25, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, hardly a conservative bastion, held unconstitutional the president’s three recess appointments to the NLRB last January, a holding which, if upheld, will invalidate NLRB decisions since then.
What country does President Obama love? A country bereft of constitutional limitations on his power; a country with a compliant Supreme Court unwilling to restrain governmental excesses; a country in which he can selectively enforce the law; a country in which he can ignore legitimate congressional demands; a country in which he can unilaterally enact and amend laws by executive order; a country ungoverned by the rule of law?
That’s not the country I know and love, the country I teach about.
Edmund Adams is a part-time Longboat Key resident and a fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy.