American Elephants

Tom Sowell on Barack Obama by The Elephant's Child

This is from 2008, before the election, but I ran across it and it’s interesting how prescient Tom Sowell is. And it seemed to fit with my previous post.

Tyrants, Dictators and Kings? Not Here, Not Now, Not Ever. by The Elephant's Child

Imperialism? Not a description we’re used to in America, but one that is becoming increasingly common around the web. Today’s presidency has little regard for the separation of powers, or the three equal branches of government.  Don’t like the laws? Just ignore them  and go your own way.

The Founders created three separate and equal branches of government as a system for slowing things down. Encouraging deliberation and argumentation meant fewer ill-thought out laws and regulations. The president said that if Congress will not act (in the way he wants them to) he’ll just have to go around them. Dr. Matthew Spalding at Heritage listed some of the most blatant offenses:

Last week, the Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum instructing U.S. immigration officials to use their “prosecutorial discretion” to create a policy scheme contrary to existing law, designed to implement legislation that Congress hasn’t passed.

The President himself has admitted he doesn’t have the authority to do this. “The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting, I promise you, not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how our system works,” he told Hispanic activists last year. “That’s not how our democracy functions.”

The Left does not like disagreement, but there are still limits:

  • The Democrat-controlled Senate rejected the President’s cap-and-trade plan, but his EPA classified carbon dioxide, one of the building blocks of life, as a pollutant so that it could be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
  • The Employee Free Choice Act— a particular goal of labor unions—was defeated by Congress, the National Labor Relations Board announced a rule that would approve “snap elections” for union representation, limiting employer’s ability to make their case to workers, and guaranteeing a higher rate of unionization.
  • An internet regulation failed to be approved by Congress, but the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would regulate the Web anyway, despite a federal court’s ruling that it had no authority  to do so.
  • Congress has consistently barred the Dept. of Education from getting involved in curriculum , the administration has offered waivers to the No Child Left Behind law in exchange for states adopting national education standards, without authorization from Congress.

The Imperial Administration has refused to enforce laws duly enacted by Congress:

  • The Supreme Court unanimously approved Arizona’s right to ask those questioned on violations for their immigration papers, the administration has announced they will only respond in cases of major crime. They choose not to enforce immigration law.
  • The Department of Justice has chosen not to push Congress to repeal federal laws against marijuana use, but simply decided it will not enforce those laws.
  • DoJ has announced it will not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act or defend it from legal challenge rather than seeking change from Congress.

On Tuesday, the president invoked ‘executive privilege’ to avoid handing over 1,300 documents in an ongoing Congressional investigation. The Supreme Court has ruled that ‘executive privilege cannot be used to shield wrongdoing.

Earlier this year, the president gave “recess appointments” to four official who were subject to confirmation by the Senate, even though the Senate was not in recess. This ignores the  advise and consent role required by the Constitution.

The President of the United States of America may be a uniquely powerful official, but his authority does not extend to making laws, nor choosing which laws he likes and which he doesn’t, nor which he will enforce and which he will ignore. Doesn’t work that way.

We need to elect a president will vigorously exert his legitimate powers, and faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress, while clearly understanding the limits of his powers. This president’s misunderstanding of his role is not just astonishing, but dangerous to our constitutional republic.

In his Osawatomie, Kansas speech Obama stated that his aim was a nation where “everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” Nice phrase, but totally meaningless.  Who decides? Who controls? Who makes the rules? Turns out that government, more of it, is just the tool to do that job. Nevermind that government, particularly under this president, does a singularly poor job with decisions, controls and regulation. Which ends up as an enormously poor job with an economy.

Bad Law, But Really Compassionate. by The Elephant's Child

Here we are. The president of the United States has announced that he doesn’t like the Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States, because his reelection strategy is to pander to Hispanics with a de facto amnesty on immigration. He is a fierce competitor, and his support from the Hispanic community has  fallen off, possibly related to their sky-high unemployment.

His Secretary of Homeland Security ( embarrassingly a former Governor of Arizona)  has dutifully announced that  unless Arizona police call with an illegal immigrant who committed a major offense, don’t bother to call, because they won’t do anything. This is the president declaring that he will not obey, let alone enforce, the laws of the United States.

As a man of the hard left, Obama has had no consideration for the traditions and customs of the presidency. Many of us thought that he was just unaware of the history of the office. What do you do when you have someone in office who simply will not follow the rules? Who judges himself above the law, and as too important to be restrained by mere tradition.

We are a nation of laws. We have a remarkable Constitution that in 223 years has only been amended 27 times, while other nations rewrite theirs with regularity. But we have it because Americans revere it, and revere the brilliance that hides in the phrase “We the people … do ordain.” But what do you do when the chief executive officer, sworn to’ preserve protect and defend the Constitution’ and to’ faithfully execute the office of the presidency’ decides not to?

Steven Hayward summarized the problem in the forward to William Voegeli’s Never Enough, which I recommend heartily:

Liberalism’s irrepressible drive for an ever larger welfare state without limit arises from at least two premises upon which the left no longer reflects: the elevation of compassion to a political principle (albeit with other people’s money) and the erosion of meaningful constitutional limits on government on account of the idea of Progress.

The president, ‘compassionately’ announces that enforcing the law, or deporting anyone, or not allowing unauthorized workers to take the jobs of Americans, is just not the American way. The Congress makes the immigration laws. The Court made an error of law in essentially saying that because they have ‘compassion,’ you don’t have to pay any attention to the laws made by Congress. And the Supreme Court doesn’t get to do that. And because of the error, the problem will have to go back to Congress for new law to fix things.

As a nation, you have to have some control over your borders. You really can’t just throw the borders open to one and all. Half the world wants to move to America. The “open borders” advocates don’t care about the borders, they care only about power, and they see unlimited immigration as a key to power.

Justice Scalia’s opinion is scathing on the sovereignty of a state:

The United States is an indivisible “Union of sovereign States.” Hinderlider v. La Plata River & Cherry Creek Ditch Co., 304 U. S. 92, 104 (1938). Today’s opinion, approving virtually all of the Ninth Circuit’s injunction against enforcement of the four challenged provisions of Arizona’s law, deprives States of what most would consider the defining characteristic of sovereignty: the power to exclude from the sovereign’s territory people who have no right to be there. Neither the Constitution itself nor even any law passed by Congress supports this result. I dissent.


As a sovereign, Arizona has the inherent power to exclude persons from its territory, subject only to those limitations expressed in the Constitution or constitutionally imposed by Congress. That power to exclude has long been recognized as inherent in sovereignty. Emer de Vattel’s seminal 1758 treatise on the Law of Nations stated: (The entire opinion is here)

There are no easy answers to the immigration problem, nor to the problems that illegal immigration is causing. They are hard questions, and will be difficult to work out. There are only trade-offs. You must draw clean legal lines. This is about the country, not feel-good compassion, and not about buying votes. Illegals are not all innocent children, nor are they all dreamers and strivers, and the laws must deal with terrorists and drug dealers as well. The law is not about compassion, it’s about law or lawlessness.

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