The Left Has No Credibility on Abuse of Power Issues

Friday, November 21, AD 2014

Those of you who remember the space of time between January 20, 2001 and January 20, 2009 might recall that cries for George W. Bush’s impeachment rang out roughly every five seconds from some corner of the American left (and some libertarian circles as well). The Iraq War was a primary impetus for these calls, because I guess continuing a war that had been granted Congressional approval but was becoming increasingly unpopular ran afoul of some constitutional principle. Of course this was not the only motivating factor behind calls for Bush’s impeachment. At some point late in his second term his mere existence was viewed as grounds for impeachment. The most serious centered around supposed abuses of executive power, highlighted especially by his use of presidential signing statements. The anger over these relatively mundane statements revealed more about the bone-dry ignorance of those who sputtered the most outrage over them, because it was quite evident that these individuals didn’t even know what these signing statements were or what they were meant to accomplish.

George W. Bush was obviously not the first, and he certainly won’t be the last president to receive such treatment. Every president faces hostility from members of the opposing party, and every president will be the subject of frivolous and not-so frivolous impeachment talk. Perhaps this is just indicative of our polity’s reflexive desire to howl “IMPEACH HIM!” at every instance of executive overreach. After all, while Bush was not guilty (IMO[NS]HO) of any impeachable offense, arguments that he extended his executive powers to the breaking point are not exactly unreasonable. That Bush merely continued the long tradition of augmenting presidential powers beyond their constitutional breaking point is really no excuse. We can endlessly debate the merits and demerits of executive actions undertaken by our 41st president, but the point is that they are in fact at least debatable.

Which brings us to our 44th president. President Obama’s imperial edict issuance of amnesty by executive order is so breathtaking in its abuse of presidential authority that even advocates of comprehensive immigration reform such as the editors of the Wall Street Journal are left shrieking in horror. We’ll leave aside the Journal’s insistence on using the idiotic phrase “anti-immigration” Republicans and note that even they think he clearly went beyond the scope of his powers. There is no shortage of commentary explaining why President Obama lacks such authority, so I’ll leave that discussion aside right now (although here’s one for starters). I also won’t get into a detailed discussion of what the Republicans ought to do (although you can go here, here, here and here  if you’d like).

What I would like to note is the utter silence of the left on this issue. Actually, it’s not really silence – rather, the left is in full-throated support of this action. Okay, maybe that’s not true, as some on the left don’t think the president went far enough. But, by and large, the left is completely hunky dory with this decree. And they are not alone, as some of the geniuses at the USCCB had already signaled their contentment with Obama’s act of contempt for the constitution. We’re not even two years removed from the Bishops marching out in opposition to the HHS contraception mandate, and there they are providing a wink and a nod this round of executive overreach. I guess some violations of the constitution are okay so long as they accord with your policy preferences.

Which brings us to the nub of the issue. After years of bemoaning every real and imagined instance of George W. Bush overreach, the left in almost its entirety has either remained silent or actively applauded every instance of Obamian executive rule-making. This most recent example is just the latest in a long line of executive abuses of authority by this administration. Whether it be forcing Churches to cover contraception, or “recess” appointments when there wasn’t any Congressional recess to be speak of, or name your favorite example of some departmental rule-making beyond the scope of its Congressional authority, and there have been opportunities for honest citizens of the left to cry out in opposition. But their silence is deafening.

You see for progressives it’s all about the ends, not the means. If the ends are good, then the means don’t really matter. Now if the ends are bad, then well, any means is de facto illegitimate.

Jay Nordlinger talks about an example of this from his own personal experience.

In 2003, I was at a dinner party on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. All liberals, plus me. The Texas sodomy decision had just come down from the Supreme Court. My hostess asked me what I thought. I said that I agreed with Justice Thomas — who wrote essentially this: “The Texas law is dumb. If I were a member of the state legislature, I would vote to repeal it. But I find nothing in the Constitution that forbids a state to make such a law.”

My hostess looked at me as though I had come from Mars. She did not look at me with hostility. She looked at me with incomprehension. If you’ve got the power, you use it, for good ends. If you’ve got the black robe and the gavel — why, ram home what is right!

When I was in college, and figuring things out, I noticed that the Left had a disdain for process. They would use it, if the process was to their advantage. But they would jettison it the second the process was inconvenient. What mattered was the result, period.

Jonah Goldberg has written about all this in his excellent book, Liberal Fascism. For over a century the American left has steadily worked to undermine the constitutional process. It has done so via the Courts. It has done so through the presidency. It has even done so in subtle ways culturally. Why do you think there has been so much bellyaching about gridlock and Congress’ failure to “compromise?” The left wants to leave the impression that the failure to produce legislative action is a bug and not a feature of our constitutional process. This impatience with our peculiar republican form of government is what has spurred all of the actions that have degraded our constitutional system.

It is tempting to bemoan the hypocrisy of the left and its refusal to hold President Obama to the same standards it held President Bush. But the left is not being hypocritical, at least not now. No, the real hypocrisy occurred in the years between 2001 and 2009 when the left pretended to care about things like separation of powers, checks and balances, and limits on the Executive’s authority. In reality, they didn’t give a fig about any of these constitutional checks on the presidency except insofar as the wrong guy got to exercise said authority. So when Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, or some other individual with an -R next to his name next occupies the Oval Office, please lend all leftist cries about abuse of power all the credence they deserve.

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5 Responses to The Left Has No Credibility on Abuse of Power Issues

  • The left has no credibility.

    Ed Driscoll: “Grubering also helps to define the relatively recent trend on the left not just to lie — that’s always been a component of the left — but to openly admit to lying as an unalloyed good to advance the Noble Cause.”

    Sean Davis: “Gruber was an Obamacare architect who helped draft the law. This is a fact regardless of whether it’s currently convenient for the Left.” Things that are inconvenient for the left aren’t “facts.” They’re things “Republicans claim.”

  • Jonah Goldberg has written about all this in his excellent book, Liberal Fascism.

    He also wrote about it in today’s g-file.

    “As I’ve written many times before, the story of the progressive movement can best be understood as activists going wherever the field is open. If the people are on your side, expand democracy. If the people are against you, use the courts. If the courts are against you, run down the field with the bureaucrats, or the Congress, or the presidency. Procedural niceties — the filibuster, precedent, the law, custom, the Constitution, truth — only matter if they can be enlisted to advance the cause. If they can’t, they suddenly become outdated, irrelevant, vestigial organs of racism, elitism, sexism, whatever. Obstruction, or even inconvenience in the path of progressive ends is prima facie proof of illegitimacy. The river of history must carry forward. If History hits a rock, the rock must be swept up with the current or be circumvented. Nothing can hold back the Hegelian tide, no one may Stand Athwart History. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. This is the liberal gleichschaltung; get with the program or be flattened by it.”

  • 100% correct, Paul Zummo.

  • I think Raoul Berger may have been the last man of the left to be animated by a respect for rules and procedure, though I suppose a case could be made that Nat Hentoff, Alan Dershowitz, and Jerilyn Merritt have such respect in certain contexts. Prof. Berger was admitted to the bar around the time my grandparents were married, so it’s been a while.

    What we’re attempting to cope with (and we cannot) is that half the political spectrum (the half favored by the word-merchant sector) has at the apex and center of American political life decayed into a criminal organization. They are protected by elements of the legal profession who are criminal themselves. This is not going to end well (and may end with large swatches of the bar being dealt with rather crudely).

  • “Obstruction, or even inconvenience in the path of progressive ends is prima facie proof of illegitimacy. The river of history must carry forward.”
    Don’t they know that the world is round and what goes around comes around and it picks up speed. Progressives in their mindless lust for power have not yet realized that the world is not flat, or if the world is flat they will eventually fall off.
    The most hilarious situation would be if the progressives hurried up and found out that they have become Republicans. If Obama can be dethroned.

President of All the People

Wednesday, September 19, AD 2012

President Barack Obama went on the David Letterman show last night and responded to the leaked video where Mitt Romney explained why 47 percent of the electorate was basically shut off to him. Obama took the softball and hammered one out of the park, waxing poetic about being responsive to all the people.

Such stirring words, and certainly President Obama has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to respecting the values of those who disagree with him.

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10 Responses to President of All the People

  • I stand by my statements on Barack Hussein Obama that I wrote in other com boxes here at TAC. He advocates the murder of the unborn and newly born. He sanctifies the filth of homosexual sodomy and lesbianism. He bankrupts the nation by increasing debt and stealing from the public treasury. He is evil – as evil as his predecessor, King Manasseh of Judah. Yes, he is in the style of Chicago gangsters. Yes, he has contributed nothing new to the liberal, progressive cause, but only enacted what they already supported. But like every murderous gangster thug before him, he is evil.

    I suppose now I should take another OxyContin and calm down. Jeremiah never had that option when he confronted the King in Jerusalem (not that I am a Jeremiah – I don’t qualify).

    Sorry, Paul Z. Yours is a good post. But I get so angry and frustrated at all this. That godless man has time to go on David Letterman’s TV show and campaign against Romney, but he doesn’t have time for national security conferences, attendance at which is necessary for the protection of ALL the people.

    Barack Hussein Obama is NOT my President. NOT! And never ever will be.

  • So, does Mitt merit equal time?

  • I understand that Obama also claimed in this interview that the national deficit is “not a problem”, and when asked what the deficit was when he took office, said he doesn’t remember. He is artful at rhetoric, and at denying our most critical problems! As a Catholic, I would like to hear the alternative to Obama tell us that he cares about all Americans even though he knows they won’t all give him their vote, and that as a society, our goal is that dependency is a temporary status on the road to self-sufficiency through good jobs and better incomes (with exceptions, of course, such as retired or disabled.)

  • It wasn’t too long ago that former congressman Patrick Kennedy did an interview
    where he briefly touched on the necessity of raising funds for the White House in
    order to insure continuing good relations. He seemed to regard it as only natural
    that POTUS should closely track monies forwarded by congressmen of his own party
    and cause his face to shine only upon those who coughed up enough. Naturally, the
    flip side of that coin is the implication that this president is less of a president for
    those who are unwilling to pay to play.

  • “So I feel that I’ve been President for all Americans – the stupid Cambridge Police, the members of my security detail who wouldn’t think twice about shooting a black guy, doctors who perform unnecessary amputations out of greed; bankers and pitchfork-wielding mobs; Hispanics and their enemies, who I encouraged them to attack; the people who were entitled to money when GM went bankrupt, and the people who got money when GM went bankrupt; filmmakers critical of Islam who give me lots of money, and filmmakers critical of Islam who are invited to come downtown for routine questioning.”

    “It’s on behalf of all of those people that I have worked as hard as I can. That’s what you’ve seen the past few years. Me, working as hard as I can. Barring only occasional moments of rest – a couple of rounds of golf each month, watching less than half of the college basketball that ESPN and ESPN2 televises, a bit of daily exercise, and the odd date night flight to New York or Chicago or Los Angeles or Paris or Rio or Casablanca or Majorca or Fiji or Maui or only a couple of dozen other places – I’m at work every waking moment.”

    “I don’t think most Americans realize how much is involved in this job, probably because I make it look so easy, but I have to give a lot of speeches in front of a lot of admirers, and I feel like I owe it to them to make it the greatest experience of their lives. It’s not just speeches, either. There are a lot of dinners where I have to listen to other speeches, and campaign material to film, interviews to sit through, donation reports to review, photo shoots of me working to arrange, state dinners to host, just many different things. Tonight alone, Dave, I’m not just here talking to you, I have to go have dinner next to Beyonce later. Again.”

    “And then there’s the foreign affairs component – of course my opponents are new to diplomacy – but it’s a very important component of my job to meet with foreign leaders, smooth over damage that has been done to our relationship due to missteps by previous administrations, and explain to them what I have noticed about how they can fix various problems in their countries.”

    “The truth is, I don’t think Mitt Romney is capable of doing what I’ve done over the past three and a half years, and frankly I think deep down he knows it.”

  • ‘Cept us bitter people clinging to God . . . guns . . . ‘stills . . .

    And, Catholics that oppose abortion and artificial contraception . .

    And, GM bondholders from whom he stole . . .

    And, the evil rich that don’t pay their fair share to house, feed and clothe looters, moochers, and 17,000,000 bureaucrats and politicians . . .

    And, “stupid” cambridge police . . .

    And, filmmakers critical of Islam who are invited to come downtown for questioning.

    And, he’s a Chicago gangster/politician.

    St. Augustine, “Government without justice is mass brigandage.”

    “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

  • Except the innocent. He has a real affection for killing children in the womb.

  • Paul, you comment is an oasis of reason.

  • UNEXPECTEDLY: Obama Campaign’s Flag Poster No Longer Appears In Store.

    – From an instapundit post this evening.