Closeting the Constitution

President ignores America's ruling document whenever it suits him

What if you had Hank Aaron’s 715th home run ball in your attic? The Rosetta Stone in your basement? The Hope Diamond in your closet? The Dead Sea Scrolls stuffed into your desk?

The short answer is, you wouldn’t; you’d have them tucked away in a much safer place. Entrustment of history’s most important treasures and artifacts is an awesome responsibility that most of us would understand is a sacred charge.

So why do we allow America’s chief treasure, the U.S. Constitution, to be treated this way?

Most of us realize the old girl has been abused, battered and neglected for decades – that the federal government has become a Kraken unleashed, the Constitution its only restraint. Congress endlessly presses its nose under our tents, waving the “general welfare” clause as its ticket inside. In health-care reform alone, the commerce clause has been used to regard our sitting on our couches – and failing to purchase health insurance – as “commerce” that Washington has dominion over.

If such is true, what doesn’t it have sovereignty over?

President Obama seems intent on outdoing all others in abuse to the Constitution. He often talks of the inconvenience of our governmental system and his wish to just do as he pleases. Almost as often, he just does it.

“We can’t wait for Congress to do its job. So where they won’t act, I will,” he told a sadly gullible audience of students recently.

With Congress balking in its necessarily deliberative way, the Obama administration has taken it upon itself to reform the federal No Child Left Behind law. The administration will arbitrarily offer waivers from the law’s mandates to states that do as the administration wants – thus attempting to shape education policy in all 50 states.

But this president has taken his arrogant unilateralism to a dangerous new level with his decision to make “recess” appointments when the Senate is actually not in recess – perhaps his most blatant usurpation of power yet.

For safety and efficiency’s sake, a president is allowed to make appointments to the government while the Senate is in recess. It is a practice long used and sometimes abused. But Mr. Obama is making an art of abusing it.

To foil President George W. Bush, the Democratic Senate created a system in which senators can go home, as if on recess, while leaving the Senate technically in a “pro forma” session. Mr. Bush never challenged that system or violated it with an illegal recess appointment.
Mr. Obama just has – unilaterally naming one official to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and sneaking in three other members of the National Labor Relations Board.

Even his own head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, while rubber stamping the appointments, cautioned that the legal arguments against them are “substantial.”

Frighteningly, many Americans support Mr. Obama’s daydreams of dictatorship: He was greeted with applause and chants of “Yes you can!” when he suggested to a La Raza audience that he’d like to just bypass Congress. “Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting,” he said to great laughter.

Democrats should be as nonplussed as Republicans; if Obama’s extra-constitutional activities stand unchallenged, Democrats may someday face a Republican president wielding the same unconstitutional power.

There’s no reason Mr. Obama couldn’t have waited until Congress was back in full session – except that his appointments are often left-wing extremists who wouldn’t be confirmed. And except for the fact that he has an increasing desire to govern by fiat. The Constitution merely gets in the way.

“He’s gone beyond what any president has done and really shredded the constitution in practice with regard to recess appointments,” said one Republican senator, who promised a legal fight.

The fight shouldn’t be contained to the lawyers. It’s our Constitution, and it shouldn’t be treated this way.

But it is becoming little more than an artifact.

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