Enforce laws at your political leisure. Name recess appointments when there’s no recess. Legislate through regulation. Rewrite environmental laws. Rewrite immigration policy. Rewrite tax legislation. Bomb Libya. Bomb Syria. All by fiat. All good. The only question now is: what can’t Barack Obama do without Congress?Every day seems to bring forth another story about what Obmaa has done or intends to do to ignore the constitutional limitations on the power of the president. A constitution, by the way, that Barack Obama swore to preserve, protect, and defend. The most recent was the news that he wants to forge a sweeping multi-national agreement on climate change without submitting it to the Senate. And the only excuse given is that the issue is so important and the Senate won't act. As if no president has ever faced a recalcitrant Congress.
“The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all, and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America,” then-candidate Obama declared years ago. You can imagine what might have transpired if George Bush had argued that a lack of seriousness regarding a “broken” Social Security program – and the obstruction of his reform efforts – meant that Democrats had ceded the political field on the issue and should be sidestepped. It might not have gone over that well. Then again, liberal pundits seem to be under the impression that the issues we face today are the most significant in the history of mankind. Every liberal hobbyhorse becomes a moral imperative. And as frustration mounts, the abuses grow and the excuses get uglier.But, apparently, there is some invisible clause, as Charles C.W. Cooke writes, in the Constitution that allows Democrats to ignore the limitations it puts on the presidency - the "We Can't Wait" clause.
Justifying his infringements, the president typically submits that Congress has in some way abandoned its role, and that he is obliged by expedience to step in. This asseveration rests unsteadily upon the false presumption that Congress’s role is to agree with the executive branch, rather than to make law. It is not. Even if we were to agree wholeheartedly with Barack Obama that Congress’s judgment is poor, it would remain the case that there is no provision in the Constitution that makes the legislature’s absolute role conditional upon its good sense. On the contrary: If the president can’t get Congress to agree to what he legally needs them to agree to, he doesn’t get to do what he wants to do. This is so whether Congress is packed with angels or with clowns. It is so whether Congress adores the president or loathes him, whether it is active and engaged, and whether it is idle and lackadaisical. And — crucially — it is so whether Congress is popular or it is unpopular. Public opinion matters in the American system come election time, mass plebiscites serving as the basis by which our representatives are chosen and our sentiments established into law. But it has no bearing on the day-to-day legal operation of the government, nor upon the integrity of the rules that govern that operation. If one of the elected branches proves recalcitrant, steadfastly ignoring what the voters want, the remedy is electoral, not legal. The integrity of the constitutional order, suffice it to say, is not contingent upon the transient public mood. That way lies chaos.Seth Lipsky explains why the procedures set up in the Constitution for approving treaties makes so much sense.
Knowing that appeals to raw power are jarring to the average ear, those who have taken to defending the president’s imperialism tend instead to sell their wares by introducing complexity where it does not belong. It is the case that some parts of our Constitution are vague and open to interpretation. But not all. Alas, over the last six years, we have been told that there is considerable nuance even in those portions that have been taken for more than two centuries to be utterly straightforward. Does the president have to faithfully execute the laws as they are written? That, apparently, is complicated. Does the ratification of treaties really work in the manner that the Constitution prescribes? Ooh, a tricky one! What about Article I, which makes it clear that all legislative powers belong to the legislature? Sure, but only if Congress behaves itself. Must the executive branch adhere to the established budget and borrowing process, or can it mint trillion-dollar platinum coins if Congress won’t acquiesce with its demands? This too, it seems, is unclear. Can the president deem the Senate to be in recess and make appointments without them? Why not, man? So deeply has this rot set in — and so ready have political opportunists proved themselves to abdicate their responsibilities in favor of political victory — that we have been treated to the sight of a three-term senator and majority whip claiming with a straight face that the president can merely “borrow” congressional power if it is not forthcoming.
He must do no such thing, for an assault on any part of our settlement is an assault on the whole. To the extent that Obama has been accorded political power, he may use it, and use it to the fullest. Beyond that, he is tightly and rightly circumscribed in his authority. As a matter of both propriety and legal rectitude, there can be no place within the American constitutional order for a president to menace Congress with threats. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever. Like Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons, Barack Obama would profit from the recognition that it is for his own good that he is expected to give the Devil the benefit of the law. By demonizing one’s opponents and making legal excuses in result, it is easy to make the men in the cheap seats applaud and holler. But before long, somebody else will be taking the oath, and wondering, as he promise the best of his ability, just what he might put over on the rest.
In recent years it has grown apparent that our country is in what I like to call a “constitutional moment,” and this example is a humdinger. Presidents are perfectly entitled to sign treaties that haven’t been approved by the Senate. That’s part of the process. They ink all sorts of sketchy stuff, but it can’t become binding as supreme law of the land until it gets through the Senate.This is basic Civics 101. My 10th grade students all understand this. You would think that someone who prides himself on having been a professor of Constitutional Law would understand this. And, of course, he does understand it. But he has just decided that if he wants to do something and he can't get the Senate for a treaty or the whole of Congress for a law to go along, then dang it he'll just have to do it himself and blame the Republicans for his being forced to ignore the Constitution. And just how does this differ from the sort of tyranny that the Constitutional checks and balances were designed to protect against?
The Senate gives it a chance to simmer. Hearings are held. People with interests get to testify. The Senate is where the states, key parties in the American contract, get their say. Sometimes, treaties don’t get ratified and are laid aside. This happened to the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty known as SALT II. President Carter signed it, but the Senate didn’t trust the Soviet boss at the time, Leonid Brezhnev, nor anyone else in the Kremlin camarilla. So it refused to ratify the treaty. No one was the worse for wear.
America worked for years on the Law of the Sea Treaty, a vast giveaway of oceanic wealth that we had the best technology to exploit, but the measure didn’t get to first base in the Senate, either. There are still politicians and diplomats and lawyers out there hoping to persuade the Senate to act. Fair enough. I wouldn’t ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty for all the sardines in the ocean. But trying to convince the Senate is fair enough. If it’s one thing to try to persuade the Senate, it’s another thing to take a treaty that the Senate is so clearly unwilling to ratify, as with global warming, and enter into a conspiracy to dodge the Senate and evade the Constitution — a document that every public official in our country is sworn to support.
James Taranto links to this essay by Israeli journalist Matti Friedman about how the media cover Israel. Friedman points out that the media cover Israel and the Palestinians as if it's the most important story on earth with move coverage than any other conflict on earth.
Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of news-gathering employees in all the countries where the uprisings of the “Arab Spring” eventually erupted.I suspect that part of this discrepancy is that it is much easier and pleasanter to be a reporter in Israel than one in Syria or Pakistan or Tibet or Congo. He goes on to point to how the media frame the story by totally ignoring the Palestinians as having any responsibility for their situation. They ignore the corruption in the Palestinian Authority yet drill down on the slightest negative story about Israeli society. The media ignore or downplay the fact that Hamas censors and intimidates them in their coverage of conflict in Gaza. It is like after the fall of Saddam Hussein, CNN's Eason Jordan told the world of how CNN had kept certain stories to themselves because of their fear of what Saddam would do to Iraqis who had worked with CNN if they had made stories of atrocities committed by Saddam and his sons. Yet reporters in Gaza don't seem to care about presenting a true picture of life in Gaza because they're too focused on blaming everything on Israel. Friedman goes on to say many perceptive things about how the media and their western audiences see conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and fail to see those tensions as part of of conflicts throughout the Middle East. And, by portraying the conflict as simply one between Israel and Palestinians they get to portray Israel as the stronger entity instead of framing the conflict as one between Israel and Arabs or between Israelis and Muslims if one were to include the hostile countries of Turkey and Iran. Such a framing would make Israel be a tiny country of 6 million facing 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries.
To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel....
The volume of press coverage that results, even when little is going on, gives this conflict a prominence compared to which its actual human toll is absurdly small. In all of 2013, for example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict claimed 42 lives—that is, roughly the monthly homicide rate in the city of Chicago. Jerusalem, internationally renowned as a city of conflict, had slightly fewer violent deaths per capita last year than Portland, Ore., one of America’s safer cities. In contrast, in three years the Syrian conflict has claimed an estimated 190,000 lives, or about 70,000 more than the number of people who have ever died in the Arab-Israeli conflict since it began a century ago.
News organizations have nonetheless decided that this conflict is more important than, for example, the more than 1,600 women murdered in Pakistan last year (271 after being raped and 193 of them burned alive), the ongoing erasure of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party, the carnage in Congo (more than 5 million dead as of 2012) or the Central African Republic, and the drug wars in Mexico (death toll between 2006 and 2012: 60,000), let alone conflicts no one has ever heard of in obscure corners of India or Thailand. They believe Israel to be the most important story on earth, or very close.
And what explains this invidious depiction of Israel? Westerners can project onto Israel everything they despise about their own nation's histories.
When the people responsible for explaining the world to the world, journalists, cover the Jews’ war as more worthy of attention than any other, when they portray the Jews of Israel as the party obviously in the wrong, when they omit all possible justifications for the Jews’ actions and obscure the true face of their enemies, what they are saying to their readers—whether they intend to or not—is that Jews are the worst people on earth. The Jews are a symbol of the evils that civilized people are taught from an early age to abhor. International press coverage has become a morality play starring a familiar villain....
White people in London and Paris whose parents not long ago had themselves fanned by dark people in the sitting rooms of Rangoon or Algiers condemn Jewish “colonialism.” Americans who live in places called “Manhattan” or “Seattle” condemn Jews for displacing the native people of Palestine. Russian reporters condemn Israel’s brutal military tactics. Belgian reporters condemn Israel’s treatment of Africans. When Israel opened a transportation service for Palestinian workers in the occupied West Bank a few years ago, American news consumers could read about Israel “segregating buses.” And there are a lot of people in Europe, and not just in Germany, who enjoy hearing the Jews accused of genocide.
You don’t need to be a history professor, or a psychiatrist, to understand what’s going on. Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were—the pool into which the world spits. The Jews of Israel are the screen onto which it has become socially acceptable to project the things you hate about yourself and your own country. The tool through which this psychological projection is executed is the international press.
Bret Stephens ponders the intriguing way that Obama's aides describe his personal reactions to various conflicts around the world.
Barack Obama "has become 'enraged' at the Israeli government, both for its actions and for its treatment of his chief diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. " So reports the Jerusalem Post, based on the testimony of Martin Indyk, until recently a special Middle East envoy for the president. The war in Gaza, Mr. Indyk adds, has had "a very negative impact" on Jerusalem's relations with Washington.Nope. Not so much. He saves that for the Israelis.
Think about this. Enraged. Not "alarmed" or "concerned" or "irritated" or even "angered." Anger is a feeling. Rage is a frenzy. Anger passes. Rage feeds on itself. Anger is specific. Rage is obsessional, neurotic.
And Mr. Obama—No Drama Obama, the president who prides himself on his cool, a man whose emotional detachment is said to explain his intellectual strength—is enraged. With Israel. Which has just been hit by several thousand unguided rockets and 30-odd terror tunnels, a 50-day war, the forced closure of its one major airport, accusations of "genocide" by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, anti-Semitic protests throughout Europe, general condemnation across the world. This is the country that is the object of the president's rage.
Think about this some more. In the summer in which Mr. Obama became "enraged" with Israel, Islamic State terrorists seized Mosul and massacred Shiite soldiers in open pits, Russian separatists shot down a civilian jetliner, Hamas executed 18 "collaborators" in broad daylight, Bashar Assad's forces in Syria came close to encircling Aleppo with the aim of starving the city into submission, a brave American journalist had his throat slit on YouTube by a British jihadist, Russian troops openly invaded Ukraine, and Chinese jets harassed U.S. surveillance planes over international waters.
Mr. Obama or his administration responded to these events with varying degrees of concern, censure and indignation. But rage?
Charles C. W. Cooke explains why, despite the best efforts of the media and leftists, the Ferguson story has fizzled.
Mike Gonzalez writes about the origin of the term Latino to replace Hispanic. I hadn't known the origins of the term, but this exposes how ridiculous it is to think that it is supposedly more PC than Hispanic.
It was even sillier, then, that West Coast academics suddenly opined that “Hispanics” was a “colonial” term because it harked back to Spain’s colonization of Latin America, and we as a nation needed a new one. What this made clear once again is that to claim sensitivity to other cultures does not necessarily mean to know anything about them. Of all the terms that can be used, “Latinos” might be the silliest.I always wondered how the term Latino could be more anti-colonial than Hispanic. Now I know. It isn't.
The Spanish-language term Latino America, from which Latino derives, was in fact created by the French, and what’s more, in one of Europe’s most blatant colonial misadventures in the Western Hemisphere: France’s attempt to forge an empire in Mexico, which it invaded in the 1860s while the United States was busy fighting the Civil War.
By popularizing a new phrase, the French were aiming to deemphasize the region’s ties to Spain and Portugal and create a larger connection to the Latin peoples of Europe—not just the Spanish and the Portuguese but also the French themselves. Up to that point, “Latin” had referred exclusively to the peoples of southern Europe who were conquered by the Roman Empire and adopted a version of their language—which was, to wit, Latin.
John Kerry calls ISIS "a cancer" that needs to be confronted. Doesn't that imply that we should be doing everything possible to stop them? It doesn't mean that we have to go it alone and I agree that this is an opportunity for the US to form a coalition such as we haven't seen since the one the George H.W. Bush gathered to push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. but it doesn't mean that we should dilly dally while trying to come up with a strategy or limit our efforts to thwarting ISIS in Iraq.