Michael McConnell’s excellent op-ed Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal about Obama’s refusal to enforce or defend laws he does not like reminds us how much Obama’s rhetoric has changed since the 2008 campaign, when he styled himself as a constitutional authority standing up for the sovereignty and rights of the people.
Back then, Obama railed against President George W. Bush’s use of “signing statements”–statements that the president issues when signing legislation, and which are printed together with the legislation, that do not have the force of law but which critics say are an attempt to undermine the exclusive legislative power of Congress.
Obama, Michelle Malkin recalled in 2011, told an enthusiastic audience of supporters at a campaign event in 2008: “”I taught the Constitution for 10 years, I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution the of the United States. We’re not gonna use signing statements as a way to do an end-run around Congress, alright?”
Not only has Obama himself adopted the use of signing statements as president, but he has–as Rafael Cruz, father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), noted recently–explicitly declared his intention to circumvent Congress on many occasions, including the State of the Union address in both 2012 and 2013: “If Congress won’t act…I will.”
Concern about signing statements seems rather quaint when the president is openly defying Congress–to its face. McConnell points out that Obama’s repeated refusal to enforce federal laws, including the employer mandate of Obamacare (his own signature “achievment”) violates Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution:
Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution states that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” This is a duty, not a discretionary power. While the president does have substantial discretion about how to enforce a law, he has no discretion about whether to do so.
Charles Krauthammer agrees that Obama’s behavior is “unconstitutional.”
I’ve speculated before that Obama’s knowledge of the Constitution is something less than he thinks it is, and certainly less than the media give him credit for–from the mistaken date in the supposedly historic “race speech” in 2008, to Obama’s apparent ignorance of judicial review as established in Marbury v. Madison.
Yet Obama does know the left-wing canon of constitutional thought very well–one that is skeptical of the document and its origins; one loosely attached, at best, to the text itself; one that sees few, if any, restraints on government power.
For the past five years and more, we have been his students–and, apparently, his subjects.