A member of the President’s own party—in the course of questioning Secretary of State John Kerry during hearings on the Iran nuclear deal—has exposed a disturbing mindset among Obama’s minions. Kerry’s response to a very clearly stated question places this mindset on center stage.
During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) presented a hypothetical to Kerry in which Congress rejected the Iran nuclear deal as follows: “Let’s say Congress doesn’t take your advice, we override a veto, and the law that’s triggered then imposes certain sanctions. Will you follow the law even though you think it’s absolutely terrible policy?”
The hypothetical clearly lays out a situation compliant with U.S. Constitution requirements to determine the law of the land. The hypothetical is one in which the President does what he has the right to do as head of the executive branch to propose a policy upon which the legislative branch then has a right to review it to determine if the policy is in America’s best interests. Should Congress then reject the policy, the President can then exercise his veto to resurrect it. If he does so, Congress can still reject it if it gets enough votes to do so. The hypothetical simply asked, if this sequence occurred—effectively defeating the nuclear deal—whether Kerry would then “follow the law.”
Kerry’s disturbing response was, “ I can’t begin to answer that at this point without consulting with the president and determining what the circumstances are.”
A clearly stunned Sherman asked in disbelief, “So you’re not committed to following the law?”
Seeking to make Sherman’s unambiguous inquiry ambiguous, Kerry countered with, “No, I said I’m not going to deal with a hypothetical, that’s all.”
What is disturbing is that Kerry failed to give an immediate and unequivocally affirmative answer. We demand as much from our military leaders at much lower pay-grades who are expected to apply the laws of war to immediate battlefield decisions without first consulting higher authority.
That Kerry’s response chose to seek Obama’s counsel on whether to comply with the law of the land or not should cause us serious concern—not only about his judgment but the influence Obama wields over him in rendering such an answer.
While allegiance to a President is commendable, as several Watergate defendants painfully learned, such allegiance has its limits—abruptly terminating if it runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution.
What has empowered other world leaders, such as the late Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Vladimir Putin of Russia, to maximize their powers beyond those authorized by their nation’s constitutions has been the willing submission of subordinates to the corrupted ideals of their leaders. Charismatic leaders prove to be a vortex into which followers, blinded by their own hope for change, are drawn.
Left alone in nature, a vortex will eventually lose steam. But in the political arena, those submitting to it continue to give it strength. Thus, the vortex Obama created continues to spin as others who should counter it fail to do so.
The failure of our leaders, whether elected or appointed to office, to challenge Obama on policies endangering U.S. national security or his actions outside the U.S. Constitution has continued to power his vortex.
Whether it is the act of a President in not calling a treaty what it is to circumvent the requirement he obtain 67 U.S. Senate votes to pass it, or not disclosing secret side deals to Congress related to a nuclear agreement with Iran allowing it to circumvent full accountability for its nuclear activities to date, or of embracing the Muslim Brotherhood despite its known ties to terrorism recognized by our allies, or of labeling the 2009 Fort Hood attack by a Muslim extremist that killed 13 as “workplace violence” rather than what it really was—an act of “Islamic terrorism”—or of rejecting any reference to the violence inherent in Islam—a religion mandating the deaths of all non-believers, any government official supporting this President on these issues only strengthens the vortex.
Our Founding Fathers were sensitive to the potential danger posed by a human vortex serving as President. To address it, they incorporated checks and balances designed to curtail such unauthorized change. But they also banked on the reasonable assumption others in positions of government responsibility would eventually rise to the challenge of a president “gone wild.”
Reference to such others was alluded to by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren after issuing his September 1964 report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Despite the report’s completeness, there was a nagging belief by many Americans a government conspiracy was involved. This caused Warren to later write a rebuttal. Identifying all the U.S. government officials who testified without the hint of a conspiracy arising, Warren proffered:
To say now that these people…neglected to unearth, or overlooked evidence of a conspiracy would be an indictment of the entire government of the United States. It would mean the whole structure was absolutely corrupt from top to bottom, with not one person of high or low rank willing to come forward to expose the villainy.
Thus, it was our Founding Fathers’ firm belief, and Warren’s as well, there would always be those within our government adhering to the high moral standard necessary to challenge a runaway presidency, particularly when those presidential actions were abusing our Constitution or endangering our national security. They believed inherent within the patriot, through whose veins the blood of freedom and democracy flowed, is the strength of character to stop the tyranny of the human vortex.
Unfortunately, our Founding Fathers were mistaken as the Obama vortex has trumped such thinking. It is not an indictment against them for the system of government they created but, rather, against us for the flawed government we have allowed it to become.
Sadly, we have no one “willing to come forward to expose the villainy!”
Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of “Bare Feet, Iron Will–Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields,” “Living the Juche Lie: North Korea’s Kim Dynasty” and “Doomsday: Iran–The Clock is Ticking.” He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.