Constitution Day: 11 Rules of ‘Constitutional Decency’


Constitution Day 2015 arrives as the defiance of President Barack Obama has reached new lows.

He is refusing to submit the Iran deal to the Senate as a treaty, as the Constitution requires, and has spent the months since his party’s loss in the midterm election abusing his executive powers to enact policies that the legislature has not approved and has in many cases rejected outright.

Obama’s conduct violates what Charles Krauthammer has called “constitutional indecency”–not always a direct violation of the letter of the Constitution, but a violation of its spirit and vision.

As liberal scholar Jonathan Turley reminds us, the problem did not begin with Obama. George W. Bush presided over an unprecedented expansion of executive powers.

However, Obama’s violations are worse in degree and in kind. Worse yet, he has faced little opposition, and a weak-willed Congress is now turning to the courts for relief.

It is not clear that judicial supremacy is the best cure for executive supremacy. Rather, what America needs is a restoration of the values of “constitutional decency” in every branch of the federal government.

As Mark Levin has proposed eleven constitutional amendments to reinforce the basic structure of the Constitution, so, too, America needs eleven new informal political principles to restore the mores necessary for constitutional democracy to thrive.

1. The president should never enforce the law in a partisan manner, or be seen to do so. Democrats fumed over Bush’s firings of U.S. Attorneys. The IRS scandal, and the Department of Justice’s pursuit of journalists– as it excuses Hillary Clinton, Lois Lerner, the New Black Panthers and Operation Fast and Furious–is far worse.

2. The president should never abuse the judiciary. Judges are not beyond reproach, but Obama’s public bullying of the Supreme Court was unacceptable, as was his open defiance of federal court rulings against his administration.

3. The president should never obfuscate about America’s enemies. For six years we have been told that there is no radical Islam, and Russia is no a threat–while Republicans are treasonous hostage-takers. That has to stop.

4. The president must not overextend war powers. Bush expanded surveillance beyond where Americans wanted it to go. Obama did worse–and approached the UN, but not the U.S. Congress, when he joined the war in Libya.

5. The roles of the executive agencies must be limited to those set and overseen by Congress. In addition to Obama’s sweeping climate change regulations, his regulation of the Internet is already causing economic harm.

6. The ruling party should not shut out the opposition. Especially on major decisions like Obamacare and Iran.

7. No government should be allowed to ignore entitlements and debt. President Obama came to office with the political capital to reform entitlements and reduce the debt. Instead, he broke his promises and did the opposite.

8. No government should ever take pride in increasing the dependency of citizens on the state. The idea that more people depend on the government for health care, food, education and so on should be a source of shame.

9. The president should not re-racialize the country. Race a deep and divisive issue that needs no further inflammation from the country’s leaders. The president should encourage reconciliation, not provoke hostility.

10. The president should not attack the country’s heritage and culture. The country’s freedom is built on Judeo-Christian foundations that are more fragile than they appear. Our leaders should guard, not erode, those foundations.

11. The judiciary and legislature should hew to the Constitution. Judges should interpret the law in accord with the original text; and Congress should not merely obstruct but exercise its full powers, including impeachment.