Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been on a tear about the rule of law lately. It’s something he doesn’t think the American people should be willing to surrender. He was as emphatic on the point as I’ve ever heard in his keynote speech for the Texas Public Policy Foundation on Friday.
Cruz stressed “we are a nation of laws, not of men” and said “if we had a president who could pick and choose which laws to follow at utter whim,” it would be “seriously dangerous.”
It was awfully polite of him to pose that as a hypothetical, because he knows full well that we’re already there. He described ObamaCare, with its numerous illegal seat-of-the-pants fixes and suspended mandates, “an illustration of lawlessness on a breathtaking scale.” He accused the media of remaining silent while Obama remorselessly abuses the rule of law because they like him and support his agenda.
Here’s video of the full Cruz keynote speech. Incidentally, if you’ve never seen him speak before, he does this all the time – he just wanders away from the podium and delivers the whole address from memory. I’ve seen him talk a number of times, both in person and on video, and I’ve never seen him so much as pull out a note card, never mind look at a teleprompter.
So tell me, Cruz critics… where is he going wrong here? He’s absolutely correct about the rule of law, and ObamaCare’s near-total incompatibility with it.
Personally, I still regard the John Roberts Supreme Court decision that upheld ObamaCare to be an example of lawlessness. I don’t want to put words in Sen. Cruz’ mouth, but I suspect he’d at least be wiling to entertain that criticism. The Supreme Court should not be in the business of rewriting legislation on the fly to force it past Constitutional muster, or making arguments on behalf of the plaintiffs they refused to make for themselves, as in the case of the ObamaCare mandate’s magical transformation into a “tax.” Only sometimes it still isn’t a tax, and the Obama Administration almost universally refuses to treat it as one, to the point of granting waivers from the mandate that should be blatantly illegal if it’s a bona fide tax. The executive branch is not showing due respect for the Supreme Court by treating its decision as though it were written in crayon on wax paper, so why should the rest of us respect it?
In his speech, Cruz advised Democrats to “think about the next president, maybe a Republican, having the power Barack Obama has as a president who is not bound by the law.” His point is easily understood, but it really should not be necessary to persuade Democrats that they’d better honor the rules now, or face the wrath of the Republican dictator who follows Obama. The point of honoring the rule of law – the essence of a lawful republic – is that you respect it even when, especially when, your agenda gives you good reasons to trample it.
Cruz makes that point well by noting that fidelity to laws binding the highest levels of the State was supposed to be one of the special and unique features of the American nation at our inception. These days, not only does the executive branch discard laws it doesn’t like, and rewrite laws it finds politically inconvenient, but it’s grown positively nonchalant about it.
Patriotic Democrats should be standing up to Obama lawlessness as vigorously as Republicans do, because when lawful government becomes a partisan issue… well, we don’t have lawful government any more, do we? We have exactly what our Founders wanted to avoid: an unending high-stakes political battle in which factions battle for the levers of unrestricted power, and individual citizens can only hope they’re not crushed beneath the stomping feet of clashing political titans.
We cannot afford to have the rule of law become entirely an instrument of the media, relevant only when they decide they want to make a big deal about a particular President’s offenses. But if we are going to have such a system, it’s a powerful argument in favor of voting Republican, because (as New Jersey governor Chris Christie can tell you) the media only cares about abuses of power when they’re in office.
It’s no coincidence that our Ruling Class feels increasingly less obliged to respect the law, even as the burden of law laid on the rest of us grows heavier. That’s always how it works. You will never see a nation with a vast body of laws directed against both the populace and their rulers. The rulers find it necessary to discard legal inconveniences in order to make their agenda work. They are interested in power, the kind of power that suffers no arbitrary restraint. No system with a million pages of law can function if the Ruling Class is equally obliged to respect those laws – they find it personally intolerable, demanding exemptions for themselves and their special friends from the rules they lay upon lesser citizens, and the massive government system chokes and dies if it can’t ignore many of the regulations it imposes upon private operations.
ObamaCare is a perfect example of all those criticisms. When a group of state Attorneys General wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently, making many of the same points Cruz makes in this speech, it occurred to me that talking about whether ObamaCare will fail is silly – it already failed, utterly and decisively. The Affordable Care Act could not be implemented as passed; the Ruling Class and their most important political donors would have set its pages ablaze and flung them in Barack Obama’s face, if he had not rewritten the ACA numerous times already. Nothing resembling the law actually passed by Congress and signed by President Obama will ever go into effect. And what we commonly refer to as “ObamaCare” is nothing resembling a “law.”