Our Increasingly Ignored Constitution
- 8 January 2012 by Author 0 Comments
Our Increasingly Ignored Constitution
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 01/08/12
President Hugo Chavez, over the past several years, has systematically nationalized entire sectors of Venezuela’s economy, created new positions for his cronies to centralize his power, and ignored constitutional limitations. This systematic dismantling of a Latin American constitutional democracy has transformed his democratically elected presidency into a virtual totalitarian dictatorship.
If it is true that that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then our president has an abundance of praise for the Latin American dictator. In spite of their occasional verbal spats, it seems increasingly like both rulers must’ve attended the same Capone School of Political Science in Chicago, majoring in totalitarianism, for they both have proven adept at centralizing their power by trampling their respective constitutions.
Speaking of their verbal posturing, the occasional exchanges between apparent ideological kin have themselves proven interesting. Just two weeks ago, President Obama criticized Chavez for his questionable human rights record and support of Iran. Obviously not appreciating the criticism, especially in light of Obama’s emulation, Chavez responded by calling Obama a “clown,” and astutely remarked further, “take care of your own business, focus on governing your country, which you’ve turned into a disaster. Leave us alone.”
The trampling of the respective constitutions is what is most distressing. The most recent example (and there are many over the past three years) here is nothing short of spectacular. Having been rebuffed by the Democrat controlled senate in an attempt to make several appointments, Obama made “recess” appointments of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Protection Agency and named three others to the National Labor Relations Board. Recess appointments are frequently used by presidents to seat their desired appointees when they can’t garner the necessary senatorial support for confirmation. Such appointments only last a year.
But the key from a constitutional perspective is that the Senate has to be in recess for such appointments to be made. Recesses of congress occur when both houses agree to adjourn and a session is ended by formal resolution. No such formal resolution was passed by either chamber of congress before the holiday break, which means they are not in recess. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, has maintained a pro forma session of the Senate which means as far he’s concerned, they’re not in recess either. In fact, at the end of the Bush administration, Reid did the same thing to prevent George W. Bush from making recess appointments.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, declared that Obama’s disregard of the Constitution in making these appointments, “arrogantly circumvented the American people.” He continued, “Breaking from this precedent lands this appointee in uncertain legal territory, threatens the confirmation process and fundamentally endangers the Congress‘ role in providing a check on the excesses of the executive branch.”
Since the Senate, which must confirm many presidential appointments, is not in recess, a “recess appointment” constitutionally cannot be made. But when we have an ideologically motivated president with an insatiable appetite for power, and with such little regard for the Constitution, apparently nothing is beyond the scope of possibility.
And lest we think that the Constitution has no relevance, every president promises that they will “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That oath of office, that he declares he will “faithfully execute,” as stated in Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight of the Constitution, clearly indicates that it is relevant. What are we to think of a president with such little regard for the oath he takes and the document upon which our laws are based that he vows fealty to and promises to uphold? How can it be conscionable for someone to promise to uphold the Constitution, and then violate it whenever it conflicts with his agenda?
Perhaps therein lies the answer. One has to take the oath seriously, have respect for the Constitution, and have a conscience in faithfully preserving, protecting and defending it for the oath to mean something. None of which seem to apply to Obama.
Such abject disregard for the constitutional limitations leaves those of us who love this republic to wonder what others he will choose to ignore. If he’s following Chavez’s playbook, it might well be changing his own term of office, buying the next election through promises of populist government largesse to voters, or even going so far as suspending the election if he deems it necessary.
Is it a stretch to compare Obama with Hugo Chavez? Undoubtedly. But their modus operandi possess distinct similarities, including their disregard for their respective constitutions.
Our Constitution was brilliantly crafted to prevent excessive power being centralized in any one of the three branches of government. The checks and balances built into the Constitution are there precisely to prevent any one branch from running roughshod over the others. Indeed, they are there to prevent precisely what Obama did so egregiously this week.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.