A Long History of Constitutional War Power Violations

Barack Obama is clearly not the first president to ignore the framers’ intent regarding the executive’s war powers. In many ways Obama is merely building upon the framework of George W. Bush, whose many foreign interventions were based on, at best, faulty evidence, and even worse constitutional reasoning.

Believe it or not, it is not constitutional for Congress to officially hand over its war responsibilities to the president. This was the basis for Bush’s interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But even George W. “If You’re Not With Us You’re Against Us” Bush didn’t lead the way in trailblazing the path of presidential war powers. Harry Truman kicked it off with his “police action” in Korea. The reasoning back then was pretty much the same as it is today. If war was redefined as a “police action,” it wouldn’t have to be declared by Congress and the President could wage it on his say-so alone.

If you or I tried to redefine the law like that we’d end up in jail. But when a president does it we’re supposed to fall in line with a chorus of “Yes, sir.”

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Political Pressure is Like Real Estate

I have a confession.  I’m not one of those suave guys who always does everything right.  I once put diesel fuel in my car only to find out that diesel fuel and unleaded gasoline are not interchangeable.  As an usher at a wedding I once seated relatives of the groom in the row designated for family, only to discover a few minutes later that they weren’t closely enough related to sit there.  My request that they move has created a family rift that has endured for half a decade.

But one of the most foolish things I have ever done is contact federal politicians with the expectation that they would listen and respond to my concerns.  Unfortunately, I seem to have a lot of company in making this mistake.  Even today, after decades of federal politicians’ near-universal indifference to their constituents, many people seem to believe that if they can just organize a large enough number of people, they can effect change at the federal level.

Sorry, folks, it just ain’t gonna happen.  I’ve contacted federal representatives of both parties over the course of my adult years and have gotten exactly the same amount of satisfaction from each occasion.  Which is to say, none.

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Founders Turning in Their Graves

“A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

So said the ever-quotable Benjamin Franklin upon emerging from the Constitutional Convention debates in 1787.  Franklin’s now-famous statement to an inquisitive Philadelphian causes us today to pause and reflect.  Have we kept the republic that Franklin and his contemporaries bequeathed us?

A recent poll answers this query with an emphatic “No!”.  According to a Gallup survey, 71% of Americans believe that the Founders would be disappointed in the United States today.  This comes on the heels of another Gallup survey showing that Congress’s approval rating has hit its lowest mark ever at 10%.  President Obama doesn’t fare much better, garnering only 36% approval.

Are Americans beginning to realize that the government they have bears no resemblance to the one designed by the framers of the Constitution?  If the 71% are correct in saying that the Founders would be embarrassed by America today, the next logical question we should ask is “Why?”.

Could it be because we’ve completely abandoned the structure of government that they fought the British for and then jealously guarded while debating the Constitution?  Maybe we can find the answer in what some founders said about how American liberty would be preserved.

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Some Utah Republicans Get It, Some Don’t

Some sentences are so contradictory, so self-evidently oxymoronic that they stop you in your tracks.  For example, maybe you have a friend who says something like, “I’m a vegetarian, but I really love cheeseburgers.”  Hearing this, you’re likely to give your friend a bewildered look and say, “Dude…huh?”

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, the reported response of some Utah politicians elicited a similar reaction.  As reported by The Universe, “Prominent Utah Republicans overwhelmingly applauded the Supreme Court for recognizing same-sex marriage as a states’ rights issue but expressed disappointment that the Supreme Court is not in harmony with the Congressional majority that favors DOMA.”

Dude…huh?

How can it be simultaneously acknowledged that regulation of marriage is  a state issue and bemoaned that a federal law that nationalized the issue was struck down?  What can account for such an obvious contradiction?  As always, the devil is in the details  It is enlightening to understand which Utah Republicans acknowledged this issue as the domain of the states and which didn’t.

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Abortion: A State Issue, a National Nightmare

News broke recently that Florida Senator Marco Rubio plans to sponsor a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.  With Rubio’s reputation recently taking a hit in conservative circles, a cynic might be excused for considering this a political move instead of a principled stand.  Principled or not, there are two questions that Rubio has apparently not considered: is it rational to argue this issue at the national level and is such a bill constitutional.

To answer if it is rational, let’s run through a quick hypothetical scenario.  Let’s say you’re walking down your street and come upon one of your neighbors lying dead in his driveway with a knife sticking out of his back.  As your neighbors crowd around the scene, you see someone dialing their phone.  Who do you think this person is calling?

Maybe they’re calling the President of the United States.  After all, many murders happen across the country every day, clearly making this a national issue that demands the president’s attention.  Or, if not the president, maybe they’ve dialed the offices of federal senators and representatives to let them know about the murder.  When it’s time to prosecute the assailant, where does the trial take place?  Well, an issue as important and widespread as murder certainly demands the attention of the Supreme Court.

Preposterous, right?  Of course a local crime commands a local response.  It would be irrational to use national machinery to address a local or state issue like a violent crime of one individual towards another.

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Jackson County, Michigan Passes 2nd Amendment Preservation Resolution

By a 9-0 vote on June 18, the County Commissioners in Jackson County, Michigan unanimously approved a resolution in support of the 2nd Amendment.

The resolution promises to reject any attempt by the federal government to violate the 2nd Amendment and pledges non-compliance from the county if such an attempt were to happen.

It reads, in part:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, in the State of Michigan, believes it important to protect the individual’s right to keep and bear arms as stated in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, and that any attempt to place restrictions on any lawfully possessed firearms that are legal and unrestricted shall be rejected.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Jackson County Board of Commissioners supports the constitution of the United States, specifically the second amendment, and shall refrain from supporting any legislation that attempts to infringe on these inalienable rights.

Local support will play a vital role in the success of those who want to protect the right to keep and bear arms. The resolution is a great first step, as it gets the commissioners on record in support of the 2nd Amendment. But, since it’s non-binding, it will require another step to have concrete effect. Cities within the county – and the county board itself – should follow up this resolution with ordinances prohibiting any cooperation with federal agents attempting to enforce acts violating the Second Amendment. Such an ordinance will give these statements teeth.

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Spying on Kids to Improve Education?

Bill Gates has an idea.  In order to improve academic performance, teachers should be monitored all day, every day.  A preposterous waste of resources and manpower, you say?  Well, not to worry, because said monitoring will be done by video cameras.  Installed in every classroom in America.  And, if you act today, all this can…

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Federalism is for Liberals

In a recent article in The Atlantic, Emily Bazelon makes the claim that “states’ rights are for liberals”, citing the examples of state support for marriage equality and the legalization of marijuana as examples.  Well, guess what, Emily.  You’re right!  States’ rights, or federalism, definitely is for liberals.

Of course, federalism is also for conservatives.  And libertarians.  And socialists. Federalism is really for anyone who doesn’t think that a group of central rulers are best-equipped to make decisions that affect the lives of 300 million people spread out over thousands of miles with differing priorities and values.

That the American left is realizing the value of federalism is a welcome change from the long-held misconception that a belief in decentralization was the exclusive calling card of conservatives (and for recognizing this we will even forgive Bazelon for continuing the left’s fascination with trying to link the principle of federalism with racial bigotry, which has been repeatedly refuted).

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Federal Laws: To Infinity and Beyond!

How many federal laws are on the books?  500?  1,000?  5,000?  Go ahead, take a guess.

Give up?

Yeah, well, so does the Library of Congress.  In an attempt to answer the frequent question of how many federal laws there are, Senior Legal Research Specialist Shameema Rahman recently reported that “trying to tally this number is nearly impossible.”  Well, that’s great.  Congress has officially passed so many laws that their own repository of documentation can’t even keep track of them all.

As it turns out, the federal government hasn’t been able to keep track of their own laws for quite some time.  Rahman reports that, “in an example of a failed attempt to tally up the number of laws on a specific subject area, in 1982 the Justice Department tried to determine the total number of criminal laws. In a project that lasted two years, the Department compiled a list of approximately 3,000 criminal offenses.”

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Is Obamacare on Life Support?

Remember a couple of months ago when the Obama administration sent letters to four states promising to use federal agents to enforce Obamacare if the states failed to?  Well, it appears that smug arrogance may have been a bit premature.

Reuters reported last month that many of the Affordable Care Act’s supporters are getting concerned that the states are not doing enough to support the legislation and that, without their help, enough people may not sign up.  It turns out that there is good cause for these concerns because “most states have balked at the exchanges and the Medicaid expansion.”  The exchanges are the infrastructure on which Obamacare is built and the states’ refusal to create them has created complexity for the federal government’s efforts to implement it.

Talking about the federal government’s limited ability to advertise the program, one advocate said, “It’s going to require a very robust effort in the private sector.”  The expectation of this would appear to be an unwarranted exercise in optimism given the fact that the public “is highly skeptical…about the most complex social legislation since…the mid-1960s.”  A recent poll shows that only 37% of Americans think that Obamacare is a good idea while 49% believe that it is bad.  Only 38% of respondents think they will be better off as a result of the ACA.

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