Wait a minute…I thought you hated Obama. Now he’s the constitutional standard-bearer?
Last week, I posted an article by Ron Paul on my Facebook page titled War on Venezuela: An Unconstitutional Disaster in the Making. In response, I got some of the predictable arguments revolving around the “implied powers” the president holds as “commander in chief” and that the War Powers Resolution of 1973 somehow amended the Constitution and gave the president the authority to start wars and fight them — at least for a little while. (For more on war powers click HERE and HERE.)
But there was another argument advanced that I find absolutely bizarre.
“But, Obama did it!”
Yes. It’s the classic “The Other Guy Did It” school of constitutional interpretation.
Of course, it’s absurd to assert that just because a past president did something it’s constitutional. Presidents engage in unconstitutional acts all the time. I don’t recall any constitutional provision asserting that presidential precedent amends the Constitution.
But what’s even weirder to me is that the people who are saying, “But, Obama did it,” by-and-large hate Obama. They complained constantly about his unconstitutional overreach and usurpation of power when he was in office.
So now he’s the standard-bearer of constitutionality?
There is actually an important lesson here. Whatever power a president seizes, it will also belong to the next guy. Once a precedent is set, future administrations will point back to it as a justification for whatever they want to do. I warn Trump supporters about this all the time. Many of them seem perfectly fine with Trump blurring, or simply stepping over, constitutional lines when it advances a policy they like. I tell them to beware because if you erase a line now, it’s gone forever. You can’t suddenly draw it back when the next guy uses the power in a way that violates your rights or liberty. Once you give that power away, it’s gone forever. It’s a heck of a lot easier to tear down a fence than build a new one.
In simplest terms, the power you give Trump today will be used by the next Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders that takes the Oval Office. So, Trump supporters had better be damn careful about what they let their guy get away with. The fact that they’re using the last guy’s precedents — they guy they hated — proves this point in a bizarre yet vivid way!
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