Should there be a serious conversation about drawing articles of impeachment against President Obama? An American President has vast powers, but the ability to choose which laws to uphold is not among them.
Every American knows – or should know – the grade school civics lesson about the separation of powers in the U.S. federal government. In the first elementary school text book I could find the summary was exactly as I remembered it: “the legislative branch writes the laws; the executive branch carries out the laws; and the judicial branch reviews the way laws are applied.”
The otherwise exemplary University of Chicago Law School should be aghast that their once Senior Lecturer on Constitutional Law, Barack Obama, does not understand, or rather, adhere to this most fundamental responsibility of the President of the United States. In Constitutional parlance, the President has the solemn duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” As they sang it in School House Rock, the President is “here to see that the laws get done.” Somehow Mr. Obama acts as if this obligation does not pertain to him.
The sparking incident is the recent decision of the Obama administration to not enforce the nation’s immigration laws. This follows on the heels of the administrations decisions to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
It is essential to understand the issue – and it is not a policy disagreement on immigration law, or DOMA, or anything else for that matter. Our system is designed to manage disagreements. What we have here is a chief executive unilaterally determining that he is not bound by the Constitution, the laws of the nation, or the oath of office. Obama is free to campaign against immigration laws and work to change them. He is not free to decide to ignore duly enacted laws. A decision by a U.S. President to act counter to the law of the land is a significant historical moment, with wide-ranging implications. Followed to their end, the ability of a President to decide which laws bind them effectively nullifies the role of the legislature and ends our history as a nation of law.
A President, any President, that assumes extra-Constitutional authority for himself can and should be impeached. The salvation of the union requires it.
President Obama has, however, yet to irrevocably cross the threshold. True, Obama is wiggling his toes across that line, and it is also true that he is closer to extra-Constitutional behavior than any President since Lincoln, but Obama has not yet committed the impeachable offense. I argue that he is not ensuring that the laws be “faithfully executed,” and he is thumbing his nose at the law, and is but a hairs-width away from an impeachable offense, but he is not yet there.
The Obama Administration has said they will not deport those illegal aliens who are under the age of 30, who have lived in the U.S. for five years, have no criminal history and who attend school, graduated from high school or served in the military. Illegal aliens must – under law – be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Then, ICE is supposed to deport, but actually has certain latitude. For a variety of reasons, and in historic practice, ICE officials make case-by-case decisions to deport or not deport based on individual extenuating circumstances. Typically, those decisions reflect specific concerns such as issues of human rights for political refugees, considerations for minors with no known relatives in their home country, and so on.
The Obama Administration blanket non-enforcement policy is unprecedented, and it stretches the latitude granted ICE officials to a ridiculous extent. The non-enforcement policy insults Congress, and by extension the American people, it abuses executive privilege, and throttles the notion that every person is equal under the laws of our nation. Friends of the administration would be wise to caution the President and encourage him to step away from the precipice of lawlessness. But, the Obama non-enforcement policy is not an impeachable offense.
That said, I do think it is time for the nation to have a sincere and spirited conversation about a respect for the laws and the solemn obligations of office holders to appropriately discharge their duties. Liberals and conservative can and should unite in issuing a stark warning to Obama and every future chief executive. In America, the law is higher than any one man – it is one of those great truths that heretofore has been “self-evident.”