Dangerous Precedent

By Louis Avallone

Oil has risen to over $100 a barrel now. It is estimated that an additional $10 – 20 increase, in the per-barrel price of imported crude oil, will translate into an additional 100,000 jobs lost in the U.S. in 2011. And while there is political unrest in Egypt and Libya, even higher oil prices are certain to result if the demonstrations spread to the Persian Gulf or to Nigeria and Algeria.

Closer to home, however, the news is also discouraging. Foreclosures are supposed to increase by 20 percent this year, over 2010, with prices expected to bottom out as well in the housing market.

And according to Gallup, when the “underemployed Americans”, or those that have part-time jobs (but really want full-time jobs), are factored into the unemployment numbers, then the unemployment rate climbs to 19.3 percent of the American workforce.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are manipulating their currency to keep its value low by constantly increasing the overall supply of their currency and thereby exporting more “cheap” goods to the U.S.; even while tens of thousands of factories and millions of jobs are moving to China. Still, Obama continued to fondly mention China many times during his recent State of the Union address. China now even makes more beer than the U.S. does.

Then there is our border with Mexico, which continues to be plagued by cartel violence, drugs, and other forms of illegal smuggling, as well as illegal immigration. The Obama administration has even diminished the authority of state and local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law, while at the same time abandoning the prosecution of non-criminal illegal immigrants and allowing them to remain in the United States.

It’s easy to go on and on here about several other challenges facing our nation, and the impending difficulties, requiring our nation’s full attention, in the proverbial pursuit of a more perfect union. We should be seeking consensus on solutions, not divisions. After all, only 27% of likely U.S. voters now say the country is heading in the right direction. And only 25% of the nation’s voters “strongly approve” of the way that President Obama is performing his role as president.

So, if you were Obama, at this point, what do you do to unite a nation? Do you take definitive, even unpopular efforts within your own political party, to address unemployment, inflation, immigration, the rising national debt, political instability in the Middle East, or the rising nuclear threat from Iraq and North Korea? Or do you choose to initiate a significantly controversial policy reversal, without much explanation at all to the nation, on an issue that tends to polarize Americans, rather than unite them?

Obama chose the latter, in spite of the already turbulent times in which we live. What did he do? He announced that he and his attorney general have decided that the Department of Justice will stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which passed in 1996 with overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress and was signed by President Clinton. So, he substituted the rule of law, with the rule of Obama.

You heard about this right? Attorney General Holder said that the president had decided that the law, after 15 years, was not defensible. A court of law did not decide, nor Congress. Instead, Obama decided the law.

Regardless of your political orientation regarding DOMA, the main issue here is that we are a “nation of laws”, as so famously was written by John Adams. And even though Senate records show that the Department of Justice, under both the Bush and Obama administrations, has told Congress before that it was not defending an act of Congress (13 times in the past six years), here’s the big question: What other laws will this president, or future presidents decide to declare that its administration won’t defend? After all, the president’s Article II duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” admittedly must include laws with which the president (or his political party) disagrees.

What if the next Republican president decided that the Department of Justice would stop defending constitutional claims against Roe v. Wade? Or to invalidate Obama-care? If Obama continues to ask the Department of Justice to “stand down” in the defense of laws, passed by Congress, but with which he disagrees, it sets a dangerous precedent. In the future, winning the presidency may wield increased power in deciding what legislation to defend (and sustain), and what legislation will receive “end of life counseling” instead, thereby increasing Executive branch power at the expense of Congress’s power. Makes good sense? Well, not so much.

John Adams’ ideal was that America was a “nation of laws, not of men.” This has been the bedrock of our nation’s longevity. But maybe Obama’s decision regarding DOMA is part of his self-described political strategy of “we’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.” If that is the case, unfortunately, our beloved nation has become a nation of men…not of laws.

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