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Hill on Libya: Big bark, little bite
By Ted Abram on April 02, 2011
Moral and Legal Authority
A government with moral and legal authority promulgates written rules and universally, impartially and uniformly enforces the rules, which provides a predictable and stable legal order on which to base economic and personal decisions. The law prevails, not the proclamation or arbitrary decision of a ruler, government bureaucrat, the enforcer (e.g., policeman) or judge.
Many members of Congress are sincerely disturbed by President Obama’s declaration of war against Libya. Their concerns span from violating the Constitution of the United States to being personally disrespected.
The overriding purpose of the Constitution was to restrict the awesome power of government and the people using that power. In declaring war, America’s founders did not want the power vested in one person. Thus, Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution vested Congress with the power to declare war.
Unfortunately, the intent of the restricting the President from unilaterally declaring war has often been abused and violated. However, the concerns expressed by the founders remain. How does a free society respect the intent of the Constitution and enforce the rule of law?
Particularly, in the case of Libya, should President Obama have consulted and received the approval of Congress? Yes. This was not an act of self-defense. There was no sudden emergency. President Obama violated the clear intent of the Constitution.
Regrettably, few members of Congress embrace and respect the restrictions of governmental power. Why? Almost universally, politicians crave power and aspire to gain more power. Thus, today members of Congress are chagrined and angry but few want to enforce meaningful restrictions. To the contrary, most members of Congress regularly participate in violations of Constitutional restrictions.
Some recent violations:
- The 20th Amendment passed in the early 1930’s was clearly intended to restrict Lame Duck sessions of Congress to national emergencies. After the recent elections with approximately one sixth of the members not answerable to their constituents, Congress attempted to pass major-spending and special interest legislation.
- Even disregarding the bribes and corruptions involved in passing ObamaCare, the law is broad and vague, which intentionally delegates substantive legislative powers to the federal bureaucrats, e.g., over a 1000 waivers have been granted to states, unions and private employers.
- The bailout of General Motors violated a long-standing bankruptcy law. The United Auto Workers pension fund, as an unsecured creditor, benefitted from special legislation over the secured bondholders. Additionally, General Motors received unique tax credits, which will negate paying income taxes for many years.
Congresses and Presidents have consistently ignored the intent to restrict their power. Historically, the Supreme Court is very reticent to enforce restrictions on Congress or the President. Thus, without a strong enforcement structure, members of Congress glibly say, “The Supreme Court says it is okay.” America can not rely on the court to rebuke and punish other government institutions for abusing power.
Our Founding Fathers thoughtfully debated and set rules to create a free society. Realistically, these rules only prevail, when all government officials respect and honor the rules of governance. Presidents and each member of Congress must embrace and enforce the rule of law.
If an elected official thwarts the rule of law, the citizens must vote them out of office. Presently, this is America’s most effective recourse against a politician’s willful violation of the rule of law.