A lawyer by training, Obama ignores rules of law

White House/Pete Souza

President Barack Obama signs a bill into law at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, Aug. 10, 2012.

Article Highlights

  • The Constitution was written by men who had a different idea. They wanted a government bound by the rule of law.

    Tweet This

  • The campaign always reflects the candidate, suggests @Michael Barone.

    Tweet This

  • The Constitution does not give the president the power to make laws. That’s given to Congress, in Article I.

    Tweet This

"The Illegal-Donor Loophole" is the headline of a Daily Beast story by Peter Schweizer of the conservative Government Accountability Institute and Peter Boyer, former reporter at the New Yorker and the New York Times.

The article tells how Obama.com, a website owned by an Obama fundraiser who lives in China but has visited the Obama White House 11 times, sends solicitations mostly to foreign email addresses and links to the Obama campaign website's donation page.

The Obama website, unlike those of most campaigns, doesn't ask for the three- or four-digit credit card verification number. That makes it easier for donors to use fictitious names and addresses to send money in.

Campaigns aren't allowed to accept donations from foreigners. But it looks like the Obama campaign has made it easier for them to slip money in. How much foreign money has come into the Obama campaign? Schweizer and Boyer say there's no way to know.

The campaign, as my former boss pollster Peter Hart likes to say, always reflects the candidate. A campaign willing to skirt the law or abet violations of it reflects a candidate who, as president, has been doing the same thing.

Examples abound. Take the WARN Act, which requires employers to give a 60-day notice of layoffs. It was sponsored and passed by Democrats.

The WARN Act requires defense contractors to give notice on Nov. 2 of layoffs that will be necessary on Jan. 3 when the sequestration law requires big cutbacks in defense spending.

The administration has asked companies not to send out the notices. And it has promised to pay companies' WARN Act fines. Why the solicitude? The warnings could cost Obama Virginia's 13 electoral votes.

When did Congress give presidents the power to suspend operation of this law? What law authorizes the government to pay the fines of those who violate the law?

Or consider the welfare waivers that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gives to states that want to relax work requirements. Democratic blogger Mickey Kaus makes a strong case that this violates clear language in the welfare reform act signed by Bill Clinton in 1996.

If Kaus is right, Sebelius and Obama are brazenly rewriting the law -- one of the most successful reforms of the last two decades.

Then there's Obama's promise not to deport young illegal immigrants brought into the U.S. as children who meet certain conditions -- like going to college or serving in the military.

It's a policy that tests well in the polls. The problem is that Congress, even when controlled by Democrats, refused to relax immigration policy in this way.

You won't hear much about this on the campaign trail. Mitt Romney says he won't reverse it, since it seems harsh to penalize people who came forward in response to a president's stated policy.

Similarly, he's not in favor of reversing the policy allowing open gays to serve in the military.

There's one difference between the two situations. Congress actually passed a law (repealing one signed by Clinton) allowing gays to serve. It was one of the last acts of the outgoing Democratic Congress in 2010.

But neither that Congress nor the current one passed a law authorizing mass nonenforcement of immigration laws. Nor did any Congress pass a law suspending the WARN Act when it jeopardizes a president's chance to carry a target state.

Article II of the Constitution (not Article I, as Joe Biden appeared to say in the 2008 vice presidential debate) sets out the duties and powers of the president. Section 3 states that "he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."

It does not give him the power to make laws. That's given to Congress, in Article I.

Barack Obama was a lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. But he seems to take the attitude familiar to me, as an alumnus of Yale Law School, that the law is simply a bunch of words which people who are clever with words can manipulate to get any result they want.

In public speeches he has defended such policies by shouting, "We can't wait!" The results are good, or at least politically convenient, so why be held back by a few words written on paper?

The Constitution was written by men who had a different idea. They wanted a government bound by the rule of law. Do we?

Michael Barone, The Examiner's senior political analyst, can be contacted at [email protected] His column appears Wednesday and Sunday, and his stories and blog posts appear on washingtonexaminer.com.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine

What's new on AEI

To secure southern border, US must lead international effort to stabilize Central America
image The Ryan pro-work, anti-poverty plan: Thomas Aquinas 1, Ayn Rand 0
image Does SNAP support work? Yes and no
image Obama Democrats lose their big bet on health exchanges
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 28
    MON
  • 29
    TUE
  • 30
    WED
  • 31
    THU
  • 01
    FRI
Tuesday, July 29, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Is Medicare’s future secure? The 2014 Trustees Report

Please join AEI as the chief actuary for Medicare summarizes the report’s results, followed by a panel discussion of what those spending trends are likely to mean for seniors, taxpayers, the health industry, and federal policy.

Friday, August 01, 2014 | 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Watergate revisited: The reforms and the reality, 40 years later

Please join us as four of Washington’s most distinguished political observers will revisit the Watergate hearings and discuss reforms that followed.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.