We would be missing an important opportunity if we allowed ourselves to be distracted by the controversy over former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s remarks questioning President Obama’s love of the United States.
While the brouhaha provides a noteworthy example of “double standard” politics, the enduring issue should be the profound change the president has sought to bring to America and why it is essential for Congress to stanch the erosion of our traditional norms of government.
At a political fundraiser in New York last week, Mr. Giuliani was quoted as saying:
I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up through love of this country.
Not surprisingly, an avalanche of criticism, and not just from the political left, ensued. In fact, the response of White House press secretary Josh Earnest was tame by comparison. Mr. Earnest answered a reporter’s question about the Giuliani comment by saying he felt “sorry” for him and suggesting that he had tarnished his legacy. “There are significant challenges facing this country and sort of resorting to a politics in which we question each other’s basic decency is not consistent with reason that a lot of people got into public service,” he said.
But as Mr. Earnest was reminded by reporters, candidate Barack Obama has characterized President George W. Bush as “unpatriotic” for adding $4 trillion to the national debt. Yet there was not a peep from some of the same folks now savaging Mr. Giuliani.
The real issue is that in many respects the president has sought to recalibrate American values and our system of government. In a country that has thrived through individual enterprise and initiative, he has sought to bring about the redistribution of wealth. He has also transformed much of the American economy through the Affordable Care Act, which centralizes decision-making with respect to more than a fifth of the American economy. He has tried to redefine the boundaries between executive and legislative actions by arrogating to himself the power to overhaul immigration policy in a manner contrary to existing law.
He routinely ignores the provisions of various laws. He simply reset the original time frames enacted in the Affordable Care Act and ran roughshod over the spending provisions adopted by Congress. Last year he unilaterally decided to exchange five high ranking Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, ignoring a law that required him to notify Congress 30 days in advance of releasing prisoners being held in Guantanamo.
There was also his high-handed extension of the presidential power to make interim high-level appointments when the Senate was in recess. Simply stated, he substituted his own definition of “recess” for the Senate’s. Significantly, this was overturned by a unanimous Supreme Court.
He has also sought to conclude a climate treaty without Senate ratification and exclude Congress from any role with respect to the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear development. This despite the constitutionally-allocated roles of Congress in these areas.
It is important to understand that these examples and many others reflect Mr. Obama’s belief that rules and protocols don’t matter when they get in the way of dealing with the needs of the poor and unfortunate. He articulated this many years ago in a 2001 public radio interview:
The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society.… [The Supreme Court] didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. [It] says what the states can’t do to you. [It] says what the federal government can’t do to you, but [it] doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.
There you have it. Mr. Obama has a fundamental problem with the basic philosophy of limited government that has undergirded this country’s political system from the beginning. The goal of constitutional government was precisely to restrain the power that the government could wield over us. Unfortunately, our president thinks otherwise.
There is no time like the present for some congressional pushback.