It’s been an interesting few weeks in the news, and several stories caught my attention as blog-worthy. Some of them I blogged about, some I didn’t, but I found myself noting a common theme.
In no particular order:
- The 60-day mark of President Obama’s UnWar in Libya passed without Congress giving its blessing to the endeavor, as per the terms of the War Powers Act.
- We passed the 750-day mark of the federal government operating without an approved budget. In the first year, the Democratically-controlled House didn’t pass one; in the second, the Democratically-controlled Senate rejected the House’s plans.
- California’s legislature passed a bill authorizing county officials to refuse to send in fingerprints of arrestees to a central database that would identify illegal aliens.
- President Obama expressed his assent to the extension of the Patriot Act not by signing it, but by authorizing the use of an Autopen to affix a replica of his signature while he conducted the affairs of state in Europe.
Now, in each of these cases, there are existing laws that address these situations. And in each of those cases, those laws are being ignored.
I’m often accused of being a bit of a law and order fetishist, and I don’t mind that title. Because I see my position as eminently reasonable: we have laws for reasons. And we should, generally, obey those laws.
When we feel the need to disobey the law, there are several ways I consider acceptable means of doing so.
1) Deliberately, publicly break the law to put it to the test as a challenge.
B) Work to change, repeal, or otherwise overturn the law.
III) Break the law, but at least have the decency to not be proud of it and accept the consequences should you be caught.
In the first two cases, we have the example of the Civil Rights movement — which worked. And in the third case, we have examples such as my own attitude towards speed limit laws — I routinely break them, like most people, but I would never get indignant and defensive if I was pulled over and cited for speeding (not yet, knock on wood).
Or let’s take seat belt laws. New Hampshire doesn’t have one for adults, but Massachusetts does. I knew someone who routinely mocked New Hampshire for that discrepancy and boasted about how Massachusetts was superior in that regard. She got most upset when I pointed out that she refused to wear a seat belt herself while driving, but only wore one when I was driving — and in my vehicle.
The common thread in the above articles: a leftist inclination to ignore laws they don’t like.
The constitutionality and wisdom of the War Powers Act are certainly debatable, but it is the existing law of the land. Prior to President Obama, every single president had declared they did not accept its validity and authority — but at least made a gesture in compliance with it. Not Obama — he just declared “it doesn’t count here.”
Passing a budget is, arguably, the most fundamental duty of Congress. It allows and authorizes literally everything the government does. But under the Democrats, they simply chose not to do so — so they could avoid the consequences of passing an unpopular budget.
The law on illegal aliens is clear — what part of “illegal” is so hard to understand? Their very presence is a proclamation that they have broken the law regarding immigration, either by crossing the border without permission or overstaying that permission. But we pretend that it isn’t really “illegal,” but just “unauthorized,” and we ignore the standing laws because some people don’t like them.
The Constitution is clear: a bill cannot become law without the president’s signature. (Let’s ignore the whole veto/override thing.) Prior presidents have expressed their approval for laws by affixing their signature, with their own hand, on the actual legislation.
In that last case, it might seem insignificant. He clearly expressed his approval of the law, and no one is going to argue (well, seriously) that the Autopen gadget might go rogue and start signing things willy-nilly. (When it comes to inanimate objects waging insurrection against the Commander In Chief, there’s far more danger of that from the TelePrompter.) But prior presidents avoided such situations, and there were alternatives available — an electronic copy of the bill could have been sent and printed out for him to sign, for example.
But it’s part and parcel of the whole set of events. An unwillingness to accept the fact that there are laws, and those laws — or, for that matter, no laws — should simply be ignored when they prove inconvenient. As I noted, we have several ways to deal with bad our outdated laws.
Pretending they don’t exist is not one of them.