In 2010, Ken Klukowski and I published a book arguing that Barack Obama was creating an imperial presidency. The past few months prove that prediction was correct.
First President Obama’s EPA claimed power to create cap-and-trade through new regulations, rather than Congress passing a law. Then Obama’s FCC claimed the power to regulate the Internet, despite a federal appeals court ruling that only Congress could authorize such control through legislation. More recently, Obama’s Department of HHS issued regulations requiring Catholic and Evangelical organizations to violate their religious conscience regarding birth control and abortion-related services.
Then we got a double-whammy in just one week. First Obama flaunts the fact that he refuses to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court, despite the fact that every administration is duty-bound to defend federal statutes, and there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth if a conservative Republican president failed to defend a liberal law in court. Afterward, Obama announces that, having failed to get the DREAM Act through Congress, he will simply accomplish its provisions by ordering the government to stop enforcing the law by not deporting certain illegal aliens, and then break the law by taking the affirmative step of actually issuing those people work visas.
These issues do not concern the environment, the Internet, religion, marriage, and immigration, respectively. Instead it’s about the rule of law and limited government under our Constitution.
The Constitution vests all lawmaking power in Congress. It vests all executive power to enforce and administer those laws in the president. And it vests all judicial power—including the power to determine whether lesser laws violate the Supreme Law (the Constitution)—in the courts.
In the aforementioned actions, President Obama has arrogated to himself all of those powers. If Congress doesn’t make the laws he wants, he just declares them under the name of “regulations.” If he doesn’t like a law on the books, he acts like the judiciary by proclaiming the law unconstitutional, and refuses to enforce it. He effectively makes or abolishes laws at will.
The Far Left tried to dismiss our book by saying that an “imperial presidency” sounded conspiratorial, or perhaps we were challenging the president’s character or patriotism. We remained respectful and focused on facts and policy, not personality and politics. Yet we took seriously Obama’s pledge to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” Since the Constitution denies him such sweeping power, we concluded the only way he could do the various things he was promising would be by subverting the Constitution. And he has.
An imperial president is one who claims and asserts powers that the Constitution does not confer upon him. Although we take it for granted today, the most revolutionary aspect of our Constitution is that it’s a written document. It was the first written Constitution in the history of the world. And the reason it’s written down is so that it would be crystal clear to all what the powers of each branch of government are.
A written Constitution is only one of five promises the Constitution makes to the American people to preserve their liberty. The Constitution also splits governmental power between the federal government and the states. It splits the federal power into the three branches (legislative, executive, and judicial). It sets each branch against the other two through checks and balances. And it retains ultimate sovereignty in We the People, by giving us regular elections and empowering us to amend the Constitution when necessary.
This president has engaged in a series of unprecedented power grabs. The past week’s amnesty plan is just the latest in a long train of imperial abuses.
Editor's Note: Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski co-authored this column and are both on faculty at Liberty University and the authors of The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency and Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America.