President Obama said this past week that in his effort to bring National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden back to this country, he was exhorting other nations like Russia and China to follow legal channels. He said the administration is working with other countries to make sure “the rule of law is observed.”
Whaaaat? The rule of law? Since when has the president cared about the rule of law?
Oh yeah – that’s right. My mistake. He does care – selectively – about the rule of laws that he agrees with and that will further his agenda. Hence, the president is filled with righteous indignation that, so far, Snowden has escaped the efforts of the administration to bring him to “justice” for leaking top-secret documents about NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens to The Guardian and the Washington Post.
Obama didn’t like Snowden documenting the fact that under his administration, government spying on citizens is worse – much worse – than it was under his predecessor – you know, that guy Obama never defended when he was being called “BushHitler” by his detractors.
But, since he now finds heightened government surveillance useful, secrecy laws must be enforced. You know, because we’re a nation of laws, not men.
Except that under Obama, we’re not. Which could be one of the reasons that both the Chinese and Russians either ignored him or openly mocked him, suggesting that when there is something, or someone, Obama really wants, he tries to be just as totalitarian as he says they are.
So much for the big “re-set” the president promised would magically occur with our professed enemies once he occupied the White House.
He has given the Chinese, Russians and those of any nation, including his own, plenty of cause to mock him. He and his attorney general, Eric Holder, have been very public about the fact that they will not enforce federal immigration laws on the books. Not only that, they came down on Arizona for passing, and then trying to enforce, immigration laws that mirrored the federal laws.
A version of immigration reform bill is now working its way through Congress. But whether it passes or not, we shouldn’t expect the Obama administration to enforce any parts with which it disagrees.
We already have evidence of that. When the president couldn’t get the latest version of the DREAM Act passed – which would have granted resident status to those aged 29 or younger who were brought to the country illegally when they were younger than 15 if they met certain criteria like graduating from a U.S. high school – he simply imposed his own version of it through executive order. He ignored a law that, if we were a nation of laws and not men, would have required them to be deported.
The Supreme Court’s decision this past week to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, giving federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, was a watershed moment in American society. But gay couples haven’t had to worry about any of the sanctions in DOMA for years, since Obama announced in February 2011 that his administration would no longer defend or enforce it, because he believed it to be unconstitutional.
Hey, why do we even need a Supreme Court, when our president can decide on his own what is constitutional?
Why, if he thinks the No Child Left Behind law is unfair to some states, should there be a requirement for everybody to follow it? Why, if certain political groups are hostile to his policies, shouldn’t they get unequal treatment under the law with so much extra scrutiny that they can’t get their tax status approved before the 2012 election?
Same for federal laws on medical marijuana. I think marijuana provisions should be relaxed (I’ve got no personal stake here – I’m not a user), and I’m sure it is much more convenient and reassuring to a number of friends of mine that the feds don’t care if they’re one toke over the line – you know, just to help them sleep or for some other medical purpose.
But the refusal to enforce some laws while creating others on individual fiat based on one man’s opinion, even if that man is the president, makes a mockery of the contention that we are a nation of laws, not men.
Indeed, if the president is our ultimate role model, it is grossly unfair that you and I don’t have the same freedom. We have to obey laws we think are unnecessary, stupid, discriminatory or unfair when the president gets to ignore them.
Why shouldn’t Edward Snowden get to ignore laws that forbid divulging classified information, especially when he thinks that government spying on its citizens is unconstitutional?
Why shouldn’t I be able to ignore traffic laws I think are unnecessary, especially at times of the day or night when there are few other cars on the road?
Whatever one’s view is of the cases that have been decided by the Supreme Court this month – on affirmative action, the Voting Rights Act and DOMA – at least those unhappy with those laws as written followed a process. They sought to change those laws.
Our president looks at laws he doesn’t like and simply ignores them. No wonder he has lost the moral high ground with China, Russia and any other hostile regime.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org