The Banana Republicization of Ogabe’s America

April 8th, 2012

Saturday Steyn, only one day late this time:

Headlines in which the executive “warns” the courts are usually the province of places like Balochistan, where powerful cabinet ministers are currently fuming at the chief justice’s determination to stop them kidnapping citizens and holding them for ransom — literally, that is, not merely figuratively, as in America. But, here as there, when Obama “warns” the Supreme Court “over health law,” it’s their health prospects he has in mind. He cautioned the justices — “an unelected group of people” — not to take the “unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

The eunuchs of the palace media gleefully piled on: As the New York Times sees it, were the justices to take an “unprecedented” step so unprecedented there are two centuries’ worth of precedents going back to 1803, they would be fatally damaging “the Court’s legitimacy.”

All that’s unprecedented here is the spectacle of the president of the United States, while the judges are deliberating, idly swinging his tire iron and saying, “Nice little Supreme Court you got here. Shame if anything were to happen to it.”

A nation can have formal “checks and balances,” but in the end free societies depend on a certain deference to the proprieties. If you’re willing to disdain those, you can drive a coach and horses through accepted norms very easily. The bit about “a democratically elected Congress” was an especially exquisite touch given Obama’s recently professed respect for the democratic process: As he assured Vladimir Putin’s sock puppet the other day, he’ll have “more flexibility” to accommodate foreign interests after he’s got his “last election” and all that tedious democracy business out of the way. His “last election,” I hasten to add, not America’s.

Aside from his contempt for judicial review and those rube voters, what other checks and balances doesn’t he have time for?

To quote Marlon Brando in The Wild One: I dunno; whaddya got?

Unprecedented update! Tell me again about what’s “unprecedented,” now?

But what about that “strong majority”? When reporters pointed out that Obamacare passed the House by a narrow margin of 219 to 212 votes, White House spokesman Jay Carney quickly revised “strong majority” to simply “majority.”

But all that backing and filling — including Carney’s claim that Obama was misunderstood “because he is a law professor” — was before the DOMA arguments made news. If the president was so concerned about a court overturning a duly constituted law passed by a democratically elected Congress, why was he urging a small group of unelected judges to strike down DOMA, a measure that won passage by a far greater margin than Obamacare?

The answer is, of course, that the administration is making a political argument for its positions, not a legal one. And perhaps counterproductively, the president’s decision to bring up Obamacare’s history in Congress could end up reminding the public of the tangled circumstances of its passage. Even with a huge majority in the House, Democrats barely passed the bill in the face of bipartisan opposition. And in the Senate, Obamacare succeeded as the result of a set of freakish circumstances that allowed Democrats to pass an unpopular measure into law.

Those circumstances included the wrongful prosecution of a Republican senator (Ted Stevens), resulting in his seat going to a Democrat; the defection of another Republican senator (Arlen Specter) to the Democrats; and a change in one state’s laws (Massachusetts) to allow a Democratic governor to immediately appoint a Democrat to succeed the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and give the Senate a 60-vote Democratic supermajority. And then there were the policy payoffs to some Democratic senators who were undecided about the bill. Even then, Democrats held a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for just 134 days before Massachusetts elected a Republican senator, Scott Brown, who ran specifically on the platform of stopping Obamacare. But in those 134 days, Democrats managed to pass an unpopular bill into law without a single vote to spare.

Now, the timing of the arguments over Obamacare and DOMA has revealed the flexibility of the administration’s arguments over constitutionality.

For “freakish circumstances,” you can easily substitute “underhanded, quasi-legal manipulation” or “the usual Democrat Socialist skullduggery”–and you definitely should, because that’s exactly what every last one of the examples York cites was.

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