Regardless of whether you support gay marriage or not, some are wondering if the rule of law derived from the U.S. Constitution only applies in politically correct scenarios.
A previously obscure, much ridiculed, and relatively insignificant county clerk gets tossed in jail for six days after wrongly refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even though in the very worst-case scenario, licenses were available in neighboring Kentucky jurisdictions prior to the dispute being recently resolved.
Upwards of 200 cities consider themselves sanctuaries for illegal aliens, including illegal alien felons, and as such, don’t inform the feds when local cops detain someone who is undocumented, a practice which is against the law. No mayor or municipal other official faces jail for being non-compliant with immigration law by implementing this kind of a sanctuary city policy, however.
These issues may or may not come up in tonight’s GOP debate from the Reagan Library in California, which is taking place the day before Constitution Day.
Unlike a temporary bureaucratic inconvenience, the real-world consequences of sanctuary cities include the murder of innocents, such as Kate Steinle, tragically gunned down in a random attack in San Francisco.
Moreover, there are many laws that ordinary people disagree with, but the average citizen is seldom in a position to pick and choose from among them.
Historian Victor Davis Hanson has devoted several columns to what might amount to government-sanctioned lawlessness in America, particularly as it pertains to border control.
“Ultimately, no nation can continue to thrive if its government refuses to enforce its own laws. Liberal ‘sanctuary cities’ such as San Francisco choose to ignore immigration laws. Imagine the outcry if a town in Utah or Montana arbitrarily declared that federal affirmative action or gay marriage laws were null and void within its municipal borders.”
Many commentators have pointed out that the state of California refused to defend the gay marriage ban (enacted by voter referendum) in court while it was in effect even though they had a legal duty to do so. Golden State officials even conducted same-sex marriage ceremonies before they were legal. In 2011, the Obama administration refused to support the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton, which was struck down by the Supreme Court two years later. No one wound up behind bars for contempt of court in any of these scenarios, not that they should have been.
Like many like-minded observers, Reason columnist David Harsanyi declared that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was wrong and should have gotten another job if she was unwilling to enforce the law requiring her to issue marriage licenses because of her Christian beliefs. “It’s not a clerk’s job to ascertain the constitutionality or practicality of a law. If it were, we’d have anarchy.”
Harsanyi noted that the there are further layers to the controversy, however.
“Let’s start with the prevailing hypocrisy surrounding the attacks on Davis, a Democrat, and what it tells us about the state of American political debate and policymaking in 2015—because as you may have noticed, the rule of law only seems to be sacred when it happens to comport with liberal values. As far as I can tell, there are only three unassailable constitutional rights left in the United States: the right not to be ‘discriminated’ against, the right to have an abortion and the right to have a gay marriage. In the eyes of liberals, nothing—not the freedom of association or religion or anything else mentioned in the First Amendment or Second Amendment—will ever supersede these consecrated rights. The rest? Well, it’s malleable, depending on the situation.”
Daily Caller columnist Scott Greer talked about what appears to be selective enforcement with political correctness as the measuring stick.
“The same liberals who cheer on illegal immigrants, felons and rioters have suddenly found their inner appreciation for the law and demand the state punish Kim Davis to the fullest extent. The unbridled glee that accompanied Davis’s arrest revealed the left loves enforcing the law — when it punishes their ideological opponents. However, when the rule of law goes against sanctuary cities and other ‘noble’ causes, the left occupies the high moral ground and says they are practicing civil disobedience in refusing to enforce the unjust laws of the federal government.”
Again, regardless of one’s position on marriage equality, about 30 states amended their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage, which seemed to be consistent with Tenth Amendment rights. A relative handful of unelected lawyers in the court system, however legalized gay marriage on a national level.
Leaving aside the merits of same-sex marriage, does overriding all these American voters enhance respect for the law?
Similarly, apart from the never-ending and divisive pro-choice/pro-life debate, even some pro-choice liberals argue that landmark Rowe vs. Wade case was wrongly decided by the Supreme Court—i.e., that the abortion rights should have been left to the individual states to address (as they do with many other key issues) rather than politicize what is a deeply personal, sensitive, and private decision.
In May 2013, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose, admitted that the sweeping Rowe v. Wade decision was an overreach by the High Court and should have limited its reach to a ruling about the constitutionality of the Texas abortion law in question. Many laws vary and evolve from state to state under the principle of federalism, and Ginsburg seemed to be suggesting that the abortion restrictions or lack thereof should also have been handled the same way.
Apart from the sanctuary city controversy, or the logjam over “comprehensive” immigration reform, the federal government is not fully enforcing immigration law already on the books. The southern border has seen a huge influx of undocumented migrants streaming into the country, contributing to what some might argue is a de facto amnesty. Deportations under the Obama administration in general have ebbed in the name of prosecutorial discretion, and authorities have released thousands of detained illegal immigrants into the country, including those convicted of violent crimes.
Against that backdrop, morale among Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents has allegedly plummeted, an insider told The Daily Caller.
“The organizational culture from where they’ve come from, it has become so politicized. The immigration system is not just broken. It’s dead. A lot of people at ICE are just so fed up…There’s no enforcement, and worse than that when you’re not enforcing you’re being told, ‘Well you basically can’t do the right thing.’ And the right thing being ‘Well, here’s someone who needs to be detained and you’re not being allowed to have this person detained.'”
President Obama intends to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees/economic migrants from among the massive wave currently flowing into Europe, without the necessary screening, Congressman Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, has warned.
“The President wants to surge thousands of Syrian refugees into the United States, in spite of consistent intelligence community and federal law enforcement warnings that we do not have the intelligence needed to vet individuals from the conflict zone. We also know that ISIS wants to use refugee routes as cover to sneak operatives into the West. I implore the President to consult with Congress before taking any drastic action and to level with the American people about the very real security challenges we face…”
Fox News claims that the federal government is less than forthcoming about illegal immigrants in the criminal justice system.
“In the absence of comprehensive data, FoxNews.com examined a patchwork of local, state and federal statistics that revealed a wildly disproportionate number of murderers, rapists and drug dealers are crossing into the U.S. amid the wave of hard-working families seeking a better life. The explosive figures show illegal immigrants are three times as likely to be convicted of murder as members of the general population and account for far more crimes than their 3.5-percent share of the U.S. population would suggest.”
Whether you like Congress or not (and there are many reasons not to), under the U.S. Constitution, the blueprint for our system of checks and balances, the halls of Congress is where laws — including on immigration under Article I, Section 8 — originate or supposed to originate.
In addition to executive orders on immigration that bypass Congress, the Obama administration has modified the Obamacare law many times without getting approval from Capitol Hill. Obama has also circumvented Congress by enacting regulations about the environment, net neutrality, and in other policy areas.
Parenthetically, perhaps making matters worse for Obamacare foes, the U.S. Supreme Court in two separate 5-4 rulings has even found a legally dubious way uphold the constitutionality of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. Dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia euphemistically deemed the findings in the second Obamacare case “pure applesauce.”
Real Time host Bill Maher, a strong Obama supporter, cautioned in a blog post in the context of renaming of Alaska’s Mount McKinley and mandating paid sick leave for employees of government contractors, that the precedent set by the pervasive use of executive orders can backfire.
“One day liberals won’t like executive orders so much… I also used to remember a time when things like [paid sick leave] and the Denali thing were bills, and they were introduced in Congress, and went through a ‘legislative process’ to see if they had ‘popular support,’ at which point they were either ‘signed’ or ‘vetoed’ by the president. In fact, both paid sick leave and renaming Mount McKinley were bills that failed to get through Congress. Just like everything else.”
“It just reminds you that in today’s environment, with a dysfunctional Congress, whoever wins the presidency rules the country in a way they haven’t before. Executive orders are the new legislation, and if a president wants to get anything done during their term they’re going to have to issue a lot of them. Which makes the stakes for 2016 higher than usual. And not because ‘We face a crossroads in history’ or because ‘This is the most important election of our lifetime’ or any of the other hyperbole we hear every four years. It’s because the president is now more like a king. And if a Republican wins, you can get ready to have your benefits slashed, your immigration laws enforced differently, and all your mountains named after Reagan.”
Separately, let’s not forget that the IRS was essentially weaponized to go after Tea Party and pro-Israel nonprofit applicant groups in the run-up to the 2012 election. A bipartisan report from the Senate Finance Committee determined that at best, the agency “mismanaged the applications of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status.” Republicans and Democrats disagreed in the report about a political motivation for the slow-walking of hundreds of applications, however.
“The frightening thing about disgraced IRS bureaucrat Lois Lerner’s knowledge of selective audits of groups on the basis of their politics is not just that she seemed to ignore it, but that she seemingly assumed no one would find out, or perhaps even mind. And she may well have been right. So far, no one at the IRS has shown much remorse for corrupting an honor-based system of tax compliance,” Victor Davis Hanson opined.
Iran Nuclear Deal
Any government initiative referred to as a “deal” should raise red flags. That being said, according to critics, the president and his negotiators gave away the store to Iran, a country that is officially designated by the federal government as a state sponsor of terrorism, and which continues to chant “death to America” as it expands it conventional weapons stockpile and works toward a nuke. According to polls, most Americans oppose the pact as do most Members of Congress.
Middle East Forum President Daniel Pipes is not a fan of the deal, which pursuant to some estimates gives Iran a $150 billion signing bonus.
“In very brief, the [Iran deal] offers the tyrants in Tehran over the next 10 to 15 years more money, more legitimacy, more arms, and an approved path to nuclear weaponry… To make matters worse, the deal includes no provisions that Tehran stop supporting violent groups, end its aggressive plans to conquer neighbors, eliminate the Jewish state, or deploy an electromagnetic pulse weapon against the United States. Indeed, so confident are the mullahs of their position, they never paused from expressing these bellicose intentions and insisted that Americans remain their enemies.”
Under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, a treaty requires ratification by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate. Obama vowed to move ahead in Iran negotiations without Congress using executive authority, so Congress foolishly cut a separate compromise with the Executive Branch that the Iran deal would go into effect unless it was voted down by at least two-thirds of both houses of Congress. The GOP-controlled House disapproved the deal, but opponents in the Senate could only muster 58 votes against (a sizable number but two votes short of ending a filibuster, with 42 Democrats supporting the president apparently based on party loyalty alone). Many of the Senate Democrats supporting the Iran deal admitted that the deal was flawed.
Some lawmakers have argued (unsuccessfully it seems) that the 60-day approval clock hasn’t even started yet because the president failed to disclose all aspects of the agreement to Congress.
While the IRS continues to stonewall Congressional probes, the Justice Department seems to be conducting a Sgt. Schultz-style investigation of the aforementioned IRS misconduct (prejudged by the president as “not a smidgen of corruption“). The investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server may or may not amount to anything either.
In the meantime, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a lawmaker who has rubber-stamped the Obama agenda except on Iran and Cuba, finds himself charged with federal corruption. Coincidence?
“Increasingly in the United States, the degree to which a law is enforced — or whether a person is indicted —depends on political considerations … And when the law has becomes negotiable, civilization utterly collapses,” Victor Davis Hanson has concluded.
Do you agree or disagree that we have reached a crossroads where a situational or cherry-picked enforcement of the rule of law exists? Sound off below.
[Photo by Spencer Pratt/Getty Images News]