I wanted to add to Alana’s post regarding what has been aptly termed the “lawless” recess appointments by President Obama. (The president has a right to make recess appointments, but the Constitution says the recess appointment can only happen when Congress is in recess, and the Senate was not in recess when Obama made his appointments. Even the liberal Obama supporter Timothy Noah of The New Republic has conceded, “I just don’t see how these appointments can be legal.”)
The actions by Obama were clearly driven by political calculations. And perhaps, as Alana argues, they were politically smart, though my guess is this decision will make no difference, and not sway a single vote, in 2012. But for now I simply want to focus on what this action tells us about the president.
I have argued before that Obama is governing in a post-modern manner, in which what matters isn’t truth but narrative, not rules but will. And that is precisely what this action highlights. It doesn’t matter if what the president is doing is blatantly unconstitutional and in contempt of Congress; Obama has a campaign to run and an election to win. And so the Constitution be damned. This is, after all, about political power. Now in this case the president will argue that he’s violating the Constitution over a small procedural matter. But who exactly is the arbiter of which laws to violate and which laws to abide by? I gather for Obama the answer is Obama. That is not terribly comforting to the rest of us.
It is not a good thing, and it can even be a frightful thing, when we have as president a man who seems to reject the idea (at least when re-election is at stake) that we are a nation of laws, not of men. But that is where we are, given Obama’s casual indifference to our laws and traditions.
Today it is recess appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board. But what will it be tomorrow?