Upon the news that Honduras had ousted its chief executive, President Obama — as is his wont — dithered and dawdled, then decided he would stand with the UN, Hugo Chavez, and the mullahs of Iran and back President Zelaya’s return.
I’m no expert on Honduran law and custom, but it could be useful to think of what happened in Honduras in the context of the American Constitution. Like the United States, Honduras has three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. And all three were involved in recent events.
In the United States, the Constitution achieves a balance of powers. No one branch has absolute power — each can check the actions of another, and any two can override the third. Congress and the Supreme Court can remove the president, the president and Congress can remove and replace Justices, and the president can refuse to enforce laws until the court strikes them down.
In Honduras, the president was taking action toward amending the country’s Constitution in a way that many believed was illegal. Among those who considered it such were the nation’s Supreme Court and legislature, who acted to prevent the constitutional changes. And even the nation’s attorney general and military leaders — nominally elements of the Chief Executive branch — also sided against their titular leader.
President Obama, by backing President Zelaya, is siding with a leader who has lost the faith of most of his own government and a great deal of the people by attempting to illegally rewrite the nation’s Constitution to suit his own ends. I don’t think this is the kind of “Change” in American foreign policy many Americans were Hoping for.