Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Wednesday released the fourth in his series of reports on the Obama Administration’s abuses of power. Pronouncing the President’s “willingness to disregard the written law, and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat” one of the most dangerous aspects of his tenure in office, Cruz emphasizes the importance of the rule of law – which, properly understood, should restrain the ambitions of politicians, not become a cudgel in their hands – and needles his adversaries for accepting abuses from a Democrat that they would never tolerate from a Republican.
Cruz is determined to make the case that Obama is setting dangerous precedents for future executives of any political affiliation, because as he memorably puts it, “When a president can pick and choose which laws to follow and which to ignore, he is no longer a president.” He follows this up with several carefully-sourced pages of such picking and choosing. This is not one of those reports that reads like a campaign speech or political tract – it’s ten pages of bullet-point citations with links to supporting media, all of which is available online.
For example, here is Cruz’s list of ten abuses of executive power connected with ObamaCare:
1. Granted a ???hardship??? exemption from the individual mandate for people whose health plans were canceled because their plans weren???t Obamacare compliant.
2. Delayed the individual mandate for two years.
3. Allowed individuals to buy health insurance plans in 2014 that did not comply with Obamacare. Extended this delay until 2016???past the mid-term elections.
4. Extended the deadline to enroll in Obamacare.
5. Illegally granted businesses a waiver from Obamacare???s employer mandate. Twice.
6. Illegally continued the Obamacare employer contribution for congressional staffs.
7. Illegally delayed the Obamacare caps on out-of-pocket healthcare payments.
8. Illegally delayed Obamacare verification of eligibility for healthcare subsidies.
9. Illegally required people to violate their faith via the Obamacare contraception mandate.
10. As of May 2011, over 50% of Obamacare waiver beneficiaries were union members (who account for less than 12% of the American work force).
The first nine of those items are indisputable matters of fact, actions the Administration unquestionably took without proper legal authority. The tenth – granting over half of the ObamaCare waivers to union members – may not be as clear-cut as an illegal abuse of administrative power, having already dinged the Administration for doling out waivers in point 5… but it’s most certainly the sort of thing everyone on the Left would universally decry as unfair and corrupt, if granted by a Republican administration to its political allies. One suspects the word “abusive” would not take long to appear under those circumstances.
Other undigested bits of recent history popping up in Cruz’s report include Obama’s gutting of the 1996 work-for-welfare reforms – say, wasn’t that “the settled law of the land,” as the President and his supporters love to describe the far younger Affordable Care Act? – and executive undermining of immigration laws, the Defense of Marriage Act, drug laws, and the Freedom of Information Act.
Every big Obama scandal – Operation Fast and Furious, the dismissal of voter intimidation charges against the blatantly guilty Black Panthers in Philadelphia, treating the attack on Fort Hood by a jihadi turncoat as “workplace violence,” the IRS scandal, Shutdown Theater, Benghazi, the Gibson Guitar raid, the Surveillance State, intimidation of journalists, Solyndra – is mustered for review. Cruz’s rules of engagement treat lying to Congress and the American people as abuses of executive power, which might not be the same thing as rewriting the Affordable Care Act on the fly in flagrant defiance of the Constitution, but it’s certainly a defensible characterization.
A few items on Cruz’s roster of abuses might be more properly described as outrages, or things that should be indisputably illegal, such as naming a tax cheat to be Secretary of the Treasury, or blowing over two hundred grand in taxpayer money to relocate a shrubbery. “Signed a stimulus bill that spent money on bonuses for AIG executives, and then acted shocked and outraged at the bonuses” is insulting and disingenuous, backing the release of the Lockerbie bomber might have been a horrendously bad idea, and instructing NASA to “find a way to reach out to the Muslim world” doesn’t line up with what most Americans think their space agency ought to be doing, but those items stretch the parameters of Cruz’s report on the outright abuse of executive power.
It might, however, be interesting to use those outrages as part of the case that Big Government is inherently abusive, even when it’s not breaking or stretching the law. If we’re going to let the political class get drunk on four trillion dollars of our money per year, we’re inevitably going to get some $200,000 shrubbery relocations. Shutdown Theater demonstrated that We the People can no longer badger the bloated Leviathan State into losing a few pounds, or at least drawing up a diet plan. If we accept that the political aristocracy doesn’t have to live under many of the laws it imposes upon us, we shouldn’t be surprised to discover that the Administration is full of people who don’t pay all of their taxes. No one should find it unusual when powerful interests with a hefty financial investment in the ruling party can rely on the government to protect their interests, as when a Democrat Administration serves the teachers’ unions by attacking school voucher programs.
Senator Cruz is correct to portray this Administration as worse than its predecessors when it comes to indisputable abuses of power. The notion of the law as a limiting factor against an imperial executive already seems like a quaint relic of a bygone era. (Don’t worry, the entire Beltway establishment will experience powerful nostalgia for those old-fashioned rule-of-law values as soon as a Republican enters the Oval Office, especially if that Republican happens to be someone like Ted Cruz.) Our central government is more concerned with its ambitions than its duties, and sees the law not as a star it should unerringly set its course by, but a modest obstacle to its noble agenda. Too many of the American people agree, and find it frustrating that compassionate politicians should require some arcane legal authority to do whatever it claims the people need. Reports like Cruz’s provide a useful primer for understanding just how dangerous that belief can be. Law is only a valid source of authority when it is deeply respected, and that most certainly is not our current state of national affairs.