Peter Lemiska
Ruling by decree when leadership fails
By Peter Lemiska
August 22, 2011

In recent years, the entire country has been focused on its plunging economy. Housing prices are at historic lows, and the jobless rate is at 9.1%. The number is significantly higher in minority communities. The stock market is collapsing, and roughly one in seven Americans are now on food stamps, another historic high.

Though the President and his administration desperately try to shift responsibility to George Bush, to tsunamis, and to bad luck in general, even his most ardent supporters are accepting the fact that it's time to let go. They're beginning to understand that Barack Obama is better suited for a college debate team than for the office of President.

And though international affairs have lately fallen off the radar screen, Obama's performance in that arena has been anywhere from irrelevant to disastrous. He has snubbed our friends, like Great Britain and Israel, and coddled our enemies. He caved to the Russians and scrapped plans for the European missile defense system, turned a blind eye to the Iranian dissidents, virtually abandoned his vow to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, and unilaterally ended the war on terrorism. In response to the terrorist attacks of 2001, then-President Bush sternly announced to the world: "You're either with us or against us." Obama seems to be saying: "You're either with us, or we're with you."

By all measures, he has been an abysmal failure as a leader, and the polls show it.

Yet even as a failed leader, Obama still has, courtesy of his now dismayed electorate, the power to effect the kind of changes he wants, without regard to Congress, the Constitution, or the will of the people. So in a desperate effort to shore up his base, he has thrown a few bones to the special interest groups that still support him. Since he failed to reward them through the legislative process, he simply implemented new rules and regulations to benefit the environmentalist, the gay, and the Hispanic communities.

"Cap and trade" was aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions through higher taxes and more regulation. Early in 2010, the bill faded away after failing to gain any traction in Congress. Later that year, Obama announced that he would not rule out the use of regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency to cap carbon emissions without congressional approval. The EPA now regulates carbon emissions from vehicles, and more regulations targeting carbon emissions from coal plants and electric companies are not far behind.

Earlier this year, Obama arbitrarily determined that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and ordered the Department of Justice to cease defending it.

Then on July 25th, speaking before the National Council of La Raza on immigration reform, Obama humorously announced: "Now I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own..." Maybe it was a just joke, maybe his subconscious dream. But the audience encouraged him, chanting "Yes you can! Yes you can!" Of course he reminded them "That's not how our Democracy functions. That's not how our Constitution is written." Nonetheless, earlier this month, he took that advice of the La Raza audience.

The Dream Act, rejected by the U.S. Senate, would have given amnesty to virtually all illegal aliens who were not engaged in criminal activity. Obama's new policy announced on August 18th by Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano provides essentially the same provisions as the failed legislation.

Napolitano offered, what seemed to be, a reasonable explanation for the new policy. She said it is based on practical considerations, prosecutorial discretion. She explained that, because of limited resources, the government is forced to focus its efforts on deporting only the criminal element.

On the surface, it does sound reasonable. Anyone familiar with our judicial system understands that most law enforcement agents, U.S. Attorneys, and judges have immense workloads, and often use prosecutorial discretion to concentrate on the more significant cases.

But this is vastly different. By issuing a directive from Washington, Obama has actually deprived the U.S. Attorneys and Immigration Judges across the country of their prosecutorial discretion. And by publicly announcing that only the criminal element will be deported, the administration is giving tacit approval to illegal immigration, essentially creating a de facto law. If, for example, a district attorney were to publicly announce that he is focusing his limited resources only on violent criminals, then without fear of prosecution, all other crimes would essentially be legalized.

In this case, the term "prosecutorial discretion" is nothing but a euphemism for executive activism. It is both the realization of the Dream Act, and Obama's dream in action.

Every government has its own laws and individual head of state. One thing that distinguishes the rulers from leaders is that leaders don't defy their legal system or the will of their people. Most Americans are outraged over Obama's blatant abuse of power and his utter disregard for our legislative process. But even those who support his policies should at least be wary of his actions. When our elected President can disregard Congress and the Constitution, and enact law by decree, our republic evolves into an autocracy, and if we allow that to happen, we may all one day experience what life is really like in countries like Cuba or Venezuela.

© Peter Lemiska


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Peter Lemiska

Peter Lemiska served in the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Secret Service. Following his retirement from the Secret Service, he spent several years as a volunteer for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Like most of his contemporaries, he's always loved his country, and is deeply dismayed by the new and insidious anti-American sentiment threatening to destroy it. He's a life-long conservative, and his opinion pieces have been published in various print media and on numerous internet sites.


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