A couple of things become clear on reading the WSJ article. The first is that the reason for the coup was to stop deposed President Zelaya from accomplishing an unconstitutional usurption of power:
Mr. Zelaya, a frequent critic of the U.S., has been locked in a growing confrontation with his country’s Congress, courts, and military over his plans for the referendum — planned for Sunday — that would have asked voters whether they want to scrap the constitution, which the president says benefits the country’s elites.
The Supreme Court had ruled the vote was illegal because it flouted the constitution’s own ban on such referendums within six months of elections. The military had refused to take its usual role of distributing ballots. But Mr. Zelaya fired the chief of the army last week and pledged to press ahead.
The second is that our own president, despite his original refusal to “meddle” in the affairs of Iran, has attempted to meddle mightily in Honduran affairs in order to save Zelaya. The manner in which Obama tried to interfere highlights both his own hubris and his misplaced faith in the power of “dialogue”:
The Obama administration and members of the Organization of American States had worked for weeks to try to avert any moves to overthrow President Zelaya, said senior U.S. officials. Washington’s ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, sought to facilitate a dialogue between the president’s office, the Honduran parliament and the military.
The efforts accelerated over the weekend, as Washington grew increasingly alarmed. “The players decided, in the end, not to listen to our message,” said one U.S. official involved in the diplomacy. On Sunday, the U.S. embassy here tried repeatedly to contact the Honduran military directly, but was rebuffed. Washington called the removal of President Zelaya a coup and said it wouldn’t recognize any other leader.
And then there’s the following [emphasis mine]:
The U.S. stand was unpopular with Honduran deputies. One congressman, Toribio Aguilera, got prolonged applause from his colleagues when he urged the U.S. ambassador to reconsider. Mr. Aguilera said the U.S. didn’t understand the danger that Mr. Zelaya and his friendships with Mr. Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro posed.
Retired Honduran Gen. Daniel López Carballo justified the move against the president, telling CNN that if the military hadn’t acted, Mr. Chávez would eventually be running Honduras by proxy.
A year ago I might have considered the statement I’m about to make to be a slide into tinfoil hat territory. But now I believe that Mr. Aguilera may be giving Obama way too much credit. I suspect that Obama understands exactly what dangers Chavez and Castro pose, and that he either doesn’t care or that he actually approves.
Obama has said that he is “deeply concerned” by the news of the removal of Zelaya and that he calls on “all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.” So far it seems, however, that it was actually Zelaya who was violating those rules of law. It also sounds as though Obama’s definition of “democratic norms” might include “one person, one vote, one time.”
Zelaya was determined that Honduras follow in the footsteps of that stellar democracy, Venezuela, which not long ago (see this) paved the way, in a similar referendum, for Hugo Chavez to become president for life.
A democracy can vote for tyranny—but that’s what constitutions are designed to prevent. As I wrote back then:
…[O]ur government is “of the people, by the people, for the people.” But the overwhelming power the people would wield in a pure democracy is limited by the powers and balances among the three branches, the fact that we have a representative republican form of government rather than a pure democracy, and by the aforementioned difficulty of amending the constitution.
Without these guarantees, democracy can mean “one person, one vote, one time.” The Ayatollah Khomeini was given dictatorial powers in a process that began, after the fall of the Shah and the Ayatollah’s triumphant return, with a nationwide referendum that was passed with an extraordinary 92.8% percent of the vote. This established the theocratic dictatorship that exists to this day, with the constitution of Iran being totally rewritten shortly afterwards.
Hitler came to power without ever winning a majority vote for his party, but the German government had another weakness—under its constitution, it was relatively easy to suspend civil liberties and establish a dictatorship. This did not even require the vote of its people, merely a two-thirds majority of its legislature. Therefore it was done by republican means; the Reichstag obligingly voted to abolish itself, although not without the “persuasion” of Hitler’s storm troopers surrounding the building with cries of ““Full powers—or else! We want the bill—or fire and murder!”
And recent less dramatic, but similar and still worrisome, events by which Venezuelan dictator Chavez has seized power with the full cooperation of the Venezuelan legislature—which, as in Germany of old, can amend the constitution by a mere 2/3 vote—demonstrate once again that there are not only “democratic” ways to seize power, but “republican” ones as well (and please note the small “d” and the small “r”).
One has only to look at the makeup of our own Congress, with its power-hungry politics-playing on both sides, to understand that we would by no means be immune from such a vulnerability if our own Constitution were similarly written.
Perhaps Honduran Congressman Toribio Aguilera, the man who said Obama doesn’t understand the danger of Chavez and Castro, could patiently explain all of this to our current president. But my guess is that Obama already knows these things. And if Obama is defending the sort of “democracy” practiced by Zelaya, it’s a very ominous sign indeed.
[ADDENDUM: And note what the once-reputable news organization (and now usefully idiotic Leftist tool) Reuters has to say about the whole thing. In an article showcasing the ranting of Chavez and his accusations that the whole thing was a US plot (as well as Obama's hasty reassurances that it was not, and that he supports Zelaya), all Reuters can manage to write about the motivation for Zelaya's removal was the following single sentence: "The Honduran army ousted Zelaya and exiled him in Central America's first military coup since the Cold War, after he upset the army by trying to win re-election."]