One of the courses that George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley teaches is constitutional law. He is also an Obama supporter and a liberal, although he doesn’t always toe the party line. Turley certainly didn’t pull his punches in this article, or in his testimony before the House yesterday, on the topic of Obama’s presidential overreach and the possible remedies for it.
The entire article is worth reading (although I’ve only gotten through the first few pages so far). Here’s an excerpt:
Despite the fact that I once voted for President Obama, personal admiration is no substitute for the constitutional principles at stake in this controversy. When a president claims the inherent power of both legislation and enforcement, he becomes a virtual government unto himself. He is not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system; he becomes the very danger that the Constitution was designed to avoid…
…[T]he loss caused by the circumvention of the legislative branch is not simply one branch usurping another. Rather, it is the loss of the most important function of the tripartite system in channeling factional interests and reaching resolutions on matters of great public importance. The importance of this central function of Congress is magnified when the country faces questions upon which there is great division. Ironically, these are the same areas where presidents are most likely to issue nonenforcement orders due to opposition to the underlying legislation. Consider illegal immigration. There are few issues that are more divisive today. The immigration laws are the product of prolonged debates and deliberations over provisions ranging from public services to driver’s licenses to ICE proceedings to deportations. Many of these issues are considered in combination in comprehensive statutes where the final legislation is a multivariable compromise by legislators. Severity in one area can at times be a trade-off for leniency in another area. Regardless of such trade-offs, the end result is by definition a majoritarian compromise that is either signed into law by a president or enacted through a veto override. The use of executive orders to circumvent federal legislation increases the shift toward the concentration of executive power in our system and the diminishment of the role of the legislative process itself. It is precisely what the Framers sought to avoid in establishing the tripartite system.
There is no question that Turley is very alarmed by what’s been happening during the Obama administration. But today he reflects on something different but related—press coverage of the hearing at which he testified:
The Washington Post has a controversial take on yesterday’s hearing in its coverage by Dana Milbank. The hearing raised the serious question of a pattern of allegedly unconstitutional actions by President Obama in either barring enforcement of federal law or directly violating those laws. However, the Washington Post only reported on the fact that impeachment was raised in the hearing in the discussion of the constitutional means left to Congress to address presidential abuse. Republicans object that the Post piece misses 99 percent of the hearing detailing the rise of an imperial presidency under Obama and four hours of discussion of the dangerous shift of power in the tripartite system.
Turley goes on to analyze the testimony vs. the coverage and concludes the coverage was incorrect and misleading, mischaracterizing both the substance of the hearing and Republicans’ role in it. To those of us on the right, such news is no news at all. In fact, seeing this happen over and over again was one of the things that sparked the beginning of my political change experience.
When one first notices it, it’s hard to believe how blatant and shameless the distortions are. Turley was struck by it in part because he knew from personal experience, having been a major player in the hearings, how badly the WaPo misrepresented what happened there. I haven’t followed Turley’s work before, although I plan to do so now. But I wonder whether he knows how commonly this happens, and how pernicious are the effects on the voting public and its perceptions of reality.