Chambers: Storm warning on the presidential power grab

Chambers: Storm warning on the presidential power grab

December 14th, 2013 By Mike Chambers in Opinion Columns

"The danger is quite severe. The problem with what the President is doing is that he's not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system. He's becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid. That is the concentration of power."

Were these right-wing sputterings from Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, or Rush Limbaugh? Not even close. The learned opinion came from George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley during recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

Interestingly, Turley is a noted liberal and Obama supporter. He made headlines in his successful defense of Petty Officer Daniel King, who faced the death penalty for alleged spying for Russia. He is known for his review of polygamy laws in the British Columbia Supreme Court. He is widely interviewed by the New York Times and USA Today.

Turley explained that the "Newtonian orbit that the three branches (of government) exist in is a delicate one but it is designed to prevent this type of concentration."

Remember civics class? Among the lessons - the legislature, who pass the laws; the executive, who administer the laws; the judiciary, who decides their constitutionality - a "checks and balance of power", one that protects all Americans.

Highlights of the hearing touched on usurpation of power in President Obama's military operations in Libya, sidestepping of immigration law (which Turley admitted agreeing with, by the way - just not how the President basically ignored written law), and wholesale executive changes by the President concerning the Affordable Health Care Act - not just "tweaks," - but actual unconstitutional rewriting and changing of the law.

The President has said: "If Congress does not act, I will." He was indirectly quoted by Julie Pace of AP on Oct. 6, referring to the then-coming government shutdown by the House: "Obama didn't specifically rule out taking action on his own if Congress fails to increase the debt ceiling, but said he doesn't expect to get to that point."

Someone needs to remind this "reporter" - and "constitutional professor" (a part-time adjunct professor, actually) - the House has the power of the purse, not the executive branch.

But he was able to shut down World War II memorials and, according a Fox13 Salt Lake City news report on Oct. 14, threaten the cutoff of food stamps to 100,000 families in Utah. Is this leadership? Or hard political force, Chicago style?

Where could such a pattern lead, and where does it spread?

Professor Turley expanded his criticism:

"There are two trends going on which should be of equal concern to all members of Congress. One is that we have had the radical expansion of presidential powers under both President (George W.) Bush and President Obama. We have what many once called an imperial presidency model of largely unchecked authority. And with that trend we also have the continued rise of this fourth branch. We have agencies that are quite large that issue regulations. (I assume the EPA, FDA, NSA, IRS, DHS etc.) The Supreme Court said recently that agencies could actually define their own or interpret their own jurisdiction."

During the same hearing, Michael Cannon, director of Health Policy Studies for the Cato Institute, reminded us there is "one last thing to which the people can resort if the government does not respect the restraints that the Constitution places of the government.

"Abraham Lincoln talked about our right to alter our government or our revolutionary right to overthrow it," he said. "That is certainly something that no one wants to contemplate. If the people come to believe that the government is no longer constrained by the laws then they will conclude that neither are they."

No negotiations, no compromise, no debate in the Senate, no balance, no rule of law. A "fundamental transformation" of the American experiment into one of raw power by one or a few.

Such a change could easily lead to a Constitutional storm endangering both liberal and conservative Americans.

Mr. President, cannot both sides keep our Constitution and country, "if we want to"?

Mike Chambers lives on Lookout Mountain.