Procedure is all that protects us from dictatorship

Laura Hollis

3/22/2010 11:58:03 AM - Laura Hollis

Or, Peggy Noonan is the one who is insane.

Americans woke up this morning still reeling from the obfuscatory charade that took place in Congress yesterday in lieu of its usual deliberative responsibilities.

Unbeknownst to many, we actually got a two-fer last night: nationalization of America’s health care system and nationalization of the student loan program (which, tucked into the health care bill, was eclipsed by its bigger, uglier stepsister).

And we got it because we have a gutless Congress determined to abdicate their procedural responsibilities to protect and reflect the will of those who elected them, and to bow and scrape instead to our would-be dictator President.

Sean Hannity FREE

How much more do we have to witness before there is no more blather about Barack Obama as a “centrist” or a “moderate?” Yesterday’s legislative debacle was only the latest in a series of calculated, deliberate and premeditated steps by this President to dismantle the constitutional protections Americans have enshrined in our foundational documents and achieve complete government takeover of the reviled and envied private sector.

Consider what we have seen happen in a little more than a year: nearly the entire American automaking industry nationalized, with its CEOs thrown out at the will of the President. Private contracts with investors eviscerated to provide payback to the President’s political patrons. Whole segments of the financial sector beholden to the federal government at the will of the President. Health care – one-sixth of the U.S. economy - nationalized at the will of the President. Student loans nationalized at the will of the President. The country taken into deeper and steeper debt at the will of the President – debt which, as it has everywhere else, will cripple enterprise, impede entrepreneurship, raise unemployment, stifle innovation, destroy America’s world-class health care, and result in shortages, rationing, economic distress, and general misery which will – surprise! – result in calls for what? More government intervention.

People who treat this as an exception to Barack Obama’s moderate “centrism” or an unintended consequence of his skillful management of a crisis he inherited are inexcusably stupid. History has demonstrated – and historians like F.A. Hayek and Elié Halevy have chronicled – that this is precisely what statists intend. Obama absolutely inherited a mess not of his making. But as Rahm Emanuel so pithily observed, it was an opportunity not to strengthen this country, but to strengthen the statists’ stranglehold over this country. And it was an opportunity that Obama has seized with relish.

Obama himself has made his inclinations, his intentions, and his tactics clear, in his own words, in his associations, in the writings of those like Frank Marshall Davis and Saul Alinsky whom he hails as mentors and inspirations, in his reference to the Constitution as a “flawed document,” and in his inaugural exhortation to “remake America.” The truth is there, for those who are willing to admit it. But too many observers are too enamored with their own image to tell us the truth.

Glenn Beck, among others, has brought the history of statist oppression into the living rooms and car radios of Americans, many of whom are sadly ignorant of the events and abuses of the past 100 years, and the ideologies which have driven – and continue to drive – them.

For that, he receives criticisms like that doled out by Peggy Noonan in her most recent column for the Wall Street Journal, in which she quips:

“Fox is owned by News Corp., which also owns this newspaper, so one should probably take pains to demonstrate that one is attempting to speak with disinterest and impartiality, in pursuit of which let me note that Glenn Beck has long appeared to be insane.”

Is that supposed to be funny?

Noonan continues her paean to Obama, bemoaning his inexplicable (to her) willingness to tarnish the luster of his “historic presidency” by utilizing unseemly (and arguably unconstitutional) procedures to get what he wants. She tut-tuts at the ends, “I wonder at what point the administration will realize it wasn't worth it—worth the discord, worth the diminution in popularity and prestige, worth the deepening of the great divide. What has been lost is so vivid, what has been gained so amorphous, blurry and likely illusory.”

Dear, deluded Peggy. You still don’t get it, do you? Of course it’s worth it! These are not sideshows. This is the point. The tactics are the point. It’s not merely that the ends justify the means. The means are the point. Obama himself admitted as much (as he usually does, if you are paying attention) in his interview with Bret Baier, when he said, “I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or Senate. What I can tell you is that the vote that’s taken in the House will be a vote for health care reform. And if people vote yes, whatever form that takes, that is going to be a vote for health care reform. And I don’t think we should pretend otherwise."

Much is made among the Peggy Noonans of the world that Obama is a scholar in constitutional law. He is no such thing. A constitutional lawyer who does not care about process does not really care about law, constitutional or otherwise.

Congress should protect us from executive overreaching. Instead, they are facilitating the abuse of executive power by their manipulation of legislative power. They have passed laws without reading them, or even without following the procedures set forth in our own Constitution – all to accede to the will of the President.

Pelosi and her traitorous followers (and yes, I chose that word deliberately) threatened to use “deem and pass.” But, as it turns out, “deem and pass” was a bait-and-switch. Months before the unprecedented (in this context) “deem and pass” was dangled in the face of Americans, we were up-in-arms over the fact that Congress was threatening to use reconciliation to avoid the normal constitutional procedures of drafting a Senate bill, a House bill, and the drawn-out committee process to come up with a version that both houses of Congress could muster a majority of votes for. In response to that outrage, Pelosi threatened something even worse, and then purported to cave on the “deem-and-pass” tactic, and use the now-more-palatable-by-comparison reconciliation process instead.

What we have ended up with, therefore, is a Senate bill that neither a majority of the current senators nor the current House representatives would have voted for, no real House bill, specious promises of “fixes,” and a completely worthless and unenforceable “executive order” which purports to countervail what is in the legislation; legislation which the vast majority of Americans do not want.

It is hard even for me, a Civil Procedure professor, to convey how gravely serious it is when Congress manipulates or disregards the proper legislative procedures to ram through legislation that is contrary to the will of the American public, at the behest of an arm-twisting President.

Many of the world’s most vicious dictators have patsy parliaments, legislatures or national assemblies which exist for the sole purpose of providing a false legitimacy to what would otherwise be the petulant exercises of individual will. We are teetering on the brink of that abyss. The only thing left for Congress to do to make the dictatorship complete is simply to refuse to draft the laws and allow Obama to simply declare them.

Obama cannot yet declare his own supreme will to be law by fiat. But he’s close. Obama complained about the complexity of the democratic process, as compared to the elegant simplicity of what he could do if he were simply allowed to create law by the mere exercise of his will. As if in response to that complaint, Congress dutifully suspended its own legislative processes. Is it any wonder, then, that Obama could care less whether or not Congress follows its own rules, as long as he gets what he wants?

Glenn Beck is one of the few commentators with the guts to warn us of what this portends. And for that, people like Peggy Noonan joke that he is insane.

Bart Stupak is taking the most flak today for caving (and doing so deceitfully) to Obama’s will. But he is only one of many. Those like Stupak who voted in favor of this travesty are not just a disgrace, but a threat to the Republic, and every single one of them must be thrown out of office. Adherence to constitutional procedures is the only thing that protects us from dictatorship.

And if Peggy Noonan can’t see that, then she is the one who is insane.