Stephen Smoot

It may be related to a March 2011 Memorandum of Understanding circulated between the Department of Defense and the Department of Agriculture that emphasized the dire national security need for "more advanced drop-in biofuels."  The memo mentions that Obama personally issued this directive.  Of course this initiative costs taxpayers $510 million, as opposed to expanding drilling for oil, which would actually create tax revenue.  But that is beside the point. 

To expand productive capacity of energy, the government is authorized by this new executive order "to create, maintain, protect, expand, or restore domestic industrial base capabilities essential for the national defense."  It can also pay out subsidies to entities trying to do the same.

Wow!  Now crony capitalists can be enlisted/paid to fight terrorism through the creation of bio-fuels in a country with some of the highest natural reserves of energy in the world!  How wonderful! 

Besides the fact that this seems to be yet another vehicle to quietly funnel money to his green special interest lobbies, the language in this executive order is truly Orwellian.  The original Defense Production Act referred specifically to national security and national defense, while Obama’s executive order broadens the categories to include “national emergency.” 

What constitutes a national emergency?  The President may not be able to define this for you, but he will know one when he sees it.

To be fair, the original act also confers a lot of power to the President.  A key difference lies in the fact that in 1950, Congress passed the act and delegated the authority.  In 2012, Obama assumed the power himself.  As George Stephanopolous once said "stroke of the pen, law of the land, kind of cool."

Executive orders themselves rest on very shaky constitutional grounds.  The Founders intended that authority in the United States be a careful dance between the three branches of federal government, the state governments, and the people.  Presidential executive orders threaten that balance.  This power makes them more like medieval kings than chief executives of free republics. 

Article 1 Section 1 plainly states that Congress has all lawmaking power.  Without an amendment, it could not delegate this even if it wanted. 

Obama’s executive order grasps at vast authority to make decisions on almost any resource in times of national emergency.  James II would have been awestruck by this assumption of power.

Stephen Smoot

Dr. Stephen A. Smoot is a columnist, historian, political adviser, and media expert. He lives with his family in West Virginia.