February 28

M.D. Harmon: Obama cultivating a fourth branch of government

Federal agencies that spurn congressional authority are becoming an independent branch.

I’ve finally come to see that it’s Barack Obama’s country, and we all just live in it.

The Founders intended that the three branches of government have respect for each other’s roles. But while those boundaries once appeared to be inscribed in granite, they were really written on the wind.

It turns out the Founders’ ideal was entirely dependent on the willingness of the leaders we elected to honor it.

Thus, those boundaries were far more fragile than they appeared. They have been weakening for decades under progressive legal theories, and all it took was the election of a president with absolutely no regard for them to send them finally toppling.

The list of Obama’s incremental coups d’etat is far too long to lay out fully here, but it ranges from the president making phony promises and then rewriting Obamacare any way he wants, to his pet attorney general’s disregard for state and federal laws, to his continuing use of the Internal Revenue Service to persecute political opponents (as described in a Feb. 26 Wall Street Journal column by Bradley A. Smith) and regulatory agencies to cripple entire industries, to his blaming others for economic hardship under his oversight, to ruinous levels of spending for no useful purpose (while enriching political cronies), to dismantling our defenses while making empty threats to dictators abroad that have left our nation disrespected and vulnerable.

Others, too, have noticed. One prominent example is George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a liberal Obama voter who nevertheless told the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 3 that the structure of the U.S. government was becoming something the Founders wouldn’t recognize.

“I really have great trepidation over where we are heading because we are creating a new system here,” he said.

The Constitution forbids the president to usurp the powers of Congress, he said, adding that federal agencies under Obama’s direction that spurn congressional authority are becoming an independent branch of government.

“We have this rising fourth branch in a system that’s tripartite,” he said. “The center of gravity is shifting, and that makes it unstable. And within that system you have the rise of an uber-presidency.”

Turley continued: “There could be no greater danger for individual liberty, and I really think that the framers would be horrified by that shift because everything they’ve dedicated themselves to was creating this orbital balance, and we’ve lost it.”

But Obama’s core supporters don’t care, says historian Victor Davis Hanson. In a Feb. 25 column, “When Failure is Success,” he says Obama will always have strong support, typically running around 45 percent of the electorate.

“In a mere five years, by the vast expansion of federal spending, by the demonizing rhetoric of his partisan bully pulpit, and by executive orders and bizarre appointments, Obama has so divided the nation that he has created a permanent constituency that will never care as much about what he does as it cares about what he says and represents.”

Elite rich liberals, “whose money and privilege exempt them from the consequences of Obama’s policies and their own ideology,” like him because he is “iconic of their own progressivism and proof of their racial liberalism, and thus allows them to go on enjoying their privilege without guilt.”

And for “the vast new millions on federal disability insurance, food stamps, and other entitlements, Obama is their lifeline to government support. Who would risk losing that by worrying that the world is becoming a very dangerous place?”

Some see resistance to government overreach. University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds wrote in USA Today last weekend that public protests scotched plans to create a national license plate database and have federal monitors “study” news judgments at TV stations and even newspapers.

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