That seems like an awfully strong word, but it is the term that distinguished law professor Glenn Reynolds, no hysteric, uses to describe the Obama administration’s oft-reported plan to issue executive amnesty to five or six million illegal immigrants in violation of federal law. Glenn’s characterization is a fair one. When a tyrant asserts the right to rule by decree in a state that has formerly been subject to the rule of law, he is commonly described as carrying out a coup d’etat.
That is just what the Obama administration has done, and reportedly will continue to do. When Obama changed the Affordable Care Act by decree–to name just one example, substituting “2014” for “2013” in a critical provision of the statute–he acted as a tyrant. In his refusal to enforce the immigration laws, contrary to the Constitution which requires him to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” he has acted like a tinpot dictator, asserting the right to change or ignore the law by fiat. If he now directly nullifies Section 274(a) of the Immigration and Nationalities Act by legalizing, and issuing work permits to, five or six million illegal immigrants, thereby repealing federal law by decree, how else can we describe his action but as a coup? The Obama administration openly takes the position that the rule of law no longer applies.
Can you imagine the furor that would have resulted if President Nixon, in the midst of the Watergate crisis, had asserted the right to repeal or amend federal statutes by decree? No, actually, you can’t. Forget impeachment; he would have been escorted out of the Oval Office by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. What, then, makes Barack Obama special? How can he claim the right to rule by decree without suffering the same condemnation? Well, the answer is obvious: he is a Democrat. But is that really enough? No president, Democrat or Republican, has ever dreamed of asserting such unconstitutional authority.
I am one of many who have ridiculed the Democrats’ seemingly weird obsession with impeachment. But perhaps there is method to the Democrats’ apparent madness. If they know that President Obama is about to do something that obviously warrants impeachment–asserting the right to rule by executive decree, and repealing the nation’s immigration laws by fiat–perhaps it is shrewd on their part to preemptively attack the idea of impeachment and commit Republicans to the fact that they have no thought of any such thing. Then, when Obama makes his move, it will be harder for Republicans to switch gears and start talking about removing him from office. That strikes me as the most logical explanation for the Democrats’ well-coordinated, but seemingly pointless, anti-impeachment campaign.
Today, the White House started backing off on plans to issue an executive amnesty. Maybe, as Glenn Reynolds says, this is a sign that someone in the White House is in touch with reality. Perhaps a coup has been averted, on this subject at least. But eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, so let’s not let down our guard.