September 18, 2009

Obama going on my Dictator Watch?

I haven't provided a Dictator Watch update in quite some time. The truth is that it's been a very touchy subject for me since the President abdicated a meaningful position on the rigged election in Iran and the subsequent brutality of the Ahmedinejad/Khameni regime. But it's an area that needs attention, especially in light of events this last week and especially yesterday. More on that in my next Dictator Watch - my next post.

One important insight can be drawn from the Iranian election scenario. Specifically, if you notice the approach that the President chose to take, one of non-intervention and a weak pronouncement of displeasure, you can see the beginnings of an M.O. That modus operandi was evident in the situation in Honduras.

When the military overthrew the country's President Zelaya, and turned over authority to -------, they were doing so because of an attempt to circumvent the country's Constitution.
The ousted president, who was in office since 2006, had wanted to hold a referendum that could have led to an extension of his non-renewable four-year term in office.
Most conservative bloggers, rightly, focused on the fact that the President was being tougher on a country trying to keep it's democracy intact (albeit by non-democratic means) than he was on the brutal and evil Iranian regime. He called the coup illegal.

Overlooked though, was the fact that the President, busy taking the side of the socialists, provided two more clues to his behavior. Firstly, the condemnation and non-involvement approach was yet again on display. Secondly, and not surprisingly, he values the rule of law more than he values the right and freedoms of the people that those laws are imposed upon, who ostensibly, they are designed to protect.

That view is evident his approach to governance at home. While many parts of the legislation Democrats are attempting to enact seem Constitutionally questionable, if they can make it through and face the inevitable Supreme Court challenges then they are the rules. Similarly when the President spoke in the past about the Constitution being a bill of 'negative rights', he entirely misses the point of the Constitution.

Th Constitution does not grant rights to individuals, it takes as given inalienable rights and then sets about the task of trying to prevent them from being taken - by government. The point seems lost on a President who seeks a Supreme Court Justice with empathy. Isn't justice supposed to be blind? Color, gender, ethnicity, religion and the like are not supposed to matter. Neither is empathy.  What is supposed to matter is the facts in the case at hand, and what the laws say about those facts. That one party in a given case is poor and the other rich is not supposed to be a factor in the court's decision. If the poor person was in the wrong, he doesn't deserve special consideration beyond whatever facts are relevant to the case (e.g. the wrong done was clearly accidental versus deliberate).

Obama, a student and professor of the legal discipline, should know this. And he does. That is why he is furthering the march towards a re-write of the rules of the game in as large of incremental steps as he believes he can get away with. Will he attempt to alter the Constitution? Not likely. He just needs to change how people interpret it. That's less invasive and can accomplish the same task with less pain to him and his cause.

Does that make President Obama a dictator? No it doesn't. It does make him dangerous, and not in a good I'm-going-to-fix-a-bad-system way. It does make him a force for negative change - subtly removing pillars of American democracy in the name of one specific vision of social justice. And it makes him antithetical to real liberty and equality (that's a post for another day). But it does not make him a dictator.

He is using his time in office to push the country as far left as he can as fast as he can without derailing his own train. While he can come off as arrogant and dictatorial there are many appropriate words for the President. Dictator is not one of them.

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