As the news broke Wednesday that President Obama would finally do what he has been threatening to do for months, the emotion that gripped me was not the one I expected. It was not anger, not frustration, not sarcasm, and not contempt.
It was just sadness. It was a feeling that something had died.
This is a turning point. This is a new nation. Fundamentally changed.
If we are indeed to become a country in which the chief executive ignores laws and does as he pleases, then we are finished.
Mr. Obama will appear on the TV tonight and describe some technicalities that, according to his interpretation, allow him to wholly revamp the law of the land, permitting what has expressly not been permitted by those who write the law.
We know it will be a technicality because, even a year ago, Mr. Obama himself expressed the view that this could not be done. So he, wanting to do it, had to find a way to do it. Attorneys can always find a way buried in some legal document somewhere.
It’s worth remembering that dictatorships are often, technically, justifiable enterprises. Those who rule absolutely love to point to some provision that offers a rationale for – or rather, even, compels – their exercise of unchecked power.
The ruling class of the Soviet Union was elected. No matter that they ran unopposed and received 99 percent of the vote. It was an election. Learn to love it, Kulaks.
Or maybe such autocrats claim the divine right of kings. Or perhaps that “the people” demand that their wishes be implemented, and the leader is left with simply no choice. Now we’re getting closer to Mr. Obama. Democracy by acclamation.
In all the years I have covered Washington and watched as wrong and even abusive things were done, I have never felt such a sense of loss.
Bill Clinton was a common barbarian, degrading the Oval Office and the nation with his unfettered animal desire and lying about it to a grand jury. Well, that was terrible, but the nation had survived such stuff before and, besides, he was duly impeached. The system was meant to guard against abusive leaders, and the system worked, to an extent at least.
When Obamacare passed, I knew it meant a whole new phase in the inexorable growth of government intrusion into our lives, and not just in the area of health care. But, look, Obama was elected president. And while Harry Reid pulled a bit of a fast one to get it through the Senate, it was still approved by a majority vote that included 59 of 100 senators. All duly elected. And every voter knew Obamacare was on the ballot.
The system produced a bad result. But the system still worked.
Today, there doesn’t seem to be a system anymore.
In an article published in the November 2014 issue of Decision magazine, the Rev. Billy Graham grieved that we had entered a “lawless and wicked age.” He wrote:
We are beginning to reap what has been sown for the past generation. We have taught the philosophy of the devil, who says, “Do as you please” . . . Psychiatrists have told parents to let their children do as they please, lest in restraining them they may warp the children’s personalities.
We have taken God out of our educational systems and thought we could get away with it. We have sown the wind, and we are now reaping the whirlwind.
Many of our educational leaders sneer at the old-fashioned idea of God and a moral code. Movies feature sex, sin, crime and alcohol. Teenagers see these things portrayed alluringly on the screen and decide to go and try them. Newspapers have played up crime and sex until they seem glamorous to our young people.
Do as you please. It is the philosophy of the Left, inflicted upon the country from the 1960s onward. The Left half a century ago began seizing our educational system and the media, and now we have become a country too much in the thrall of its ideas. It’s a wonder, and a testament to the strength of the American character and its resistance to corruption, that conservatives are elected at all.
What Obama is doing is of apiece with this “feels good” philosophy. Timeless principles are thrown to the wind to allow the indulgence of desire. Obama wants immigration reform. And therefore, it shall be.
The Founders of this country understood very well that their written construct, the Constitution, could not secure our freedom. That the nation would have to produce virtuous people to lead it, people who understood the good thing that had been done and would act to preserve, protect and defend it.
“A Republic, if you can keep it,” Benjamin Franklin responded when asked what had been created at the Constitutional Convention.
Today, there are not such virtuous people in charge of the executive branch. They are people who believe might makes right. And they our floating our country toward a sad, sinking, senescence.