I’m not really a supporter of the President, but it’s clear to me that the GOP obstruction of his appointees is unprecedented and unacceptable. His appointments represented a record level of diversity, and faced unique obstruction. The Republicans in the Senate stopped him from appointing Judges or from appointing people to executive branch positions.
Most recently, they stopped him from appointing people during a recess (a common tactic by Presidents facing obstruction) by staying in session, refusing to adjourn. Obama responded by appointing his nominees anyway. Let me be clear: I’m glad Richard Cordray is heading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The obstruction of his confirmation was unreasonable, unethical and inappropriate.
Does that excuse a violation of the law by the person who has sworn to uphold it, however? Does the fact that this obstruction was unreasonable give room for Obama to skirt the letter of the law, in favor of what he interprets to be the intent?
My answer is that Obama (and any other President) should be held to a higher legal standard than other citizens, not a more politically convenient one. I’m not generally a fan of “slippery slope” arguments, but the inevitable extension of violating the law for convenience is obvious. What’s the difference between what Obama is doing now, and the GOP in Michigan ignoring roll call votes? In both cases, politicians are willfully ignoring the law in order to facilitate political convenience. True, the effects of the GOP’s illegalities are much more regressive than Obama’s, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are elected politicians ignoring the law for political reasons.
Beyond Obama himself exercising inappropriate powers, we have (at most) four and a half more years before someone other than Obama gets the exact same legal powers as Obama. To tell you just how disastrous this could be, keep in mind that in the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency, the democrats blocked all of his appointments (with good reason). Imagine if we elect another Bush-like politician: with the precedent that Obama just set, the regressive executive could simply ignore the fact that the senate was blocking his appointments and simply “recess” appoint when Congress is not in recess (as Obama did).
I’m no legal apologist: I believe citizens have a responsibility to break bad laws. However, if the President of the United States, the man we task with enforcing and upholding our laws, is allowed to break laws whenever he sees fit, the consequences could be disastrous: in the nightmare scenario, Obama might even feel like he can violate the war powers act, or kill any US citizens he believes guilty of a crime, outside of a battlefield, without due process and without legal culpability- and that would just be unthinkable.