Letter from America

A Law Suit Against Obama

Farooque Chowdhury

Amatured bourgeois democracy's crisis-condition comes to light with the announcement of a plan for a law suit against the president of the democracy, Barack Obama. The law suit being planned probably will trail the president of the US.

Announcement of the plan for law suit, whether the plan goes to the court or not, exposes a part of the state of the union along with the democracy the union practices.

John Boehner, the US House speaker has announced his plan to file a lawsuit alleging that president Obama has abused his executive authority by implementing policies without congressional approval. Boehner said Obama was ignoring the laws that Congress passes.

However, the House speaker in his late-June announcement did not identify the executive actions the House would challenge. At the same time, he assured the action's aim is not impeachment proceedings against the president: "This is not about impeachment."

Boehner considers the law suit's aim is to protect the rights of Congress under the constitution. "The constitution makes it clear that the President's job is to faithfully execute the law. In my view, the President has not faithfully executed the law," said Boehner.

The speaker is planning to ask the taxpayer-funded Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to file a lawsuit to counter the president's executive actions. The advisory group's responsibilities include instructing the House General Counsel to take legal action.

The speaker mentioned the "golden rule" of separation of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches: "Congress has its job to do and so does the president and when there's conflict like this between the legislative branch and the administrative branch, it's in my view our responsibility to stand up for this institution in which we serve."

A Newsweek report said: "Executive monarchy", "imperial precedents" and "aggressive unilateralism"—these are just a few of the terms being bandied about since House Speaker John Boehner announced two days ago a grand plan to sue President Barack Obama. (Leah McGrath Goodman, "An Embarrassing Hole in Boehner's Plan to Sue 'King' Obama", June 29, 2014)

Boehner urged House members to join him in challenging the president in a memo: "If the current president can selectively enforce, change or create laws as he chooses with impunity, without the involvement of the legislative branch, his successors will be able to do the same," Boehner said. "This shifts the balance of power decisively and dangerously in favor of the presidency, giving the president king-like authority at the expense of the American people and their elected legislators." (ibid.)

A spokesman to the speaker said that Boehner only hoped to compel Obama to enforce a number of laws, which are expected to be disclosed in the coming days.

The White House criticized congressional Republicans for considering the legal measure against the president. Josh Earnest, the White House spokesperson, said such a move, funded by taxpayers, would not be supported by most Americans.

The White House considers Obama uses executive actions this year to move his agenda forward.

Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader (D-California), has termed the planned Republican move as "subterfuge" with the hope to distract voters from a legislative lull at the Capitol. She said: "They're doing nothing here, and so they have to give some aura of activity."

She tried to make a comparison: Obama's use of executive actions "hasn't come anywhere near what Republican presidents have done".

There are measures by Obama with which Republicans are not happy. These include halting a number of immigrants' deportations, raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers and extending the family and medical leave benefits to gay couples.

The "disagreements" are not limited within border. It's an empire, not a small state. So, problems are spread over the globe. And, the area of competition among factions of the Empire's dominating elites is worldwide.
Boehner perceives Obama has ignored the rapidly deteriorating Iraq situation: "And what's the president doing? Taking a nap!" The House speaker's preference in Iraq is: "Get engaged before it's too late."

Failures are now overwhelming the Empire. Many of the Empire's politicians are annoyed with the failures as interests are at stake.

The Empire, a part of its politicians perceive, has failed to make Baghdad regime agree to a status of forces agreement although the regime was the Empire's creation. The failure bears "serious consequences for ... American interests in the region." Boehner finds: "The president has celebrated our exit from Iraq as a hallmark of his foreign policy agenda..." But the speaker feels instead of celebration the "focus should be... on completing our mission successfully." However, the speaker, it seems, is undecided on a vital issue: whether the Empire should launch air strikes against the jihadists or not.

On the opposite, Pelosi feels : The US should not be dragged back into conflict there. "I don't think there's any appetite in our country for us to become engaged in any more military activity in Iraq," said Pelosi. "The American people have been exhausted with wars."

Obama's Taliban deal—five top Taliban fighters; for US sergeant Bergdahl—is now being questioned: Risk to the US military and civilian personnel serving around the globe has increased. "Those who would argue the opposite, I think, are incredibly naive," said Boehner.

His further statement is devastating: "One of our citizens' greatest protections was knowing that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists, and that issue now—that principle has been compromised. America is willing to make deals with terrorists. That's the new Obama doctrine."

The Empire has renounced its "principled" stand, and has negotiated and made deal with the elements it considers terrorists.

Boehner also brings to notice the Empire's "failed policies" in Syria, Libya and Egypt. "He [Obama] continues to endanger our troops and citizens with his failed foreign policies," said the House speaker.

A stunt
Obama, on the other hand, blasted Boehner's plans to sue him calling the legal action "a stunt".
In an ABC News interview Obama told: "You notice that he didn't specifically say what exactly he was objecting to." Obama later said he wouldn't apologize for "trying to do something while [lawmakers] are doing nothing."

A part of the politicians of the Empire, as Obama said, is engaged with making stunt. For whom the stunt is made? It's for the electorate.

And, using the US president's term, the stunt is made with serious issues: abuse of power, ignore laws, failure in going by the constitution, etc.

The fact gets exposed: constitution, law, power, etc. are part of bourgeois political game, an old bourgeois style. Ab uno disce omnes from one learn all. (Virgil, Aeneid. II) Nothing is sacrosanct to the bourgeois though it never poses reckless while propagating rule of law, check and balance in distribution of power, upholding constitution.

An exercise with arithmetic
Despite the House speaker's claim executive power-arithmetic presents a different reality.
Gerhard Peters and John Woolley, co-founders of the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, are among the leading authorities in the US on the use of presidential executive power, going back to George Washington. Citing Peters the above cited Newsweek report said:
"Obama has issued fewer executive orders than any other president since Franklin Roosevelt. In the modern era that most presidential scholars believe began with Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, Obama has issued the least number of executive orders per year".

The report added:
"Obama's yearly average of 33.58 executive orders is lower than any president in 130 years, going back to Chester Arthur, who averaged 27.7 executive orders a year. (Peters prefers using an average-per-year metric, as the length of presidential terms can greatly vary.)

"By comparison, George W Bush clocked in at 36.38 and Clinton at 45.5. Reagan topped 47 and Carter hit 80, but no president has broken above 100 since Truman, who surpassed 116 and flexed his authoritative muscles to desegregate the Armed Forces with an executive order in 1948, notes Peters, 'a much more controversial use of executive orders than anything Obama has so far done.'
"As of June 20, Obama had issued 182 executive orders, covering everything from financial sanctions on Ukraine and Russia to equal pay for men and women."

Reason behind the law suit plan should be searched if the number of executive orders issued by Obama is fewer and least per year than his predecessors. It's, the factional feud in the guise of upholding the constitution, "something" else: deeper and graver issues and interests. Its origin is somewhere else: factional interests. The law suit plan is on the surface that hides some fundamental issues: competition in other spheres.

A ruling
A recent Supreme Court ruling has also questioned presidential power: Obama exceeded his authority when he made temporary appointments to the National Labor Relations Board curing a brief Senate break in 2012. Republicans cheered with the ruling.

The ruling further exposes tricks practiced by the factions, intensified competition among the factions, and, more basically, a reality that tells of a decline.

A serious problem
The Newsweek report mentioned above cites a number of experts, and a serious problem is identified.
"Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, believes a shift toward greater executive power began before Obama and represents a concerning trend. 'Even though I voted for President Obama and agree with many of his policies, in my view there is a serious problem here,' he told Newsweek. 'We've been seeing a shift in our system that certainly didn't start with the president, but the rise of this new type of uber-president is destabilizing to our system.'

"it's very weird for the speaker of the House to suggest something like this,' says John Hudak, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington. 'That said, if the speaker feels the president has violated the constitutional order of powers in a way that has harmed tie House, he may feel he needs to sue.'

"Hudak is skeptical. 'While the use of executive power is always an important and healthy discussion to have over any president, my feeling is, this is not being born of a true concern over constitutionality but being born over party politics.'"

The "shift toward greater executive power" signifies certain compulsions and limitations arising out of a situation developing in the realm of governing of interests. The move, on the ether hand, turns serious if simply it's "being born over party politics" as serious issues like "abuse of power", etc. are being pulled out of Pandora's Box of bourgeois politics; and it's being pulled out not by an opponent class, but by members of the same ruling class.

An exposure
Statements and counter-statements by responsible members of the state machine, and opinions/observations by experts cited above, bring to surface the following facts:
(1)     Legislative branch of the advanced democracy finds no power to check abuse of power by executive branch, and is failing to protect its rights under constitution.
(2)    Executive branch is implementing policies without approval of legislative branch, is ignoring the laws, and is not faithfully executing law.
(3)    Taxpayers' money will be used to carry out a political fight between factions of dominating interests; and the factional fight at the expense of taxpayers is considered as a stunt.
(4)    An elected president finds no other way but to resort to issuing executive orders, which means legislative branch stands opposed to steps executive branch feels needed for the economy.
(5)    Legislative branch is in a legislative lull—doing nothing—and the branch subterfuges to distract voters by creating an aura of activity, and probably, the tact will be carried out, if the plan materializes, with taxpayers' money.
(6)    Executive actions are taken by two dominating factions—Democrats and Republicans. None is saint.
(7)    Executive actions, if not appropriate, are considered justified as Republicans also resorted to that; a fallacy indeed. But some other logic, like "urgency", "failure of legislative branch to respond to the call of the hour", "reneging by legislative branch", would have been better to justify the actions.
(8)    There are "a shift toward greater executive power", "a concerning trend", "a serious problem", "a shift in [the] system", "the rise of [a] new type" that "is destabilizing [the] system" as the speaker of the House "feels the president has violated the constitutional order of powers in a way that has harmed the House". And, this is "being born over party politics."
(9)    Stunt is part of bourgeois politics. Its ethical stand and morality is defined. And, its ethical and moral standard is nullified.
(10)   These—lull, stunt, subterfuge, carrying out factional fight by using taxpayers' money—are happening/being done at a time, when the democracy near-reaches to debt limit, government of the democracy remains shut down for days, infrastructure, an immediate requirement for trade and industry, finds scarcity of funds for its repair and maintenance, and people, as Pelosi said, are exhausted with war.
(11)    State of rule in peripheral states can be easily assumed if state of a matured bourgeois democracy, the largest Empire in the world system, engages with the above mentioned practice. This, the state of rule in peripheral states, is a serious question as the population in these states is much, much higher than the population in all the matured bourgeois democracies. The state of rule in the peripheral states is a distorted, lumpenized version of democracy having no role of the demos, the popular classes, in governance that only increases suffering of the population. In general, the peripheral states are part of the world system that the Empire presides over. Type and character of democracy in these states can be assumed easily as these are the states, where the Empire exports/trying to export democracy of its own version.

Thomas Jefferson in his first inaugural address in 1801 mentioned "sovereign functions of legislation", "all will ... arrange themselves under the will of the law", "preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor", "arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason".

Concerned interests at that time required these in the way they interpreted: "sovereign functions of legislation", "will of the law", "constitutional vigor", etc. as mentioned by Jefferson representing the group of farmers, small entrepreneurs and artisans.

More than two hundred years later, the bourgeois democracy, which has matured long ago, and is being run by the matured bourgeoisie, is facing elementary, but fundamental quesiions, and is failing to resolve the questions without infringing, as a branch of the state perceives, power of a branch. The questions of power and its limits, separation of power, check and balance between branches of state were discussed, debated, and considered settled down more than two hundred years ago.

George Washington in his farewell address in 1796 said: "The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. ... for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty which you so highly prize." In the same address, Washington mentioned: "overgrown military establishment"... "under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty..."

More than two hundred years ago, concerned interests in the boirgeois democracy considered "unity of government" "main pillar" for its "independence", "tranquility", "safety", "prosperity" and "liberty" in the way it interpreted. Disunity in the government appears as a threat to the interests. Today's allegations and stunts don't cement the unity Washington desired. But today's concerned interests find no other way.

Vol. 47, No. 6, Aug 17 - 23, 2014