What’s A Constitution Among Friends?

Obama_Boehner_golfThe press has blown a gasket the past few days crowing about the breach of protocol related to Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress. The charge, and it’s not without merit, is that “Ambassadors and other public ministers” must be received by the president, as stated in Article Two, Section Three of the Constitution. As head of state, the argument goes, it’s the president’s right to meet with other heads of state. By inviting Netanyahu to speak and bypassing the White House, critics contend that Speaker Boehner ignored the Constitution.

The Constitution is rather vague on this issue. The language of the relevant section states that presidents “shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers.” In the context of how Article Two is framed, Section Three lists what might be considered duties of the president rather than prerogatives (which are dealt with in the previous section). In this sense, while protocol may have been violated by not clearing Netanyahu’s visit with the White House, the refusal of the president to meet with the head of a foreign nation could also be construed as a violation of constitutional duty. As read, the president is required in his symbolic capacity as our leader to meet with foreign heads of state. He might refuse, but such action can only be interpreted as a diplomatic statement, and an antagonistic one at that.
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Boehner’s Blunder: How Suing Obama Can Destroy the Separation of Powers

“The problem with what the president is doing is that he’s not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system. He is becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid. That is the concentration of power in a single branch.”  December 3, 2013, testimony of George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley before the U.S. House.

The Bill of Rights protects our liberties, but the Bill of Rights is not our only Constitutional protection. The Constitution’s separation of powers is less well-known but no less important. Obama brags openly that he will ignore the separation of powers. He will use his pen and his phone to bypass Congress. He will institute his personal rule over the United States.

John Boehner is acting to push back Obama’s violation of the separation of powers. Unfortunately, he is ignoring the means provided by the Constitution for doing so. He is suing Obama instead. As explained below, if Boehner’s suit succeeds, it will permanently destroy the Constitution’s separation of powers.
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Were the Founding Fathers Liberal?

When America was 225 years younger than it is today, there were no liberals and no conservatives. And there was no liberalism and no conservatism. Such terms, and the clusters of political views they represent, were unknown in America at least through the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. How Americans eventually divided into liberals and conservatives, and how liberalism and conservatism came to represent distinct political worldviews, are questions too big to answer fully in this tiny blog space. But we can make some headway by looking at the word “liberal” as it was understood in the era of America’s founding.

At that time, “liberal” was almost always used in a positive sense and almost always referred to the virtue of liberality. A person was liberal not by having a particular set of political beliefs but by possessing this particular virtue. Following the ancients, especially Aristotle, Americans understood liberality first as the virtue of free and rational generosity. Liberality was the capacity to give of one’s own free will and to give with purpose–in the right way, at the right time, for the right end. Giving that lacked these qualities was not virtuous. Bestowing a hundred dollars cash on a homeless alcoholic, for example, would not be an act of liberality. It would be an act of prodigality–a vice, not a virtue. Continue reading