Republicans Showing Respect for the Constitution, Finally

Peggy Noonan claims Congress is disrespecting the President, but they are really showing respect for the Constitution.


In an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, A Republic of Disrespect, Peggy Noonan castigates the Congress for inviting Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session. She sees it as in bad form. In her words:

The United States has an elected president who serves a four-year term, and in that time he gets to conduct the nation’s formal diplomatic efforts and policy and to oversee its foreign-affairs apparatus and agencies.

Does Mr. Obama deserve to be embarrassed in this way? Of course he does! In his long years in the presidency he has demonstrated no regard for the Republicans of Congress, and now they are showing no regard for him.

But it is still a bad move, a damaging snub that makes divisions more dramatic, and not only between Congress and the president.

Ultimately, she is concerned about the precedent it will set for a Democratic Congress and a Republican President.

Ms. Noonan is correct that the President is the chief executive of the nation. He is commander in chief of the military. Foreign affairs are uniquely in his realm of authority.

However, Ms. Noonan fails to observe two things. First, and most importantly, she fails to recognize one authority Congress does have. They have the power of impeachment. Ms. Noonan does observe that Mr. Obama shows no regard for the Republicans in Congress. But it goes farther than this, and hopefully the Republicans in Congress are doing this for better reasons than political gain. Mr. Obama, in the six years of his presidency, has shown no regard for the law. He has destroyed our foreign policy and our respect around the world. It is well known that Mr. Obama dislikes Netanyahu.

[See also, “Now Can We Please Talk About Impeachment?]

Mr. Obama shows no respect for the American people, challenging them and their elected representatives, the Congress, at every turn with veto threats. Many in this nation want to see him impeached. The people have spoken and it is the obligation of Congress to fulfill their Constitutional role, and that role includes exercising a check and a balance on a dictatorial chief executive. In order to exercise this responsibility, they must build a case, they must do fact finding. Part of that responsibility includes talking with and engaging those with whom Obama deals.

Second, she fails to recognize that this President has exceeded his authority. He has no respect for the Constitution and commits acts far beyond the limits of his Constitution authority. Congress must regain a bargaining position in order to recover their Constitutional authority as the nation’s legislative body. In the 1640s, the English Parliament called up a military force to prosecute a war against the Royal Army and overthrow King Charles I for ruling without Parliament’s consent. The war is commonly known as the English Civil War. The Parliamentarian New Model Army was victorious, bringing in the English Commonwealth. This is hardly a precedent we want to follow. However, with a chief executive that is out of control, drastic measures are necessary to bring him within bounds.

This would not ordinarily be a precedent for Democrats in any subsequent reasonable Republican administration. However, if a Republican administration becomes unreasonable as this one has become, it should be a precedent. Ordinarily, Republicans are incapable of standing on principle. It is in the Republican DNA to give in and give in and give in. They think they do it to curry favor and gain power. This is the first sign of a backbone the Republicans have shown. For a President that is reasonable, these measures are not necessary. But, in extreme circumstances, drastic measures are necessary. Other measures such as this may be necessary to reign in this President. Hopefully, other such measures are being planned. Should this President be embarrassed to exercise his power within his Constitutional limits? Yes. So should all Presidents who exceed their Constitutional authority.


David Linton writes at the Blackstone Initiative.