"Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation — I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.*
"* Unless, you know, 224 years from now, whoever happens to president simply decides he really doesn't want to do that."
— Article II, Section 1, Clause 8 of Barack Obama's U.S. Constitution
The Founders set the course in a simple, concise, 35-word affirmation — the president's top job is to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution. The chief executive does, of course, have other responsibilities, but his guardianship of the document they had just written was deemed by the Founders to be of such great import that they made him swear it — aloud, in front of witnesses.
In 1884, Congress, having no set oath of office, wrote its own: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same ..."
Little did they know then that 128 years later, America would face just that: a domestic threat to the U.S. Constitution.
From the very beginning, the president and his administration made clear they had no intention of enforcing laws they didn't like. Mr. Obama and his minions decided that they would simply stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act, no longer prosecute growers of "medical" marijuana, and let some states walk away from provisions in the No Child Left Behind law (which, by the way, was co-authored by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and passed the Senate by a 91-8 vote).
Mr. Obama's Justice Department has even more flagrantly flouted the laws of the land. Out of the blue, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the nation's chief law enforcement officer, reinterpreted America's gambling laws (and dumped the decision on Christmas Eve so as to avoid scrutiny). More recently, Mr. Holder has decided to thwart congressional oversight by refusing to release documents on the disastrous "Fast and Furious" gun-running scheme, and he is actively fighting Florida for trying to expunge dead people from its voter rolls.
Now comes Mr. Obama's decision to stop enforcing America's immigration laws. The new policy states that illegal immigrants who were younger than 16 when they entered the country are eligible for a two-year exemption from deportation. Of course, the "deferred action process," as Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano called it, will apply to illegals up to age 30. (Think when they legally get their driver's licenses they will also be handed a voter registration card?)
The increasingly desperate Mr. Obama, once a constitutional professor, knows full well he is circumventing Congress. In March 2011 he told a group of young Hispanics: "America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the president, am obligated to enforce the law. I don't have a choice about that. That's part of my job.
"Congress passes the law. The executive branch's job is to enforce and implement those laws," he said. "There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president."
So why now? Politics. The Hispanic population in Florida, Virginia, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado may well decide the November election, and with working-class whites, religious blacks, disenchanted young people and Jews fleeing in droves, Mr. Obama is looking to shore up his support, even if that means violating his oath to protect the Constitution.
Continuing his nonstop campaign of division — black against white, rich against poor, straight against gay, religious against secular, race against race — the president is seeking to build whatever loose coalition of support he can. Forget bipartisanship; a coalition of the middle, Mr. Obama's sole path to victory, he thinks, is to stir up so much discontent within different strata that he can win re-election.
Of course, the liberals who whined about President George W. Bush's signing statements haven't made a peep about Mr. Obama's Napoleonic power grab.
"What's ironic," columnist Charles Krauthammer noted, "is for eight years, the Democrats have been screaming about the imperial presidency with the Bush administration — the nonsense about the unitary executive. This is out-and-out lawlessness."
But that doesn't matter when you are King Barack. The Founders were determined to make sure no American leader ever had the power King George III enjoyed. Which is why they also wrote this in the Constitution: "The president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.