It’s easy to tell when campaign season has begun. At a press conference Wednesday, President Obama appeared to show an appreciation for the limitations of federal power and respect for the self-regulating capabilities of the states. He even distanced himself from decisions made by his own radical appointees. It’s the same bait-and-switch routine from 2008 - candidate Obama is back.
One of the more interesting symptoms of this bout of campaign fever is the sudden discovery of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. “We cannot defend the federal government poking its nose into what states are doing,” said Mr. Obama. He also expressed concern that a particular federal program might involve unintended, negative consequences. “What I don’t want is a situation in which employers are forced to set up a system that they can’t be certain works,” he added in another context.
Statements likes these are intriguing considering Mr. Obama’s prime accomplishment to date has been ramming through a nationalized health care system with little regard for the impact on states and employers. He also has used his regulatory agencies to consolidate the reach of federal power into all the concerns of public life. The administration has turned air travel into a “privilege” granted by the federal government. It has supported gunrunning to Mexican drug cartels in a bizarre scheme whose goal may have been to concoct public support for new gun regulations here at home. His enlightened bureaucrats are busy dreaming up new restrictions on what people can buy.
There’s good reason to hope that the White House overreach in these areas may unintentionally revive the last and most neglected provisions of the Bill of Rights. Since the inauguration, eight states have enacted laws declaring the feds have no authority to regulate guns that don’t cross state lines - an effort Mr. Obama’s attorney general is fighting. The Supreme Court will inevitably have the final say. A June 16 ruling in the case Bond v. United States suggests the court might be paying attention to what’s happening. All nine justices agreed that an individual has standing to challenge a law if “Congress exceeded its powers under the Constitution, thus intruding upon the sovereignty and authority of the States.”
The premise that federal power is supreme and without limit has been central to Obamacare’s requirement that individuals be forced to buy health insurance, whether they want it or not. The administration also relies on this absolute federal-authority doctrine to shape all aspects of human activity from the overall level of allowable carbon-dioxide emissions to the design of the smallest showerhead. The high court may be leaning the right way. “By denying any one government complete jurisdiction over all the concerns of public life, federalism protects the liberty of the individual from arbitrary power,” wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
Of course, Mr. Obama’s support for states’ rights is limited to New York’s sanctioning of homosexual “marriage.” The president is only concerned with the unintended consequences of a federal database when it is part of the E-verify system used to keep employers from hiring illegal aliens. In Mr. Obama’s mind, states are only sovereign when implementing his agenda. That’s why those concerned with liberty of the individual are working to make Mr. Obama a one-termer in 2012.