Liberals and conservatives don’t often come together on important issues because they commute from different planets. Pundits of various stripe bemoan the lack of common values and ponder why Democrats, Republicans, conservatives and liberals seem to have lost respect not only for each other’s views, but for each other.
Partisanship is inherent in a democracy, but until recently most American politicians shared more values than not; they were all a part of a liberal (as classically understood) tradition that values human freedom, free speech and the institutional arrangements put into place by the Founding Fathers.
In times past these values have been threatened, when certain politicians argued that they should be rejected. Woodrow Wilson assaulted the Constitution head on, and he and the liberals/progressives who followed have embraced the idea that free speech should be considered a luxury to be enjoyed by the loyal rather than by all as a right. The liberals/progressives of the present day follow a different star. They hold the Founders in contempt, reject the guarantees of the Bill of Rights and consider the constraints imposed by the Constitution to be foolish, outmoded and unneeded restraints on executive power.
President Obama is the contemporary leader of this school of liberalism/progressivism. That he once taught constitutional law invites sympathy for his students (and their parents paying the bill) who thought they were getting a solid education in the law. It’s clear that he doesn’t understand what the Constitution is about or, more likely, considers it irrelevant.
He obviously rejects the concept of the separation of powers, disdains Congress and its role, and is impatient with the idea that he should have to follow or respect the findings of the courts.
Now there’s a bit of good news, indicating that the entire world has not yet gone mad. Conservatives have been warning for a long time that the president is undermining the foundations of the republic that he has sworn — twice — to defend and protect. Now those conservatives are not alone.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, a certified liberal who voted for Mr. Obama and admires many of his goals, now sees his feet of clay. He argues that the president poses a clear and present danger to the constitutional framework of the government. He argues that Mr. Obama has “become the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid,” and warns that the president’s overreach has led to a “tipping point” that could permanently alter the system that has for so long made Americans a free people.
Mr. Turley has been joined by Laurence Tribe, the iconic law professor at Harvard, who warned this week that Mr. Obama has shredded the Constitution. Professor Tribe, like Mr. Turley, is a proud old liberal, not a newly minted “progressive,” and like Mr. Turley, believes that it’s as important to understand how things are done as to applaud what is being done.
They both no doubt think Mr. Obama wants to do the right thing, and simply doesn’t understand that under the American system presidents aren’t meant to be dictators. If so, Mr. Obama has never read or passed to his students the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, a liberal icon of an earlier day, who warned in Olmstead v. the United States that “the greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”
Mr. Brandeis got it. Mr. Obama clearly doesn’t, or worse, doesn’t care. He should be sent back to school.