As we approach the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency, there isn’t much that the president can do to change people’s opinion of him, for better or worse. His legacy, barring some extraordinary occurrence — including an extraterrestrial one, as the holiday advertising blitz for the new Independence Day movie reminds us — is baked into history.
Setting aside legislation and executive action (on which more imminently), we note that one of President Obama’s chief accomplishments has been to return the Constitution to a central place in our public discourse.
Unfortunately, the president fomented this upswing in civic interest not by talking up federalism or the separation of powers but by blatantly violating the strictures of our founding document. With his pen and his phone, and hearkening to Woodrow Wilson’s progressive view of government, he’s been taking out his frustrations with the checks and balances that inhibit his ability to “fundamentally transform” the country.
But a lack of congressional acquiescence hasn’t stopped this president. Even in his first term, the administration launched a “We Can’t Wait” initiative, with senior aide Dan Pfeiffer explaining that “when Congress won’t act, this president will.” And when the reelected President Obama announced his second-term economic plans, he explained that “I will not allow gridlock, or inaction, or willful indifference to get in our way.”
Accordingly, it hasn’t been difficult to point to constitutional abuses; the hard part is narrowing them down to a top-ten list. I did so in 2011 and 2013 (and once for Eric Holder when he resigned as attorney general), and now it’s time to do so again. Obamacare alone is a never-ending bonanza of lawlessness, so I’m limiting myself to five entries there.
In any case, herewith is my best stab at the list of President Obama’s top ten constitutional violations of the year (including actions taken in 2014 whose effects continued into 2015):