The Syrian despot, Bashar Al-Assad, recently took the liberty of gassing his own people. Online, anyone can see the horrifying pictures of even the smallest children slowly dying an agonizing death due to the gas.
After a great deal of outcry by the American and international media, President Trump’s military apparatus fired 59 missiles at the airfield from which it was believed the gas attack originated. I will admit, upon seeing this news, my heart started fluttering. Seeing the Assad regime being attacked was a great joy.
The joy only lasted a few moments until I remembered that I certainly did not recall any Congressional authorization for this attack. Unfortunately, many of President Trump’s allies in Congress and in the media did not feel the same way.
The executive branch’s actions in Syria are indeed very serious. The Constitution requires Congress’s approval before military action can be taken involving foreign affairs. It would seem that Trump’s allies have quickly forgotten this principal, as many of them were among the first to jeer at former President Obama’s actions in Libya, calling his actions unconstitutional. And they were correct.
It was wrong when former President Obama did it, and it is wrong when President Trump does it now. I would prescribe a substantive criminal prosecution of those responsible for this attack, as it is that serious an infraction on the law and order of the nation.
The president cannot deem military action virtuous by executive fiat. Of course any prosecution of this kind is absolutely unrealistic, but nonetheless warranted. The hypocrisy of Trump’s action is a symptom of a much greater problem in our society. The American people seem to want to be ruled.
We have now seen two presidents—back to back—completely ignore the constitutional order with literally no censure imposed on them by the two other branches of the federal government. The American people and the media seem to be perfectly comfortable ignoring procedure when it is their preferred party presiding over these affairs, only to feign horror when the shoe appears on the other foot.
Foreign affairs are not the only time executive fiat seems to be the desired procedure of governance. We can also see this phenomenon in the immigration system. The Trump administration has recently been entrenched in a battle with several states and municipalities about the so-called doctrine of a “sanctuary city” protection for undocumented immigrants. Under this doctrine, cities tell their law enforcement and judicial agencies that they are not willing to enforce federal immigration law.
These cities have every right to ignore the federal law if they wish—only federal agencies are obliged to enforce federal law. However, when federal bodies tell these cities that they will no longer be receiving federal dollars in certain areas as a result of their uncooperative, mayors like New York’s Bill de Blasio throw a temper tantrum and claim the federal government is “hostage taking” by withholding funding.
As if a parent actually might tell their child who cries every time they do not get their way that they can cry all they like, but they forfeit their privilege of having dessert is “hostage taking.” These mayors would like to have their cake and eat it too.
The federal government has an active interest in seeing their laws enforced by municipalities and states, and indeed to do anything else but provide punitive measures would be a abandonment of duty by the federal government.
Mayors like these would like the federal government to be happy and provide no consequences for the neglect of federal law on a whim. Really, what this desire says is, we would only like you to enforce the laws we like. This is imperial in its very nature.
Just like the legally baseless desire to be ruled by the president on foreign affairs, it seems localities would like to be ruled by the imperial wave of the hand on matters of immigration as well.
“I don’t like this law,” is not a sufficient principle by which the executive branch should be using whether or not punishments are being doled out to the states for not accepting various laws.
We do not have a king, we have a president; and the president (and his branch) must enforce the law that Congress creates. This is the nature of our government; the executive’s voice is not solely dispositive. Perhaps the legislature should change its immigration policy, but it has not and the executive branch has no choice but to act within the constitutional framework and enforce the laws it is given by Congress. This principle must hold true for every president of either party or the nation will soon collapse into autocracy.
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