White House “Ethics”: Obamacare Justifies The Means

Supreme Court protests: pointless when anyone else organizes them, unethical when the White House organizes them.

I was stunned by the news reports of the White House organizing pro-Obamacare demonstrations outside the Supreme Court, and then found myself stunned that I was stunned.

It should have been obvious to all, which includes me, that President Obama and Democratic supporters of Obamacare were so determined to pass this mess that it stopped mattering to them long ago what democratic and constitutional principles were nicked, warped, distorted and violated in the process. This should be obvious regardless of whether one likes the final product (as if anyone knows what that really is, even today—principle nicked: transparent government).

The final bill was passed with a series of legislative maneuvers that had never been mustered all in the support of one controversial bill (principle warped: process and representative democracy); it was built on an expansion of Congressional power the is either unconstitutional or a frightening slippery slope (principle distorted: individual freedom); the individual mandate was (and is) simultaneously sold to the public as not being a tax while argued to the courts as one (principle violated: honesty and integrity), the Congressional Budget Office’s verdict was obtained using accounting tricks and deceitful projections (principle nicked: fairness); and misrepresentation was the norm on both sides of the debate (principles violated: respect for the public; candor, transparency and honesty). Now that the President is already campaigning for re-election and the health care law remains his signature accomplishment—if you consider it that and not a fiasco—the White House has made it clear that, while it may not be fair to say it will stop at nothing to save it, what it won’t stop at to protect the measure is a damning indictment of its integrity.

From the New York Times, one of the few non-conservative media sources to cover the story:

“On Wednesday, White House officials summoned dozens of leaders of nonprofit organizations that strongly back the health law to help them coordinate plans for a prayer vigil, press conferences and other events outside the court when justices hear arguments for three days beginning March 26.”

Demonstrating outside the U.S. Supreme Court regarding a case under deliberation, whether it be on abortion, gun rights or any other issue, is an inherently fatuous exercise, as it treats the Court as if it is an institution to be influenced by lobbying, popular opinion, or political pressure. The fact that advocacy groups persist in doing this shows either ignorance of the legal system or open contempt for it. One would think that a President, especially one who is an attorney and who is a supposed authority on Constitutional law, would have more respect for the appropriate division between the elected branches of the government and the one branch that makes its decisions according to what the law of the land dictates rather than what its members personally prefer. In the case of President Obama, one would be tragically wrong.

And while the Executive Branch organizing demonstrations and protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court may not be a technical violation of the separation of powers, it certainly is unseemly and a breach of the principle’s spirit. It is impossible to imagine the reverse, with Supreme Court justices organizing demonstrations outside the White House, in protest, for example of  President Obama’s misleading and undignified attack on the Citizens United decision in his 2010 State of the Union Message. The President has a legal, appropriate and Constitutional way to influence the Court’s decision on whether Obamacare’s individual mandate will survive, and it is embodied in legal briefs and oral arguments, like any litigant. There is no benign interpretation of the White House’s efforts to pressure the Court. If it seeks to use outside groups to influence the decision, that is unethical. If it is seeking to undermine the credibility of the final decision should it go against the President, that is irresponsible and an attack on the system he is sworn to protect.

Three years into the job, and Barack Obama still acts like a community organizer rather than President of the United States. The worst part of that confusion is that he seems not to understand that as President, “the ends justify the means” is not an acceptable approach to every problem—including the preservation of Obamacare.

11 thoughts on “White House “Ethics”: Obamacare Justifies The Means

  1. “Here’s what Obama said on November 8, 2004, when asked why he’d already ruled out running for president in 2008 (video embedded right):

    You know, I am a believer in knowing what you’re doing when you apply for a job. And I think that if I were to seriously consider running on a national ticket, I would essentially have to start now, before having served a day in the Senate. Now, there are some people who might be comfortable doing that, but I’m not one of those people.

    Read more: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2008/09/13/2004-flashback-obama-felt-he-lacked-experience-be-president#ixzz1or7BXpMf

  2. Demonstrating outside the U.S. Supreme Court regarding a case under deliberation, whether it be on abortion, gun rights or any other issue, is an inherently fatuous exercise, as it treats the Court as if it is an institution to be influenced by lobbying, popular opinion, or political pressure.

    We all like to think that if the Court is embodying anyone’s preferences, it would be the “of the men who framed” the law in question. Ex parte Bain, 121 U.S. 1 at 12 (1887)

    Sadly, this is not the case with Eighth Amendment jurisprudence, which relies on “evolving standards of decency” Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86 at 101 (1958) Whether it is the standards of Congress, the general public, or individual judges, Trop means that we can no longer rely on a fixed set of standards to protect us from cruel and unusual punishment, but on standards that could very well evolve as to mean that, depending on the judge deciding the case, anything goes, or in the reverse, any sort of punishment is too cruel.

    Trop should be overruled.

    As to the topic in question, supporting these demonstration further erodes the appearance of the judiciary as an impartial body that protects the rights of minorities as embodied in the law from majoritarian influence. And yes, Obama should know that.

  3. I am amused (as you probably were in hindsight) that you were surprised. If you believe in an activist court, doesn’t this make sense? If laws are to be interpreted and contorted by contemporary wishes and political agendas, shouldn’t you protest to get the decision you want? I do like how we now have Communist-regime style ‘official’ protests organized by the executive. I’m sure it will have maximum TV and press coverage from the ‘official’ (liberal) press outlets where the turnout will be reportedly in the millions while only close-ups of the protests are broadcast. Then Fox will show a wide-angle shot and declare the attendance as “hundreds of public employees who heeded the President’s call” to pressure the Supreme Court”. Popcorn, anyone…

    • I was surprised because I can’t seem to process how cynical, arrogant and essentially lawless this administration is in its defiance of basic Democratic and Constitutional principles. My sister is a strong partisan Democrat, and she was shocked at this move, though she has concluded that in legal matters this White House is out to lunch to an unprecedented respect.

      • I always wondered what was taught in those Constitutional Law classes. I found this quote amusing from FACTCHECK.ORG

        “Sen. Obama, who has taught courses in constitutional law at the University of Chicago, has regularly referred to himself as “a constitutional law professor,” most famously at a March 30, 2007, fundraiser when he said, “I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution.” A spokesman for the Republican National Committee immediately took exception to Obama’s remarks, pointing out that Obama’s title at the University of Chicago was “senior lecturer” and not “professor.””

        I think the Republicans objected to the wrong part of that sentence.

  4. The Affordable Care Act will give the President of the United States too much power over all of our lives. The fifteen person panel, which will be in control of Medicare is frightening. This panel will be appointed by the President without the advice and consent of the Senate. This was confirmed by a call to my senator’s office this morning. There have been rumors that if a person is over 70 years old, he may be denied treatment for heart disease and cancer. While there is nothing in the Act which confirms this, my senator’s office told me that it is still unknown what procedures and treatments will be covered by Medicare. I want The Affordable Care Act gone.

    • And yet it shouldn’t matter one bit whether one likes or doesn’t like Obamacare for one to be outraged over the White House trying to pressure the Supreme Court. This is where I lose all respect for partisans. Imagine if the Nixon White House had organized demonstrations as SCOTUS was considering the Pentagon Papers. Actually, the Obama White House is most Nixonian I’ve seen since 1974. Why doesn’t that trouble progressives as much as it does libertarians and conservatives?

      • Obama has got to keep the leftist members of the Supreme Court in line even if he has to do it Chicago style. Obama supporters plan to hold prayer vigils and other events outside the court on each day of the oral arguments. What a bunch of hypocrites! These are the same people who called Rick Perry a nut because he wanted to hold a prayer vigil. These screaming leftists would go crazy on bananas if the GOP or The Tea Party did something like this.

      • Imagine if the Nixon White House had organized demonstrations as SCOTUS was considering the Pentagon Papers.

        I am surprised Nixon did not think of that before.

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