Eleanor Clift’s Third Grade Constitutionalism


by Arthur Christopher Schaper


Eleanor Clift is the token unapologetic liberal contributor on The McLaughlin Group.

Eleanor Clift

Eleanor Clift

How she can stand by the assessment of President Obama’s extralegal lawlessness renders not just a marginal voice on the program, but regrettable if not laughable.

On the November 21, 2014 edition of the program, Clift bent over backwards justifying President Obama’s executive disregard of federal immigration laws:

The well was already poisoned. Republicans made a decision early on to oppose virtually everything this President did.

First of all, the Constitution is very clear about the President’s role in the federal framework:

Article. 2 // Section. 1.

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

The Constitution is inconspicuously silent, or rather brief on the powers of the President. Execution of the law means nothing more (and nothing less) than enforcement of the law. Those laws come from Congress, and the enumerated powers of Congress are provided in Article 1. Congress is designated power, and the President responds to their direction.

There is a role of persuasion of recommendation granted to the President:

Article. 2 // Section. 3.

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;

Yet Clift disparages the Republicans in Congress because they oppose everything that the President has done. Frankly, the President should not be doing anything unless the Congress empowers him to. Clift has reversed the proper constitutional order. Congress, whether Democrat or Republican controlled, does not respond to the President, but rather establishes what the President may do. In effect, they should be opposing everything the President does which steps outside of the bounds of federal law.

Now, if they disagree with him on that, they might [say]: “We might not confirm an attorney general, we’re not going to confirm any of your appointments. We’re not going to do anything on these other issues. It’s like a third grader’s response: stamping your feet, and holding your breath. You think the country’s going to reward that? I hope not.

From the founding of the country and the Constitutions, the Framers instituted a government designed precisely to stall, to delay, and to invite deliberate (slow and well-conceived) government action.

From “third grader” James Madison:

James Madison

James Madison

An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

One third grader writing to another third grader, Thomas Jefferson:

The principle of the Constitution is that of a separation of legislative, Executive and Judiciary functions, except in cases specified. If this principle be not expressed in direct terms, it is clearly the spirit of the Constitution, and it ought to be so commented and acted on by every friend of free government.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton

Yet another third grader, Alexander Hamilton,  describing the benefit of the President’s veto:

The injury which may possibly be done by defeating a few good laws, will be amply compensated by the advantage of preventing a number of bad ones.

The Framers were not interested in an activist federal government, but a restrained one. The argument which shames Congress for blocking the President ignores the fact that the government was never in the business of expansion, but rather retention of our rights and liberties, followed by diffusion of responsibilities to the states and the people (Article 10 of the Bill of Rights).

Clift then echoed the sentiment of conservatives George Will and Tom Rogan:

They only will argue with him [The President] on procedure. They won’t argue with him on the substance of what he has done. What he has done is correct. It will stand up in the courts.

The Congress have every right and necessity to dispute President Obama’s actions on the grounds of procedure, for his role is enacting, enforcing, executing the laws of the land. There is nothing for him to do, since Congress did not pass legislation. Despite the US Senate’s bipartisan legislation in 2013, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, responding to the heart-beat of the American people, have continued to reject amnesty.

That is the federal system of government laid out in the Constitution. Like many progressives, Clift has an apparent, yet unannounced disdain for the United States’ uniting charter, yet her disregard does not mitigate the final authority, the supremacy of the charter over laws state and federal, as well as the aberrant will of the current chief executive.

For all her condescension toward the Republicans’ obstruction, Clift herself sounds like a third grader, because of her impoverished, unjustified ignorance of the United States Constitution as a restriction on power, both the President and the Congress. While she characterizes Congressional resistance as immature power plays, Congress is in fact manifesting its mature responsibilities as guardians of the rights and powers of the states and the people.

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Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance.

Twitter — @ArthurCSchaper

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