Ted Cruz spoke at CPAC last week and delivered the standard line we hear from the right these days, who have suddenly discovered the limits on executive power after cheering on George W. Bush for 8 years while shredded the separation of powers and vastly expanded his own power.
“This president of the United States is the first president we’ve ever had who thinks he can choose which laws to enforce and which laws to ignore.”
Really, Ted? The very first one? Let’s take a stroll through history, shall we? The Republican party likes to call itself the “party of Lincoln.” Few presidents have violated the constitution and ignored the law quite as flagrantly as Lincoln did when he suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. The Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional and Lincoln ignored that ruling and ordered the Army to ignore it as well, which they did. It’s hard to imagine a more flagrant example of a president picking and choosing which laws to enforce and which to ignore than that.
And how about Cruz’ hero, Ronald Reagan? A law passed in 1983 prohibited the federal government from sending aid to the Nicaraguan Contras. So what did St. Ronald the Magnificent (PBUH) do? Secretly funded them by diverting funds from the also-illegal sale of weapons to Iran, which was supporting terrorists in Lebanon at the time. Their excuse: Reagan was too incompetent and out of touch with his own administration to know what was going on.
And remember George W. Bush and his infamous signing statements that said right up front while signing a bill that he would ignore certain provisions in them? He issued 161 such statements containing more than 1000 instances of him saying he would refuse to enforce one or more sections of the bill he was signing. This amounted to a line-item veto, something that is unconstitutional.
Yes, Obama has continued to expand executive power in ways that I’ve been writing about for years and that is a very, very bad thing. But I can credibly say that because I was criticizing Bush for the same thing. I don’t conveniently discover civil liberties and limits on executive power only when one party is in office. And I certainly don’t make stupid statements like the one Cruz made.
Like Dispatches on Facebook: