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Rule of Law

In Defense of the Elastic Clause of the Constitution

February 26th, 2014 - 5:15 am

If college students listened to Mark Levin or Rush Limbaugh, they would receive a better American history education than they are getting from their professors. I recently spoke at Emory University, where one student defended all of President Obama’s unconstitutional actions by invoking the Elastic Clause of the Constitution.

Citing the Elastic Clause could indeed justify a wide range of administration actions, except for one problem – it doesn’t exist.

But you couldn’t tell that to the student at Emory University who came to my speech last week on Obama’s abuses of power. He persisted in defending the actions through the Elastic Clause, as if the be-all, end-all provision was common knowledge.

From the sound of it, the Elastic Clause must be common knowledge in faculty lounges.

The Elastic Clause, he persisted, gives the president the power to address a wide range of issues through executive prerogative. It allowed the government, he said, to adapt to new circumstances unlike the age when the Founders wrote the Constitution.

Of course the Founders did include an “elastic clause” of sorts, namely Article V, which gives the people and the states the power to amend the Constitution.

But he wasn’t speaking of something quite so stiff and formal. He wasn’t referring to something that required broad assent. He was referring the Elastic Clause that allows the president to swiftly respond to needs as they arise – sort of like Mussolini and Mugabe did.

He was serious. He really believed the Elastic Clause was real. But the constitutional literacy of a different student was even worse. With a straight face, she defended the exercise of executive power and the issuance of executive orders as constitutional because of the inaction of Congress.

“It’s part of the Constitution that if the Congress doesn’t act, then the president can issue executive orders to fix something,” was her argument.

Even more frightening, the person saying this is an officer of the campus Democrats. A little totalitarian in training.

Naturally, this was all quite an eye opener. I’m no fool when it comes to the institutional left and their corrosion of the system. But to have a student debate me over a verifiably fictional constitutional provision, to have a student presume I was the one making things up when I said the Elastic Clause didn’t exist – that blazed new territory.

All of this illustrates the dangerous rot occurring on campus, facilitated in large part by the faculty. All signs point to their success. Students are learning the lexicon of the institutional left and producing tragic-comedy like complaining about equality at UCLA, and worse. My appearance at Emory was sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the College Republicans. Recognize that groups like these are fighting an uphill battle on campus. But without them, college campuses would be intellectually monolithic.

The talk at Emory wandered into the small discrete psychological components of tyranny as described brilliantly in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. No doubt Mr. Elastic Clause and College Democrat Vice President Edict had never heard of the Nobel Prize winning description of where elastic ideas can lead.

Solzhenitsyn’s great book of the 20th century describes the small ideas of totalitarianism, and the camouflaged embryonic consent that individuals give to tyranny over time. Tyranny isn’t just about gruel with potato peelings day after day and bullets to the back of the head.

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Top Rated Comments   
One cannot read author Adam's excellent essay and not wonder why it is that so many young college students seem to yearn for the heavy hand of authority even to the extent of seemingly desiring life under a tyrant. What is so simple minded about these young people that they don't realize that their grant of unlimited authority cuts two ways. Surely they realize that someday the electorate may go insane and elect a conservative Republican to the presidency and they will have all that they wished for snatched away via their grant of authority. No more "free" condoms as per executive order or something equally horrible!

Long ago, when I was a college student we wanted freedom above most everything else. Now these poor young souls want to grant authority to some distant jackass with the likely end result that they have no hope of becoming any more than obedient serfs as a vision for their future.

If these young morons don't wake up then the only bright light I see in my future is the fact that I will be leaving the planet before I have to endure theirs.

What is wrong with them?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
What you obviously failed to notice that the so called "elastic clause" is not called that, and the Necessary and Proper Clause (that's what the Constitution says) relates to legislative powers to enact laws which are based on other powers. A real Article I power does not a phony Article II power make.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
QUOTE The Necessary and Proper Clause, also known as the Elastic Clause, the Basket Clause, the Coefficient Clause, and the Sweeping Clause, is a provision in Article One of the United States Constitution, located at section 8, clause 18.

The Necessary and Proper Clause is as follows:
The Congress shall have Power ... To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof. UNQUOTE http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necessary_and_Proper_Clause

Would not a historical review of this clause be appropriate?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (114)
All Comments   (114)
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If we want to amend the Constitution, the Founders in their collective wisdom provided a constitutional means.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wish it was required reading at the high school level that every student HAD to read the Constitution of the United States as well as the Declaration of Independence - and then write a coherent essay about both as a requirement to graduate.

That essay would have to show that the student had a firm grasp on exactly what was within those two documents.

Not going to hold my breath....
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Want to really see them go ballistic? Ask them "What if Bush had done these things?"
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, when you have a member of Congress, John Conyers, actually invoking the "Good and Plenty Clause" to support Obamacare in 2010, what do you expect?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
It still amazes me that people actually think that "Wikipedia", of all things, is credible. Anyone can change what's on Wikipedia. As a source of credible information I would NOT lend credence to Wikipedia. It ISN'T a source for "reliable", "truthful" information.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's a question of sourcing. If you don't know how to lead yourself to that, why throw the baby out with the bathwater? Generally speaking, Wiki is quite accurate. It is in controversial subjects it goes off the rails since it draws attacks and edits on both sides. For example it is worthless for the 1967 Six Day War. For who drew Spider-Man it's fine.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I went back to school a few years ago. The school, like many others, had an electronic "library" with access to many books and journals on-line. Weird thing about it though - it seemed heavily tilted towards books and journals that supported the Regressive agenda.

Wikipedia saved me from parroting only the approved agenda (and undoubtedly gave several of my instructors headaches). Not as a primary source, no - but in providing references to "respectable" sources that I could use.

Unless it is some obscure subject, Wikipedia moderators are pretty good at killing bias soon after it appears. Much sooner than respected academic bodies do - ref. the latest ICD interim code set that greatly expands the scope of "mental illness." Advocates for people with difficult to diagnose physical maladies haven't managed to fix that one in five years of fighting.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
When a source of information is wrong on so many things, there's no way they can be believed even on 'some' things and be believable as a reliable source of information. After all. How does one know on WHICH subjects that Wikipedia is accurate? One cannot know, of course, therefore Wikipedia is NOT a 'credible' source of accurate information. Those who cite Wikipedia on the 'Constitution' are not doing themselves a good service. Then THEIR veracity comes into question.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
No one relies on Wiki for prime sourcing. Wiki is an intro-level where one can quickly look up a subject one has a passing curiosity about. It doesn't pretend to be in-depth. No one's going to inform the world or solve its problems from this comments section. The point Mr. Adams was making is that liberal versions of the world about us are unreliable, and I'd add, probably much more so than Wiki.

If you want to see some idiocy that surpasses anything I've ever seen on Wiki, read that article on slavery I linked to at The Nation. It is a marvel of BS.

As just one example, it claims unnamed doctors involved in the slave trade apparently wrote unnamed papers which helped end cholera. Well, no one knew exactly what cholera was before the London epidemic of 1854. So how could a then outlawed slave shipping industry have done such a thing? Even today no one understands its precise mechanism.

It just a BS agenda put out by liberals obsessed with the idea slavery built America and much more. It has no footnotes and important quotes are not even cited. It's much worse than Wiki.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree that wiki isn't as bad as it's made out to be. However, I would disagree that no one relies on it for prime sourcing. This is what I see as the problem; that MANY actually DO rely on it as a primary source.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
FYI: We know exaclty what causes cholera: "Cholera is an infection of the small intestine caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholera

And of course you can help end cholera without knowing its mechanistic cause, provided you can identify the conditions under which it does (and does not) spread. History 101: Sanitation long preceded the germ theory of disease...
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I meant it is not known why some people succumb and others don't.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Snicker..... Chuckle..... GUFFAW......Well said. It's true. Being worse than Wikipedia doesn't make Wikipedia any more believable.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, Fail Burton is right, to a degree. Wikipedia is not a GOOD source, but also not particularly bad. Wikipedia actually includes links to and notations about other sources, many of them the original source, where you can actually read the original issue at length and draw your own conclusions.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
thats what I often use it for, a beginning list of sources.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's not that difficult. Think of a clock that's consistently 10 minutes fast, or a scale that's half a pound off. Once you know the nature of the inaccuracy you can compensate for it. In Wikipedia's case the nature of the inaccuracy is a leftward political tilt. If you stay away from articles with political significance, at least for anything not indisputable (I'd trust Wiki to get the dates and belligerents of the Six Day War), or where someone would be motivated to spread disinformation, you can be reasonably confident in the information.

And if you do suspect that something is off, you can see the revision history of the article as well as the behind the scenes discussion of the article. Neither of those is available in a traditional encyclopedia, which is also - being a product of humans - subject to political influence, making Wikipedia superior to its competitors.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's a hassle separating the chafe from the wheat and just not worth the effort. One cannot successfully compensate for constantly changing informational variances. Still , if those constant informational variances didn't exist I would agree with you. I DO agree wholeheartedly on the last paragraph. But the frequency of necessity to do that IS too much of a bother. But, just to keep with the subject of the article, Wikipedia isn't reliable as a source on interpretation of the meaning of the contents of the constitution.

I AM enjoying this. It's like talking with 'reasonable', 'rational', truly thoughtful and intelligent peers. (Slap on forehead), This IS talking with 'reasonable', 'rational', truly thoughtful and intelligent peers.

I realize that no ONE person can be right all of the time. I enjoy the discussions ABOUT the subjects for the sheer pleasure of discussion. I'm also a fanatic on being right. I would rather be humiliated into being right than arrogantly lauded for being wrong. I want the truth of things even if it proves me wrong. ESPECIALLY if it proves me wrong. I don't like being wrong. I'm not wrong often, to my dismay, so it's a real treat for me for someone to prove to my satisfaction that I AM wrong. That person has done me an inestimable service and will be a friend to me for life. I do appologize for the rant.....;-}.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry, but you're going to have to separate the chafe from the wheat with ANY source. The main problem with wiki is that it is easily accessed and that those who aren't more inclined to SEARCH for information take what they find at face value. The problem isn't so much with the source as it is with the attitude of the Jon Stewart generation of information gathering. Young people consider a comedy show to be a serious news source and take what he says as gospel because he says it sardonically. This has made this generation intellectually lazy.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
*tips fedora*
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can be a good starting place for research if you are willing to track down all the sources for a Wiki article. But as an authoritative source on its own? No.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
When one starts research based on fallacy, one ends one's research based on fallacy. It's better to start with credible, 'accurate' information to begin with. In my opinion.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some articles have quite good footnotes to them, even if the article is so-so. Some articles are worthless and have worthless footnotes. Checking sources for whatever you may be citing is important, as is knowing that just because some "authority" said it and you can quote it, doesn't make it right or credible. Al Gore is considered by many to be a credible source for global warming or anthropological climate change. I'm sure there is a Wiki article that quotes him. I think he's an unscientific idiot.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree in essence. But I do not lend credence to Wikipedia as a source of 'credible' information. The fact that 'anyone' can change the story on Wikipedia is the main reason that it's not reliable in the least as a source of 'credible' information. If one HAS to 'check' the sources, (why not start with the sources cited to begin with?), to verify the sites credibility and honesty, it's pretty much useless and is only good for mindless entertainment. To cite Wikipedia on the 'Constitution' is to cite very questionable information.

I certainly appreciate the civil discourse. Thank you.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
but the fallacy of the student's argument is that if a conservative were to do the same things, they would be doing a 180 and claiming the opposite position and demanding that the president doesn't have the power.

It is called situational ethics, and the left/libs have it down to a science.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
The President heads the executive branch, and is charged with Executing the laws Congress makes.

After enumerating the specific powers of Congress, the framers wanted it understood that Congress has the power to dictate how those powers were to be executed by the President:

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

The President's authority is further limited by this clause, not expanded. Congress has the authority to make the laws the President must follow as he executes the enumerated powers of Congress. The President doesn't get to come up with his own rules for things like:

Borrowing Money
Regulating Commerce
Establishing a Uniform Rule of Naturalization
Coining Money
Punishing Counterfeiters
Establishing Post Offices and Roads
Declaring War
Raising Armies and Navies
etc....

The President doesn't get to make up the rules of how to execute those powers. Congress does this, and the President executes those powers as Congress declares he must.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Article I, Section 8, "The Elastic Clause", limits Congress' power. Amendments 9 and 10 of the Constitution make it abundantly clear no one is being given carte blanche. It should be noted that this clause is in Article I, which describes Legislative powers and obligations, not in Article II which describes the rules, powers and obligations of the Presidency. For a President to assume such power based on this clause is clearly a violation of the Constitution and his oath of office.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
If they were intelligent they wouldn't be Democrats.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
The necessary and proper clause is not all that elastic. Congress is given the power to pass all laws necessary and proper "for carrying out the enumerated list of powers,” not to do any damn thing they might want to do.

So the young ignoramuses are off base not only on what branch of government has this power, but also that this power itself is limited and not really “elastic."
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Quite so. If any clause is the "elastic clause," it is the Commerce Clause, in conjunction with the "elastic Amendment" (14th), which have been used to justify complete Federal tyranny over every citizen. Remember, four out of nine SCOTUS Justices were all ready to certify ObamaCare using the Commerce Clause; just one more Regressive pick on the Court and we would not be arguing over whether it is a legitimate use of the taxing authority.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think it incumbent on the parents to be informed that their children have turned into communists and demand that the instructors lock them in the auditorium and show them several films on the joys of being a communist!
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
One cannot read author Adam's excellent essay and not wonder why it is that so many young college students seem to yearn for the heavy hand of authority even to the extent of seemingly desiring life under a tyrant. What is so simple minded about these young people that they don't realize that their grant of unlimited authority cuts two ways. Surely they realize that someday the electorate may go insane and elect a conservative Republican to the presidency and they will have all that they wished for snatched away via their grant of authority. No more "free" condoms as per executive order or something equally horrible!

Long ago, when I was a college student we wanted freedom above most everything else. Now these poor young souls want to grant authority to some distant jackass with the likely end result that they have no hope of becoming any more than obedient serfs as a vision for their future.

If these young morons don't wake up then the only bright light I see in my future is the fact that I will be leaving the planet before I have to endure theirs.

What is wrong with them?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
As with everything leftist (er, "progressive"), he who gets to define the meaning of the words and phrases, gets to determine the outcome of the discussion. When the present context is not sufficient, make up your own facts if you think that it won't matter to your peers.

But the goal is never about what is said at the moment, but how the thing being said advances the agenda of the moment.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
They've grown up in a world where everything is relative. There is no black and white or right and wrong. Everything is judged not by whether it is moral but by the outcome. Stealing is OK as long as you steal from the "bad guys" - or "the rich" as the college crowd knows them.

And like you say, they haven't really thought out the consequences of what happens when the shoe is on the other foot.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
What is wrong with them is, they are not adults--not until they reach the new age of majority, when they must purchase Obamacare for themselves--27 years old.

Unless, of course they are 14-year old girls: They can then purchase "Plan B" without anyone's consent or even knowledge. Because they are so mature, you know.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
why it is that so many young college students seem to yearn for the heavy hand of authority even to the extent of seemingly desiring life under a tyrant.

It is how they have lived since kindergarten, in a thought-controlled PC environment even if all the class material was conservative (which of course it was not!). They cannot comprehend an alternative. Stockholm Syndrome writ large.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
They want Santa Claus to forgive their student loans!
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
At age 69 I also find some solace that I won’t ever be young again because at least I won’t have to live in the dystopian world these young idiots might create. When Ron Paul gave his farewell from Congress speech he mentioned how hard a sell freedom has become. Maybe Beat Generation “poet” Allen Ginsberg predicted this with his famous remark to Norman Podhoretz, “We’ll get you through your children."
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am as confused as you are. That their professors, who know better, choose to forget that some day, a conservative Republican will be elected and that they've voted away their rights is simply criminal. I'm shocked that these kids fall for it, but the propaganda of hope and change is strong.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is rather difficult to portray. From my perspective, it's a combination of arrogance and intellectual corruption. You have people whose desire to comment is only surpassed by their lack of knowledge of any given subject.

Rightthink, a keyboard, superior judgment and sheer hubris seems to trump experience and common sense. It may be the Google-lization of American youth. That together with the sense of a vast moral superiority of the last 5,000 years of human civilization is marked in contrast to the old school which looked back and found wisdom and mistakes to learn from. With the new school, it's just all mistakes.

Having said that, I am often startled on how this new generation doesn't know the most elementary things, like Pearl Harbor or Cleopatra's family.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
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