The Lawless President

But there are limits to what even congressional Democrats will tolerate. Last week, with the help of the newest Democrat Arlen Specter, the Senate defeated the president's "cram down" mortgage proposal, which was at the heart of his mortgage relief plan. The president thought it a grand idea to allow judges to rewrite mortgages; Congress had other ideas. Still, liberal Democrats seethed over lenders' insistence that the sanctity of contracts be preserved. Sen. Chuck Schumer railed, "They're being almost lemming-like, for their immediate, short-term interests."

And beyond these specific actions the president wants to empower his treasury secretary to maraud through the economy and close down firms which are deemed to be failing and could pose a systemic risk to the economy. The property rights of secured creditors? Of shareholders or of workers with employment contracts? Pish posh. Such old thinking.

Never before have we seen such untrammeled disregard both for property rights and existing legal mechanisms. Congress has the power of the purse, but the bailouts are now funded largely through the Fed. Bankruptcy courts are the means of voluntarily liquidating or reorganizing faltering firms, but Obama wants the government to unilaterally make those decisions. And on it goes.

All of this is justified in the name of addressing the economic crisis, but the implication is clear and long-reaching. Property owners, investors, contracting parties, and anyone relying on the impartial operation of the rule of law are at risk.

But the lawlessness is not limited to the financial world. So too in the national security realm we see the administration itching to disregard the law. The Obama team is on the verge of releasing Guantanamo detainees, and specifically the Uighurs who were trained in terror camps in Afghanistan. Federal law deems individuals who received terror training to be "inadmissible" to the U.S. Nevertheless, the administration seem bent on doing just this -- perhaps on some theory that the president can do whatever he darn pleases. It is an approach that surely candidate Obama would have decried.

But, that it seems, is now par for the course. Obama wants to enact wholesale changes in the fabric of American society, vastly expand the power of the federal government, and run all of this out of the White House. And if employment contracts, bankruptcy and immigration laws, and property rights get run over in the process, well that is the price one pays for "change." For those who see the law as a bulwark against government abuse and a check against an imperial executive now is a moment of truth. Once the rule of law is lost it is hard to recover -- and the implications for Americans' prosperity, freedom, and security will be serious and long lasting.