“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
— James Madison, Federalist Papers
It is doubtful that when Fox News commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano began writing his newly published book, “Suicide Pact: The Radical Expansion of Presidential Powers and the Lethal Threat to American Liberty,” he suspected President Obama would be providing him enough material for several sequels.
Napolitano discussed the purpose and content of his book during a recent conference call with associates of Watchdog Wire, an online citizen journalism site.
He joked that Obama is helping him sell his book, which was written before the president decided to rewrite the laws on immigration. “The president has exempted so many people from the laws of immigration that no one … can claim he is enforcing them. In fact he is changing them and rewriting them. Those are profound violations of the Constitution,” he said.
As a Fox commentator, Napolitano explains that part of his job is to “monitor the government as it interferes with personal liberty, seizes private property and prevents economic opportunity.”
His job and the book start with the basic principles. “Under our constitutional form of government, the Congress writes the laws. The president enforces the laws. The courts interpret the laws,” the judge offered. “Madison, when he crafted the Constitution, intentionally built tension between and among the three branches of government. So that no one branch could seize power from either of the other two.”
The book is written in two parts. The first half of the book is a history of presidential law breaking and presidential law making. The second half looks at the powers claimed by George W. Bush and Barack Obama after and as a result of 9/11.
It goes from John Adams imprisoning his critics under the Alien and Sedition acts of 1798 to Abraham Lincoln — “the greatest violator of civil liberties in the history of the United States of America” — suspending the writ of habeas corpus and locking up 3,000 newspaper reporters, publishers and editors because he disagreed with their editorials to Woodrow Wilson having people arrested for reciting the Declaration of Independence outside of draft offices to Franklin Roosevelt stealing gold and Lyndon Johnson lying about the Gulf of Tonkin.
Then he gets to Bush allowing spying on Americans without a warrant and allowing torturing of terrorism suspects and Obama ordering Americans to be killed without any semblance of any Fifth Amendment guarantee against depriving “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
Napolitano asked rhetorically: “Why should you care?”
He answered his own question by warning, “You should care, because if presidents become a law unto themselves, one of them one day is going say, ‘You know what? That limit that says my term is only four years and I can’t have more than a second term, I don’t think that’s good law any more and I’m not leaving.’”
During questioning, Napolitano said one way to restrain the power of the presidency would be to elect someone who truly believes in shrinking government, someone like Rand Paul, who wrote the foreword for his book, though the judge quickly added that was not an endorsement. But he did opine that all the other current potential candidates would tend to aggrandize power.
“Only when someone who really believes that the Constitution means what it says, who believes as (Thomas) Jefferson argued that the government should be chained down by the Constitution, only when a person like that is in the White House,” Napolitano said, “and there is substantial support in the Congress for that view, will we see constitutional government. Otherwise, things are going to get worse and worse and worse.”
Currently, he argued, both parties agree our rights come from government, not from our humanity, and both parties are in favor of perpetual war and perpetual debt.
“Until there is a president in the White House who breaks that mold,” Napolitano continued in an on-screen-worthy rant, “who recognizes our rights come from our humanity and cannot be taken away by a majority vote, that perpetual war is destructive and perpetual debt is destructive … Unless and until there is a president in the White House who’ll embrace these views, it can only get worse.”
Shortly after the interview, the national debt hit $18 trillion, having risen 70 percent under Obama, and the administration issued 3,415 new regulations – including 189 rules that cost more than $100 million apiece.
Enough material for a sequel, Mr. Napolitano?
A version of this column is available online at the Mesquite Local News, the Elko Daily Free Press and The Ely Times.