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Michael Barone: A Lawyer By Training, Obama Ignores Rules of Law

Examples abound of the president's willingness to skirt the law

“The Illegal-Donor Loophole” is the headline of a Daily Beast story by Peter Schweizer of the conservative Government Accountability Institute and Peter Boyer, former reporter at The New Yorker and The New York Times.

The article tells how Obama.com, a website owned by a fundraiser for President Barack Obama who lives in China but has visited the Obama White House 11 times, sends solicitations mostly to foreign email addresses and links to the Obama campaign website’s donation page.

The Obama website, unlike those of most campaigns, doesn’t ask for the three- or four-digit credit card verification number. That makes it easier for donors to use fictitious names and addresses to send in money.

Campaigns aren’t allowed to accept donations from foreigners. But it looks like the Obama campaign has made it easier for them to slip money in. How much foreign money has come into the Obama campaign? Schweizer and Boyer say there’s no way to know.

The campaign — as my former boss, pollster Peter Hart, likes to say — always reflects the candidate. A campaign willing to skirt the law or abet violations of it reflects a candidate who, as president, has been doing the same thing.

Examples abound. Take the WARN Act, which requires employers to give a 60-day notice of layoffs. It was sponsored and passed by Democrats.

The WARN Act requires defense contractors to give notice on Nov. 2 of layoffs that will be necessary on Jan. 3, when the sequestration law requires big cutbacks in defense spending.

The administration has asked companies not to send out the notices. And it has promised to pay companies’ WARN Act fines. Why the solicitude? The warnings could cost Obama Virginia’s 13 electoral votes.

When did Congress give presidents the power to suspend operation of this law? What law authorizes the government to pay the fines of those who violate the law?

Or consider the welfare waivers that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gives to states that want to relax work requirements. Democratic blogger Mickey Kaus makes a strong case that this violates clear language in the welfare reform act signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

If Kaus is right, Sebelius and Obama are brazenly rewriting the law — one of the most successful reforms of the last two decades.

Then there’s Obama’s promise not to deport young illegal immigrants brought into the United States as children who meet certain conditions — like going to college or serving in the military.

It’s a policy that tests well in the polls. The problem is that Congress, even when controlled by Democrats, refused to relax immigration policy in this way.

You won’t hear much about this on the campaign trail. Mitt Romney says he won’t reverse it, since it seems harsh to penalize people who came forward in response to a president’s stated policy.

Similarly, he’s not in favor of reversing the policy allowing open gays to serve in the military.

There’s one difference between the two situations. Congress actually passed a law (repealing one signed by Clinton) allowing gays to serve. It was one of the last acts of the outgoing Democratic Congress in 2010.

But neither that Congress nor the current one passed a law authorizing mass non-enforcement of immigration laws. Nor did any Congress pass a law suspending the WARN Act when it jeopardizes a president’s chance to carry a target state.

Article II of the Constitution (not Article I, as Vice President Joe Biden appeared to say in the 2008 vice presidential debate) sets out the duties and powers of the president. Section 3 states that “he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

It does not give him the power to make laws. That’s given to Congress, in Article I.

Obama was a lecturer on constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. But he seems to take the attitude familiar to me, as an alumnus of Yale Law School, that the law is simply a bunch of words that people who are clever with words can manipulate to get any result they want.

In public speeches, he has defended such policies by shouting, “We can’t wait!” The results are good, or at least politically convenient, so why be held back by a few words written on paper?

The Constitution was written by men who had a different idea. They wanted a government bound by the rule of law. Do we?

Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. Click here to contact him. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelBarone.

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