Obama is backing an imperial presidency in Honduras. When Honduras removed its ex-president and would-be dictator, Obama demanded his reinstatement, even though he was removed on orders of the Honduras Supreme Court and replaced by Honduras’s elected Congress, with the backing of much of Honduran society. Obama argued that elected presidents have a right to continue ruling even if they violate their country’s constitution, and his assistant secretary of state argued that presidents should not be removed without elaborate “judicial process” (an argument at odds with our own Constitution’s provision for legislative impeachment, and Honduras’s constitutional provision automatically stripping presidents of their office if they even propose changes to constitutional term limits).
Now, Obama is showing his poor grasp of civics, constitutional law, and separation of powers by suggesting that Honduran legislators and judges lost their right to hold office when the Honduran ex-president was removed. That’s like saying that after Richard Nixon resigned in Watergate, all of his judicial appointees (including the 4 Supreme Court justices he appointed, such as Harry Blackmun and William Rehnquist) should have automatically lost their posts, and the entire Congress should have resigned. In an effort to intimidate Honduras’s legislature and courts, Obama has now had the state department rescind the visas of a Honduran Supreme Court justice, the leader of Honduras’s Congress, and its human-rights ombudsman, who had criticized human-rights abuses by the ex-president. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly justified the taking away of the visas by saying that “We don’t recognize Roberto Micheletti as the president of Honduras. We recognize Manuel Zelaya.”
But it should be obvious to anyone who knows anything that Congress and the Supreme Court are co-equal branches of government that do not lose their right to hold office merely because the president leaves his office. Presidents are not emperors. They are not the government, but merely part of it. Obama was not taught his bizarre theory of imperial power at Harvard Law School, which he and I both attended.
It’s difficult to say whether Obama is just being ignorant — as he was when he claimed in 2008 that America has 57 states — or whether he is willfully misreading the law in claiming that Honduras acted illegally, the way he has deceived the public through a long line of broken promises, such as his pledge to enact a “net spending cut,” which he broke on a big way with proposed budgets that will explode the national debt through $9.3 trillion in massively increased deficit spending.
Obama’s demand that Obama reinstate its would-be dictator has emboldened other elected leaders in Latin America to try to make themselves dictators. (Even the liberal Washington Post, which has not endorsed a Republican for president since 1952, admits that Obama has shown a “willful disregard of political oppression” by left-wing dictators in Latin America).
Obama state-department employees have called Honduras’s removal of its president a “coup,” and members of the press corps, who overwhelmingly voted for Obama, have mindlessly parroted this claim ever since without ever bothering to confront the reality that his removal was justified under stringent provisions of Honduras’s Constitution, such as Article 239, which bans presidents from serving if they even propose an end to term limits, and Article 272, which vests enforcement powers in the military to remove overreaching presidents (as many commentators have pointed out, including attorneys Octavio Sanchez, Miguel Estrada, and Dan Miller, former Assistant Secretary of State Kim Holmes, and the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady).
But there was no “coup.” A coup is defined as the sudden, illegal removal of a legitimate government by a small group. The removal of Honduras’s president was supported by the entire Honduran Supreme Court, an almost unanimous Honduran Congress, and much of Honduran society. Honduras did not lose its government, but merely replaced an illegitimate part of it: its constitution-shredding president. And his removal from office (as opposed to his subsequent exile) was clearly legally justified.
The fact that Honduran soldiers carried out a court order to remove the president does not make it a “military coup.” The ex-president was replaced by a civilian, the Congressional speaker. The soldiers merely played the same role in enforcing a court order that U.S. marshals might in the United States (Honduras does not have such marshalls, and it is the military — not court bailiffs or marshals — which is vested with enforcement powers under Article 272 of the Honduras Constitution). (Even in the U.S., troops can end up enforcing court orders against powerful officials, such as the 1957 court order desegregating Little Rock’s public schools, which was defied by Arkansas’ racist governor).
While engaging in unjustified meddling overseas, Obama is trying to push through an ill-conceived health-care overhaul at home which one of his own advisers says will harm people with insurance while raising their taxes. CNN says Obamacare will take away 5 freedoms. It will also destroy many affordable health-care plans while breaking Obama’s campaign promises.