It is a difficult and painful experience being in the head of a man like Jim Demint. The junior senator from South Carolina was a darling of the Tea Party and the GOP when he predicted that health care would be the President’s “Waterloo”; now he is just another Republican eating a steady diet of crow. The bill that Mr. Demint said nobody would like once they read the details, is now a law that people are starting to support as the details come to light. Beyond his unfortunate foray into political prognostications, Jim Demint has proven to be a rather typical Republican rubber stamp, chalking up 100% voting records on every conservative plank.
Now, in light of the immigration law in Arizona, the good senator is trying to once again separate himself from the pack. He has aligned himself with the sullied reputation and questionable record of David Vitter (R-Louisiana), in an amendment designed to squelch the Obama Administration’s ability to file suit over Arizona’s infamous (and popular) SB 1070. Beyond the fact that Mr. Vitter is chair of the border security caucus, the move by Demint is questionable on two key points. First, David Vitter has real problems with his constituents that are likely to limit him throughout the campaign season. The Louisiana senator is dealing with fallout from his handling of a staff member’s criminal case, his apparent patronage of Washington D.C. prostitutes, and his tepid and uneven response to Hurricane Katrina.
The bigger problem with Demint’s choice though, is his oath of office. His amendment is an assault on the Constitution and the President’s sworn duty to uphold and defend it, as well as Senator Demint’s own sworn duty to uphold and defend the preeminent law of our land.
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
The Constitution is very specific on the point of supremacy of federal laws over state laws. The lawsuit filed by the Justice Department has three causes of action: the supremacy clause, preemption, and the (dormant) commerce clause. The federal argument does not attack the law on either equal protection grounds (racial profiling) or 4th Amendment grounds (unwarranted search and seizure). The Obama Administration is not suing, in other words, to protect a minority, something that seems (and regrettably so) to be a point of emphasis in some reporting. This information is well-known to all in the halls of government, and is acknowledged by a diverse range of legal observers. Don’t believe me? Let’s listen to Fox News then:
That this action is par for the course for Republicans isn’t at issue. The strategy of the GOP since 2008, far from making a real attempt to propose sound conservative legislation, has been to reflexively attack every action by the Obama Administration and Democratic Congressional leadership. But this action is a specific, unwarranted, and egregious attack on Constitutional principles. He must know that the conservative justices on the Supreme Court, as strict constructionists, will not support the Arizona law. He must understand that all president’s must take the very action that Mr. Obama is now, regardless of, and in spite of the politics of the matter.
A secondary fact that serves to add insult to injury, is the fact that the Obama Administration, far from being lax on border security, has done more than the Bush Administration to enforce the laws. This fact is evidenced by the graph at left (click on the graph for better detail). Under President Obama’s leadership, illegal aliens have been deported at a higher rate than under President Bush (who himself did make a strong effort). Also, this administration has put its emphasis on criminal aliens, as seen in the graph. The Obama Administration deported more criminal aliens in 2009, than the Bush Administration did in the two full fiscal years after 9/11.
The good senator from South Carolina is, to be sure, dealing with a lot these days. His predictions on health care float like an albatross over his head. His stance as just another Republican senator leaves him far short of the stature and influence of fellow South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. In the fallout from the questionable South Carolina primaries (on both sides of the political spectrum), there has even been questions of impropriety cast in his direction. Election irregularities don’t have to be proved to cast a pall on a political figure in our modern age of cable news and the internet. So yes, Senator Demint has reason to be less than happy with his current political position.
Should all of that drama be mitigation for his desperate over-reach of political theater? Should the poisoned political climate excuse a senator from the most basic research required before entering such an aggressive amendment into the public record? The single answer for both of those questions must be no. There is no excuse or mitigation for a senator that fails to understand the basics of our Constitution; it is the document a senator must swear to uphold. It may not excuse his actions, but the explanation for them is simple; the blatant disrespect for, and contempt of this president has blinded many politicians to their responsibilities to the people and our posterity.
The Rational Middle is listening…