When we pointed out last week that President Barack Obama was breaking his promises to undo the inequality of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act by directing his Department of Justice to continue to push for the preservation of those statutes’ discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals, partisan Democrats howled in protest. It wasn’t fair to criticize Obama for failing to end the discrimination when he had the opportunity to do so, they said.
Their justification of Obama’s legal defense of discrimination against gays: It’s the job of the President to fight against efforts to end the government’s discriminatory practices, even when the President thinks that the discrimination is wrong. The partisan Democrats praised Obama, saying that he was just honoring the legal process, and if that meant that gays and lesbians would have to suffer inequality as a result, they’d just have to deal with that. Deep in his heart, the Democrats said, Obama secretly respects gays and lesbians. He just has trouble showing it, that’s all.
That argument makes a twisted, uncompassionate sort of sense – just so long as President Obama is actually consistent in his application of the principle that the actions of the Department of Justice cannot be swayed by political considerations. The problem is that Obama has been far from consistent in his adherence to that principle.
Consider what Barack Obama did when he entered the White House a year and a half ago. A large part of the reason that Obama was elected to become President was that the American people were angry that George W. Bush had violated the Constitution, and broken important laws established under the Constitution. People wanted to see an investigation of the criminal activities of the Bush Administration, and they wanted Bush Administration officials to be prosecuted for those crimes.
Barack Obama wouldn’t do it. He refused to prosecute Bush Administration officials, or even to investigate their many criminal activities. He wouldn’t allow the rule of law to apply to the White House.
Why not? It would be too divisive to investigate George W. Bush and prosecute him for his crimes, we were told by Barack Obama and his team at the Department of Justice. Just forget about it, and move on, they said.
In short, Barack Obama thought it would be politically inconvenient for him to have to follow the proper procedures under the law upon discovery of probable violation of federal laws. He directed the Department of Justice to refrain from pursuing the criminal suspects.
Obama thought that if he made nice to the Republican Party in this way, the Republicans would be his friends, and support him in everything he wanted to do. That political strategy didn’t work out very well for him, as the Republicans seized upon his weakness in order to accuse him of being a Communist Muslim illegal alien at every opportunity.
Forget about Barack Obama’s astounding political naivete for the moment. In the context of Obama’s recent refusal to stop sending his Justice Department’s lawyers into court to defend anti-gay discrimination, what’s relevant is the fact that Obama doesn’t really have any consistent philosophy of following his legal responsibilities, regardless of political inconvenience. Obama and his partisan allies are just using that argument as an excuse to justify his broken promise to end discrimination against homosexual Americans.
It’s essential to remember that the fundamental legal issue at stake isn’t about whether Department of Justice traditions will be upheld, but whether the promises of the Constitution of the United States of America will be upheld. When he became President, Obama swore an oath to protect the Constitution, not to protect the legal habits of the Justice Department.
Every day that Obama directs his staff at the Department of Justice to defend discrimination against Americans on the basis of their sexual orientation is a day that Obama is betraying his Oath of Office.