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A review of The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama's War on the Republic by David Limbaugh
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The best thing Barack Obama had going for him in 2008 was the near total dearth of a public record. It is not that there was no such record. Obama had been a professional rabble-rouser—which is to say a “community organizer” in the Saul Alinsky mold, who made common cause with revolutionary Leftists. Later, when he decided to seek public office, his coming-out party was held in the living room of two former Weather Underground terrorists. Still, Obama’s pre-presidential political career was meager and distinguished only by his propensity to vote “present” rather than take accountable stands.
With the press bleaching away his radical roots and studiously indifferent to such basic information as his upbringing, education, and résumé (or lack of same), the candidate was elusively depicted as a “pragmatic centrist.” In effect, he was a blank screen and “Hope and Change” was the projector portraying a glorious mirage of all that is good and right for the masses. Or, at least, good and left—a post-partisan, post-racial, globally loved America where the government provides for your every need, yet balances the budget while taxing only a handful of rich Republicans. The masses fell for it.
They did not fall for it in 2010. By then, in lieu of Hope, we’d had two years of Change—the reality of Obama. His party lost control of Congress and of state and municipal governments across the country. This historic electoral “shellacking,” as the president memorably called it, had many causes, but paramount was the Obama record. Of course, bringing that record to the fore was no mean feat. Since 2008, the legacy media has devolved from its longtime role as Democrat pom-pom girl to its new station as all-but-official White press office. The job of marshaling the facts was left to alternative sources. Of these, nobody did the heavy-lifting more thoroughly and consequentially than David Limbaugh.
In the commentariat, he treads a path different from his famous brother, the inimitable Rush. An accomplished lawyer, David Limbaugh is a bestselling author several times over, writing with compelling clarity and an eye for detail that never loses sight of the big picture. In late summer of 2010, his Crimes Against Liberty hit the shelves and zoomed atop the charts just as the midterm election campaign was teeing up. Its impact, though not noted nearly enough, was profound.
The book was a comprehensive evaluation of Obama’s first twenty months in office—a day-by-day accounting of the administration’s offenses against the Constitution, the private sector, the public interest, our national security, our posterity, and our friends abroad. Pick any subject, from Obamacare down to the commander-in-chief’s embarrassing salute to navy “corpse-men,” and the book provided a succinct, richly sourced synopsis that cried out for a reversal of the tide. Crimes Against Liberty did not just educate readers; it gave movers and shakers in the conservative media an accessible, one-stop-shop for explaining why it was imperative to “throw the bums out.”
Now, with an election of epic significance beckoning, Limbaugh reprises his yeoman’s work.1 Yet, The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama’s War on the Republic does not merely pick up where the last book left off. It amplifies thematically as it extends detail by gory detail.
War is a strong word, a shocking one when applied to a president’s state of relations with his own country. What is truly shocking, though, is the accumulated depth and completeness of Obama’s systematic dismantling of the American order. Prior misadventures in progressive governance have given us a little intrusion into the financial markets here, a little surrender of sovereignty there, with the occasional end-around Congress just to keep things interesting. This is far different: a withering campaign against the once seemingly indestructible novus ordo seclorum. Obama is making good on his famously brayed but rigorously unexamined vow to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.”
It is a war because Obama, Limbaugh demonstrates, seeks outright conquest, not just policy accommodations. His aim is not to have the government encroach further than ever before into American society; it is to have his regime, a government unrecognizable from the one the framers gave us, dominate American society, a society unrecognizable from what we used to think of as “American.” The attack is not just substantive but structural.
“Change” turns out to be a sedulous project to alter the relation between the citizen and the state—indeed, the very concepts of citizen and state. No longer are we to be a sovereign people who have a government that can be reined in or changed if it strays from the popular will. In Obama’s America, the sovereign is the central government, which has a people that it reins in with a stupefying maze of regulation, and that it changes by empowering the non-citizen, the alienated and the lawless.
Government, moreover, is no longer a balanced, and thus restrained, system of divided powers: presumptively autonomous states bestriding a central government; the latter’s powers dedicated only to national concerns and split among three peer, competitive branches. State sovereignty, instead, is a vestige, ceded all but nominally to an omnipotent federal master. The master, in turn, rules—not governs, rules—from the Oval Office, flouting the judiciary and barely noticing Congress’s existence.
Obama has a cabinet, but real power is exercised by dozens of czars and “White House liaison officers,” who are not subject to senate confirmation. They effectively control exorbitant budgets and the drafting of voluminous regulations. The regulations constantly metastasize because, having ram-rodded the massive stimulus, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank financial system overhaul bills through the pre-shellacking Democratic Congress, Obama has proclaimed his intention to legislate unilaterally. He effects this proclamation through a torrent of executive orders, aggressive policy directives that guide a swelling legion of federal agencies, and an unprecedentedly imperial interpretation of “prosecutorial discretion.”
Under the system formerly known as constitutional governance, executive orders and policy directives were binding law only insofar as the subject matter was assigned to the executive branch either by the Constitution’s Article II (e.g., the commander-in-chief powers) or by congressionally enacted law—i.e., by statutes which, in validly addressing some federal responsibility, delegated rule-making authority to an executive agency for the narrow purpose of carrying out the will of Congress, meaning the will of the people as expressed through their representatives.
Since 2010, with a more Republican Congress declining to enact his unpopular statist initiatives, Limbaugh repeatedly illustrates that Obama interprets this “no” not as a decision lawmakers are entitled to make, but as indecision, and thus a “failure to act.” To remedy this purported legislative dereliction, the president claims to have “an obligation to do what I can without them . . . on behalf of the American people.” He consequently instructs the thousands of expert components in his massive executive bureaucracy to carry out the will of Barack Obama. That is, the president’s policies are enforced as if they were statutes, and Obama dares Congress and the courts to stop him.
It works. The Republican-controlled House is too timid to muster much resistance. Even when it occasionally rouses itself, the effort dies in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The Framers assumed their construct would work because competing branches would be invested in their institutional turf. The president could not become a tyrant because Congress would use its considerable powers—ranging from the purse to impeachment—to beat back executive overreach. They did not figure on the modern Left. Congressional Democrats are invested in the statist cause, not in separation-of-powers and other quaint constitutional niceties. If the cause is best advanced by Obama’s lawlessness, then the legislative power can hibernate.
As Limbaugh further documents, Obama also has no compunction about flouting the occasionally non-compliant judge. This is no longer the Bush era, replete with media caterwauling about the loathsome “unitary executive” and paeans to the “rule of law.” With a Leftist in control, it turns out that the emperor has no robes: courts are bereft of real power if the executive branch refuses to enforce their rulings. A willful chief executive, having co-opted the media and overwhelmed his opposition, faces little scrutiny when choosing to defy judges.
The result is a one-man wrecking ball. Obama makes his own law. When he starts an unprovoked war, as he did in Libya, Obama consults only with the peers he recognizes—the United Nations and the Arab League. Congress is ignored . . . and meekly picks up the tab. When he decides that federal immigration laws are too onerous on millions of prospective Democratic voters—er, I mean “undocumented” aliens—Obama announces that, in his discretion, they will not be enforced. When a state like Arizona tries to defend itself from the security and budget-busting wages of rampant illegal immigration, Obama hauls it into court . . . with Arizona taxpayers footing the bill for the Justice Department’s aggression. When he loses in Court, Obama scoffs at the ruling and announces that the federal authorities will no longer cooperate with state police . . . rendering the judicial smack-down irrelevant. When Congress declines to pass his “Dream Act” (which would legitimize the presence of millions of young, illegal aliens), Obama purports to enact it by executive order.
The last gambit is wildly unconstitutional. But, the president figures, who’s going to stop him? Congress? Don’t make him laugh. Congress last tried to stop him by refusing to confirm four unpopular appointees. Obama responded by installing the four anyway, as “recess appointees.” There was just one problem: Congress was not in recess. You don’t like it? Write your congressman, or write James Madison—see where that gets you.
When he’s not grabbing power, Obama is grabbing land. Limbaugh relates a jaw-dropping statistic: “the federal government owns approximately one-third of the land in the United States”—yes, that’s besides its effective control over the other two-thirds. These ever-expanding dominions have been converted into a radical environmentalist project: under the guise of creating “open spaces,” “wilderness,” “conservation areas,” “wetlands,” and “federal monuments,” Leviathan’s Interior Department has sealed off a land-mass considerably bigger than most countries in the world. They are to remain pristine, spared from the Left’s bête noirs of energy production and “sprawl”—the latter is what most Americans think of as “living in the suburbs.” Again, when courts dare to vindicate the economic liberties vouchsafed by the Constitution—as they did by invalidating Obama’s ban on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill (“Never let a serious crisis go to waste,” quoth Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff)—the rulings are blithely ignored.
Obama has waged unrelenting class warfare and unleashed populist demagoguery to divide and conquer his political opposition, painting conservatives as homophobic, Islamophobic, racists, and Republicans as a praetorian guard for “the one percent,” who would consign the remaining ninety-nine to “dirtier air, dirtier water, [and] less people with health insurance.” In a State of the Union address, he publicly dressed down the Supreme Court over its affirmation of political free speech—i.e., dissent, or what Democrats used to call the “highest form of patriotism” back in the bad old Bush days. Even the media feels Obama’s lash—the rare journalist who writes an unflattering account of the first lady or notices the administration’s propensity to stonewall while preaching “transparency” can expect a phone call, as well as denial of any courtier’s most fevered desire: access.
Well on the way to deconstructing both the Constitution’s framework and the liberties that shore it up, Obama has taken aim at societal bedrocks. Free enterprise is suffocated by stifling regulations and the imminence of even more confiscatory taxation. Religious liberty is nullified by Obamacare mandates that Christian organizations provide coverage for abortifacients and contraception. Free speech is threatened by Obama’s collusion with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (fifty-seven Muslim governments) to prohibit negative criticism of Islam. State power to defend traditional marriage and the family is under siege by a Justice Department that has joined the culture war as the forward militia of gay activism.
The same Justice Department cataclysmically violates its most basic duties, to ensure equal protection under the law and national security. Obama’s “rule of law” entails racially discriminatory civil-rights enforcement; empowering Islamists to dictate counterterrorism policy; transferring thousands of guns to Mexican drug cartels in the botched “Fast & Furious” investigation—designed to advance the Left’s anti-Second Amendment jihad—that has resulted in the murders of two federal agents; and upholding selective “waivers”—in which donors and other administration cronies are licensed to flout the web of laws, mandates, regulations, rules, and policies that ensnare the rest of us.
At every turn, in ways great and small, it is a radically transforming America—increasingly less sovereign, less wealthy, less secure, and less free. There are but a few weeks left before November, before the nation either dramatically alters course or cruises on to the abyss, perhaps irreversibly. As in 2010, David Limbaugh is not content to sound the alarm; he has made the comprehensive, compelling case that the “Great Destroyer” must be confronted and defeated. If America hopes to return to being America, she’d better be listening.
1 The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama’s War on the Republic, by David Limbaugh; Regnery Publishing, 400 pages, $29.95.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 31 September 2012, on page 67
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