We still imagine ourselves a nation of laws, not of men. This is not merely an article of faith but a bedrock principle of the United States Constitution. Our founding compact provides a remedy against rulers supplanting the rule of law, and Andrew C. McCarthy makes a compelling case for using it.
The authors of the Constitution saw practical reasons to place awesome powers in a single chief executive, who could act quickly and decisively in times of peril. Yet they well understood that unchecked power in one person’s hands posed a serious threat to liberty, the defining American imperative. Much of the debate at the Philadelphia convention therefore centered on how to stop a rogue executive who became a law unto himself.
The Framers vested Congress with two checks on presidential excess: the power of the purse and the power of impeachment. They are potent remedies, and there are no others.
It is a straightforward matter to establish that President Obama has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” a term signifying maladministration and abuses of power by holders of high public trust. But making the legal case is insufficient for successful impeachment, leading to removal from office. Impeachment is a political matter and hinges on public opinion.
In Faithless Execution, McCarthy weighs the political dynamics as he builds a case, assembling a litany of abuses that add up to one overarching offense: the president’s willful violation of his solemn oath to execute the laws faithfully. The “fundamental transformation” he promised involves concentrating power into his own hands by flouting law—statutes, judicial rulings, the Constitution itself—and essentially daring the other branches of government to stop him. McCarthy contends that our elected representative are duty-bound to take up the dare.