Honduras & The Rule of Law

In my July 4 post, I wrote that many Americans make what I think of as a mistake in elevating voting and democracy as the primary wonders of the United States.  In that post, I argued that  -- 1.  The Rule of Law  2.  Protection of Individual Rights and 3.  The Subordination of the Government to the Citizenry -- were all more important than voting.

It seems this was a timely post, as Obama appears hell-bent on making the same mistake in Honduras:

Again and again Obama stresses the fact that Mel Zelaya was "democratically-elected". But the same could be said about many of today's dictators. Elections are only one part of the democratic process. The other, and the one that sustains the electoral process, is the rule of law. Focusing only on the fact that Zelaya was "democratically-elected" but ignoring the fact that he has attempted to subvert Honduran constitutional principles that ensure such democratic elections is bad enough.

However, continuing that line of criticism after being apprised of the constitutional arguments and the process which led to Zeyala's ouster is completely unacceptable. Yes, we back the right of people to democratically elect their leaders. But we must also back their decision, driven by the rule of law, to remove a leader when he refuses to follow the law he is sworn to uphold. Why is it that Obama, the "Constitutional law professor, doesn't appear to "get" that?

In Honduras, Obama is siding against the rule of law, against the legislative branch, and against the Supreme Court, but for Executive power and for an enemy of liberty.  Hmm, maybe he is consistent after all.

  • morganovich

    i utterly agree that obama is making the wrong choice here. zelaya had outrageously violated his oath of office and was flat out fomenting civil unrest. after attempting (and being stopped by the supreme court) to replace the army leaders who would not carry out his illegal referendum he actually led a mob of the public to storm a military base. this is the president of a country. the clear aim was subvert the constitution for personal gain.

    removing him from office was clearly the right idea.

    the one problem is this: there is, oddly, no provision anywhere in the honduran constitution for impeaching a president. i'm not even sure if there is a removal for incapacity clause or, if there is, under what conditions it may be invoked.

    the mistake was grabbing him out of bed and whisking him out of the country. it creates too much opportunity for him to grandstand and cry "coup". what they should have done was arrest him and take him, very publicly, before a grand jury or the supreme court for violating his oath of office and then called a snap election. air his crimes and let civil, not military, authorities handle it while showing immediate commitment to democracy.

    a accelerated election looks like the best way out of this mess. get rid of zelaya, get a new popularly elected leader ASAP.

  • Bart Hall (Kansas, USA)

    Democracy is not the opposite of totalitarianism, for they answer two quite different questions: who holds power, and how much power do they hold. It was one of deTocqueville's greatest concerns.

    Once the parasites -- welfare recipients, pensioners, bureaucrats, politicians, subsidy-dependent farmers, assorted grant recipients and so on -- gain an electoral majority ... it is effectively over.

    Nobel Laureate Douglass North in his groundbreaking 2005 book, 'Understanding the Process of Economic Change,' paid particular attention to the problem of institutional inertia, especially those institutions developped to deal with human uncertainties, rather than natural ones.

    He commented that political structures lead either to economic efficiency (depressingly rare) or to stagnation (far too common). Parasites vote for the imposition of structural stagnation because it makes their lives somewhat easier.

    Those who seek true liberty and freedom in society account for probably no more than one-third of the total. Democracy, therefore, can lead easily to entrenched interests resentful of freedom, especially when freedom leads to differentials of outcome.

    Capitalism is not a philosophy: it is the natural result of freedom. Obama has a demonstrable track record in opposition to capitalism. To defeat it, he must therefore and perforce first oppose and defeat freedom. Democracy is a convenient shibboleth with which to do that, both abroad and at home.

  • James H

    This should not be a surprise. O has demonstrated many times that rule of law is not the #1 priority, in fact it's probably not even in his top ten. Laws can be so inconvenient, getting in the way of tranferring companies into the hands of unions, etc. As he succeeds in some of these situations, it will only embolden him to go further. He feels he was given a mandate to transcend laws to bring about "change". Just look at his statements about potential SCOTUS candidates, all that talk about empathy over the law. Empathy is great if you're the recipient, but I would still prefer justice.

    I would like to make a prediction that if he is elected for a 2nd term, that there will be a great deal of rhetoric about term limits and how much more he would like to accomplish. There will be a whole bunch of ends-justifies-the-means types of arguments with big speeches about "we can't continue on the path of cutting off progress after 8 years are up" or some such BS.

  • Jim Collins

    Of course Obama is on Zelaya's side. How can Obama expect to become President for Life if Zelaya doesn't.

  • Rick

    Komrade Obama is just sticking up Komrade Zelaya. It shouldn't be surprising that the argument "but he was democratically elected" is being used as an excuse for dictatorship. After all, the left has been rationalizing Komrade Chavez for years now using the same rhetoric.

  • Dr. T

    I see that a bunch of us (James H., Jim Collins, and Rick) feel the same.

    "...Obama stresses the fact that Mel Zelaya was “democratically-elected."

    Of course he does. If Obama cannot get the presidential term limits amendment repealed by 2016, he'll pull a Zelaya so he can continue on into a third, a fourth, and a fifth (have to beat FDR's record) term. After all, the people want and need to retain their ObaMessiah.

  • Smoove G

    It should come as no surprise that O takes the side of unrestrained executive power instead of the rule of law and constitutional principle. It would be an intolerable threat to Obama's own grasp of / desire for power if the world perceived it to be legitimate for citizens to remove unfit and law-breaking officials from office.

    I wish I could believe that O's law-breaking and desecration of the Constitution thus far were anything more than a mere warm-up. But with the health care initiative, it looks like he's just getting started.

    Incidentally, I share James H's and Dr. T's concerns that O and his disciples will try to push for a third term (if he doesn't completely destroy the country first). But let's not be silly: he has already successfully violated many other provisions of the Constitutions. There's little reason to believe the 22nd Amendment couldn't be illegally circumvented somehow as well.

    For a "Constitutional Law professor", he certainly doesn't seem to know much about the quaint old piece of paper.

  • Peter

    What Obama is looking for is legal precedent. For once he is done making our economy worse than that of Honduras he's going to argue that with just a few more terms and a lot more stimulus money he will be able to turn it around. After all he still be blaming the downturn on Bush.