When the law loses its moral stature

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.

— John Adams

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.

— John Adams

Political liberty only exists where there is no abuse of power; it is an eternal experience that every man who holds power is drawn to abuse it; he will proceed until he finds the limits.

— Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755)

Great men are almost always bad men.

— John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton (Lord acton) (1834–1902), Letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, April 5, 1887

The common law tradition is that laws are not merely dictates and prohibitions but expressions of right and wrong. Something is against the law not merely because some people don’t want other people to do the thing banned by the law, but because the law protects all citizens from the immoral behavior of miscreants. Thus, the law has moral stature. When obeying the law is equated with being good, obeying the law is easy for good people. Likewise, breaking the law is easy for bad people.

Breaking the law will become easy for good people as well when they come to believe their personal moral code is no longer associated with obeying the law, because the law itself has lost its moral stature.  Nothing destroys the moral stature of law more easily than when public officials and politicians break the law, and the more they flout the law the less it will be seen as having much to do with right and wrong.  When political leaders treat the rule of law as only applying to the powerless masses, all people may come to believe the only reason to obey the law is to avoid the consequences of getting caught.

Barack Obama is the world class master of manipulation when it comes to making himself look honorable and upright while sweeping aside all laws and regulations that otherwise constrain his action as President.  William Jefferson Clinton was previously thought to be the most expert at this game (“I did not have sex with that woman…”) but even he lost his license to practice law when he lied under oath.  Obama, however, has the Midas touch of deception.

Obamacare may be the law of land but only Obama can willy nilly ignore it, postpone some of its provisions, and in essence decide solely on his own which parts of it he will follow and which he will ignore.  Somehow, he gets away with this and is still seen by low-information Americans as the guy who is trying to help people get health care.

Obama lied to the American people when he blamed an obscure Youtube video maker for the attack on Benghazi when he knew all along that this was a planned and organized terrorist attack with Al Qaeda involvement.  The lies enabled Obama to push the Banghazi matter beyond the 2012 elections.  Why obey the law or any sort of moral code when lying and cheating works so well?

The terrible effects these and the many other scandals of the Obama presidency are having on all that has made America exceptional in the world cannot be exaggerated, nor the long-term consequences overstated.