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Jewish World Review March 27, 2000 /20 Adar II, 5760

David Limbaugh

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Treaties, triggers, tobacco and tyrants


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE the framers were so insistent that only virtuous men serve as president? To set a moral example for the nation? Oh yes, but there's much more to it than that.

Before you Clintonoids wrongly assume I am waxing nostalgic for impeachment and urge me "to move on," you should hear me out. Despite the brilliant scheme of checks and balances incorporated into the Constitution, the system is not foolproof against the devices of clever and deceitful men.

No, I'm not referring to "lying under oath about sex." I'm talking about Clinton's other flagrant abuses of executive authority making headlines this week. They all illustrate just how much damage one Constitution-disrespecting president and his administration can do to the cause of freedom in this country.

Last week, President Clinton urged India to comply with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which the Senate soundly rejected last year, and the Kyoto (global warming) Treaty, which he hasn't even submitted to the Senate for ratification because he knows he doesn't have the votes. In utter disregard for the Senate's constitutional role in these matters, Clinton presses forward with the unabashed arrogance of a totalitarian dictator.

On the environmental front, the EPA has announced that it will not allow certain California farmers to harvest timber on their own property because it would violate new water-quality regulations governing a river adjacent to their land. Never mind the devastating economic impact this could have on landowners whose livelihood depends on their land use. Never mind that the EPA lacks statutory authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate such "non-point sources" of pollution.

On to tobacco. In an excellent article in the American Spectator, Byron York chronicles the extensive efforts of the Clinton Justice Department to bring Big Tobacco to its knees. In 1996, the federal government refused to join states in their litigation against tobacco companies, saying they had no legal authority do so.

In the meantime, the states achieved an enormous settlement with tobacco, whetting Clinton's appetite beyond containment. When he couldn't convince Congress to intervene, he directed the always-compliant Janet Reno to reverse her earlier decision declining to involve the Justice Department. Never mind that there had been no change in the law authorizing Justice to proceed against cigarette makers.

Clinton would not be deterred by that annoying nuisance of a document known as the Constitution. He proceeded primarily under the Medical Care Recovery Act, a narrowly defined statute allowing the federal government to recoup medical expenses on behalf of military personnel injured by civilians. Using a tortured interpretation, Clinton argued that the statute allows the government to recover against tobacco companies the medical costs expended on behalf of Medicare patients due to smoking. York notes that "It's an interpretation of the law that strikes some experts as almost breathtaking in its audacity." Stay tuned.

In another audacious move, Clinton's FDA tried to regulate tobacco as a drug. Thankfully this week, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, slapped down the FDA's attempted usurpation of authority. The ever-brazen Clinton was unfazed by the ruling, spinning it as a victory because the Court recognized tobacco as "one of our most troubling public health problems facing our nation today." He knows that Gore, if elected, can rectify this constitutional obstacle by appointing activist judges.

To top it all off, the administration this week bullied gun-maker Smith & Wesson into adopting gun safety measures that Congress had so far refused to legally mandate. In exchange, the company was released from liability in lawsuits brought by more than 15 cities, the Federal Housing Authority and other groups seeking to hold manufacturers legally responsible for violence caused by their weapons. The lawsuit was never about recovering money, but using the courts as a weapon to circumvent the democratic will of Congress. Adding insult to injury, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo has promised to use the economic coercion of the federal government to force other recalcitrant gun manufacturers to get on board.

Without some modicum of honor being exhibited by our elected and appointed officials, the Constitution is hardly worth the paper it is written on. Without some respect for their proper constitutional roles, we are all at the whim of their capricious abuses of authority.


JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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03/13/00: Deifying of the center
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12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
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12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
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12/06/99:The lust for power
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