Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Republican Senators and the Battered Wife Syndrome

What the confirmation of Loretta Lynch really means.

by Bruce S. Thornton // Front PageMagazine

via FrontPage Magazine

via FrontPage Magazine

[1]For 6 years Barack Obama in word and deed has battered the Constitution and slapped around the Republicans. Abetted by his Luca Brasi, Harry Reid, he has run roughshod over the separation of powers and his own oath to the highest law in the land. He has responded to Republicans’ complaints about his executive arrogance and unlawful policies with naked contempt and partisan calumny. With his minions in the press and the Democratic Party, he has vilified conservatives as racist warmongers and plutocrats indifferent to the plight of the poor. But instead of fighting back in kind, some Republicans have bent over backwards just to get along, a capitulation disguised as “bipartisanship.”

With some exceptions, these Republicans have behaved like a battered wife who reacts to her husband’s violence with desperate attempts to placate him. Thus the Republicans predictably respond to Obama’s depredations with the preemptive cringe before charges of racism or obstructionism. Worse yet, they shrink from using the legitimate powers given to them by the Constitution precisely for the purpose of countering such tyranny. Powers like that of the “purse,” given to the House of Representatives by Article 1.7.1.: “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”

The Republicans, however, have failed to use this Constitutional power, even though they have been facing conditions––specifically an overweening executive compromising the division of powers––similar to those the Founders gave the House the power of the purse to check. During the Constitutional debates, George Mason, arguing against the idea that the Senate should originate money bills, said, “Should the [Senate] have the power of giving away the people’s money, they might soon forget the Source from whence they received it. We might soon have an aristocracy.” Benjamin Franklin agreed: “It was always of importance that the people should know who had disposed of their money, and how it was disposed of.” Whether by an oligarchic Senate or an imperial president, the unbalancing of the Constitutional order could be prevented simply by cutting off the government’s money.

That protection of the people from more powerful elites is why James Madison in Federalist 58 argued for giving the House the means for checking the less democratic branches of the government. “The house of representatives can not only refuse, but they alone can propose the supplies requisite for the support of government. They in a word hold the purse, that powerful instrument . . . This power over the purse, may in fact be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

Yet over the last 6 years too many Republicans have shied away from using that Constitutional power even in circumstances for which it was designed, trembling before a biased media’s charge that they are “shutting down the government.” Instead we have been subjected to various funding compromises that kick the entitlement can down the road, and drastically cut military spending, as did the 2013 sequester deal that left entitlements untouched but slashed defense spending. Fearing the hostile media and the Democrats’ dishonest rhetoric, they have abandoned their Constitutional prerogative and handed victory to Obama, who of course has been emboldened to push even further beyond the limits imposed on the office he holds by the Constitution he has sworn to uphold. And the media still blame and vilify Republicans.

Now we have the Senate confirming Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General. The Constitution, in Article 2.2.2., gives the Senate the power to confirm or reject candidates for this office. It does not say the president deserves to have his candidate confirmed, as Jeb Bush seems to think. This power is given to the Senate as yet another check on the executive, a way to limit an overreaching president who tries to aggrandize his power through the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. As such, the Senate’s power to give advice and consent is meant to protect the integrity of the Constitution. If the Attorney General is a partisan tool, then the president has more scope for overstepping his Constitutional limits––precisely what has happened during Eric Holder’s tenure as Attorney General.

But having been serially beaten up by this administration, some Republican Senators are now, like a battered wife, going to make him his favorite dinner, hoping that such a solicitous gesture will stop his aggression. But does anyone really believe that Lynch will not be a clone of Holder? She went on record approving the president’s clearly un-Constitutional usurpation of Congress’ law-making power in changing immigration law, not to mention violating his oath of office to execute the laws faithfully. This overreach, of course, follows numerous others, over twenty in the Affordable Care Act alone. But did any Republican grill her about the unilateral revisions of the Affordable Care Act, the still murky details of the Fast and Furious scandal, the failure to investigate vigorously the IRS scandal, Holder’s despicable race-baiting rhetoric over the Ferguson shooting, his racial demagoguery over state voter i.d. laws, and numerous other examples of Holder carrying water for his president and party rather than enforcing the Constitution and U.S. law? Did they press her to say she agreed or disagreed with any of these actions, and if so, why?

You can read the transcript for yourself and see the answer is no, with the exception of a few Senators asking about the executive order granting de facto amnesty to illegal immigrants. But worse yet, by confirming Lynch the Republicans have let Obama game them yet once again, by nominating a black woman mainly as a way of daring the Republicans to grill her or reject her, and so be vulnerable to charges of racism and sexism. Even more important, they should have turned her down just to send a message to Obama and the Democrats that after 6 years of demagoguery, executive overreach, demonstrable contempt for the their branch of government and the Constitution, and Senatorial gridlock engineered by his contemptible minion Harry Reid, the party’s over. Republicans need to take Obama’s 2008 advice: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

 


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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

19 Thoughts on “Republican Senators and the Battered Wife Syndrome

  1. Rocco Pirro on May 1, 2015 at 6:48 am said:

    My congressman is Republican House leader, Kevin McCarthy. I have written him many times (to no avail) and implored him to grow some spine. I’ve told that no matter how much he bends over and tries to appease the PC/liberal/Democrat crowd, they will call him a “sexist, bigot, racist & homophobe” anyway. The Republicans in congress are sadly laughable. On the world stage, it’s obvious that none of the world leaders, especially our adversaries fear or respect Obama. It’s quite apparent, however, that the only group in the world who do fear Obama are the Republicans in congress. I certainly hope that the Republicans can find an unapologetic conservative standard bearer who is not afraid of PC and liberalism.

  2. Obama’s real goal is so hidden, few can see it. It’s quite simple. He just hates toilet paper!

    Before the end of his presidential term, mark my words, nobody in the United States will have any toilet paper. Why would Obama want that? He insists we use the US Constitution the way he does.

  3. mollusks. fat engorged mollusks, but, mollusks.

    this country needs to take the duel out of the closet, and dust off the dueling pistols.

  4. Proudly Unaffiliated on May 1, 2015 at 7:16 am said:

    Excellent article. I have often wondered what is the precise mechanism of these dramatic breaches of oath and derelictions of duty that the congressional Republicans have so shamefully demonstrated repeatedly. It is more than likely different for different individuals and, surely, the typical brew of incompetence, greed, arrogance, ignorance, cowardice and power-broker dealing making must comprise part of what we are seeing. These characteristics are, of course, timeless and human.

    But Americans live in a new day that includes these key ingredients–
    1. The president has no internal checks or bounds to his behavior. The only thing that constrains him is an opposing, external force. As an aside, this is not typically seen in modern-day western societies (European/European-based) but it is very common in many parts of the world. In short, Obama is a 3rd world dictator dressed in presidential garb speaking from a teleprompter with a seal of approval below it.
    2. The surveillance state has reached shocking heights that the general public had no idea about until recently. What is individual privacy anymore? It may no longer result automatically from benign neglect– it may be an oversight or a cost consideration. Well, if one has access to this tool, how tempting would it be to collect information on your more-powerful competitors that might include other heads of state, domestic politicians, priority listings on your enemies list, etc.? If Clinton could have his FBI files why not Obama have his NSA monitoring?

    I suggest many congressional Republicans are compromised and blackmailed into submission, having had their balls cut off, figuratively of course. This would be far more effective than a gun at a knife fight and less messy, too.

  5. Claude Lumpkn on May 1, 2015 at 7:29 am said:

    The irony in the craven Republican response correctly portrayed by Dr. Hanson is that Obama is seen by most world leaders (i.e., Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping) as a weak, feckless and ineffective president, unwilling and incapable of exercising the reins of power for fear of retribution by those he might offend.

  6. David Park on May 1, 2015 at 9:24 am said:

    Just another political hack appointment proving that road apples don’t fall very far from the horse or, in this case, the donkey.

  7. Daphne Patai on May 1, 2015 at 9:30 am said:

    Hanson’s comments are always of interest: rational and incisive. However, his frequent use of the word “serial” to describe actions he disapproves of is an annoying distraction. The word was (I believe) first used decades ago in the expression “serial killers,” then expanded to “serial rapists,” and now is used as a term of opprobrium, evoking these earlier usages, by all sides. It is unworthy of as serious (not serial) a thinker and writer as VD Hanson.

  8. Baba O'Reilly on May 1, 2015 at 10:56 am said:

    I can’t take any more of this “why won’t GOP do anything” nonsense. They have a job, a career, a profession–in government. They have NO convictions whatsoever. YOU may, they do not. It’s like any other profession, only the job requirements are way different. Compare it to pro sports. Do you think the centerfielder for the Red Sox hates the centerfielder for the Yankees because of the rivalry? Of course not, and they’ll tell you if you ask them. They don’t see themselves as “one of the fans”. They see themselves as “professionals”, and they respect and understand other professionals like them–NOT the fans!. They have more fun at the All-Star game socializing with other players than they do at any “Fan Day” event. Pro ball players are there to play baseball, not to “beat the Yankees”, “prove the Red Sox are better”, or any of that fan stuff.

    Well, your Congressman, whether D or R, not only doesn’t share YOUR beliefs, he actually doesn’t have any real convictions at all. He can’t if he’s going to be a politician at any level. Do strong, principled, virtuous men spend their lives “raising money” they’ve done nothing to earn? Or haggle over petty leadership chits like “sub-committee vice-chair”? Do men of virtue and reason stand up in public and give speeches about topics they have no specific knowledge about, and then “control access” to the event to avoid discussion and debate about the topic or proposal?

    No? Well then what kind of men WOULD spend years in a job like that? What would a few years of that do to you if YOU did it? What kind of man stays in a job like that for a second, third or fourth term?

    So who in their right mind would go to a man with NO convictions, a man who will negotiate anything and does to be successful in his profession, and beg him to “defend the Constitution”, “restore the republic”, “limit government”, “get the budget under control”?

    • JohnnyBoy on May 15, 2015 at 7:50 am said:

      Well said, however there have been actual statesmen in the life of our country and the founders are living proof. They warned us of this quagmire, repeatedly. The media is the devil and they are the ones really running the show. Time to unplug them.

  9. Rick Bonsteel on May 1, 2015 at 11:02 am said:

    Excellent article as usual by Professor Thornton, but the American people sum up their concern for this situation with one word — “Bucket” — and have a good hearty laugh all around.

  10. zygote314 on May 1, 2015 at 2:28 pm said:

    The Republican leadership in both chambers is weak, cowardly and utterly pathetic. Does anyone know what John Boehner stands for? Does anyone know what deep convictions he holds? Does anyone know if he is even capable of articulating a clear counter manifesto of ideas and solutions with which to rally his members and the country?

    I think someone should send him a copy of Victor Davis Hanson’s book the Savior Generals. He should then read the profile of Gen. Matthew Ridgeway so he can learn how a real leader triumphs in spite of the circumstances when he has a clear vision and is willing to take risks.

    Until Boehner stops trying to ‘bug out’ from the fight for this country’s future, we will never defeat the Marxist forces in the Democrat party that are hell bent on “fundamentally transforming” this great nation.

  11. Rufus T Firefly on May 2, 2015 at 2:06 pm said:

    This is part of an agreement so Obama won’t prosecute Bush and Cheney for war crimes

  12. dupere on May 3, 2015 at 9:20 am said:

    “” exclusive dr ben carson to call for america breibart “”. Formula for a winning GOP— go bold with minimal skeletons in the political closet. Call out the donkey party for endangering the lives of every american.

  13. AGZ on May 3, 2015 at 9:16 pm said:

    Why are the Republicans so afraid of shutting down the government. The liberals and their union minions have no trouble shutting down schools, hospitals, trash collection, car companies, the transportation system, the post office, etc., when they want something. The establishment Republican party should go the way of the Whigs.

  14. dupere on May 4, 2015 at 4:21 pm said:

    Tin-foil hat Bernie Sanders and his war on wealth song, mesmerizing—–The pied piper of our time of lopsided National gains. What song will O’malley sing? Republican’s better be prepared to give something here. Go bold or go home.

  15. Carl Sesar on May 4, 2015 at 4:38 pm said:

    Battered Wife Syndrome explains the Republicans’ behavior on the issues cited by Dr. Hanson here.

    But what explains their condemnation of Michele Bachmann’s security concerns over Huma Abedin?

  16. Dan Morris on May 6, 2015 at 6:20 pm said:

    The Republicans, except for Senator Sessions are a bunch of spineless careerists. They believe in nothing, other than their next election and are perfectly willing to sell out you and your grandchildren for one more term in office. I support Dr. Ben Carson, as the only hope to get away from these disgusting traitors. Consider sending him $25 or $100.

  17. JohnnyBoy on May 15, 2015 at 7:45 am said:

    Fat little coward pigs, emboldened by a lapdog press; conservatives and anyone who isn’t a diehard socialist should be closing the purse on the media, shutting the door of their power. Citizen groups should work to shut down businesses that support this subordination of all our rights. If we don’t stop them here, we will reap the harvest of our shy laziness.

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