Friday, August 03, 2012

President Obama stumbles

Back when he was a Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama said that ““I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution.”
Fair enough, but I think he missed an opportunity to show that respect.

You may be familiar with the story. A number of big city mayors, including the Mayor of Chicago, former Obama aide Rahm Emmanuel, have suggested that they would place legal obstacles in the way of Chick fil-A’s entry into or expansion in their cities. The stated reason is the opposition of the restaurant chain's President, Don Cary, to same sex marriage.
State action aimed at a business because of its speech or that of its owners or officers would be – and there is really no question about this – blatantly unconstitutional. Numerous legal commentators on the left and right – as well as the American Civil Liberties Union – have pointed that out.
But not our Constitutional Law Professor in Chief.
Why not? It can’t be because he doesn’t have time to get involved in local controversies. He found ample time, for example, to inject himself (inaccurately and inappropriately in the view of many) into the arrest of Henry Louis Gates and the shooting of Trayvon Martin.  It shouldn't be because he opposes Mr. Cary's views on same sex marriage and human sexuality (Chick fil-A has apparently contributed to an organization that seeks to modify same sex orientation.) First amendment rights aren't lost because we disagree with the views expressed by those who exercise them.

This could have been the occasion for Barack Obama to have his first ever Sister Soulja moment – a chance to stand for principle against the excesses of his base.
But I guess not. 

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree that the mayors ought not use economic coercion to dissuade a company owner from expressing their opinion on a social issue. Obama should also stand tall on this mattter. Guess what? It's an election year, and unfortunately, all bets are off. Doesn't make it right, but since when are today's politicians, regardless of party, been consistently concerned with what is right?

"...a chance to stand for principle against the excesses of his base."

Does that also include you, Professor? Care to practice on occasion what you preach?

John Foust said...

Similarly, we can examine whether mayors (or governors, or city councils, or the East Bugtussle room tax committee) might be supporting and encouraging businesses via public-funded incentives because they agree with their political views. Of course, consensus on political issues can lead to entangled business interests that lead to a more general sense of cronyism.

What's the lesser harm when it comes to the abuse of government power - harming your enemies or helping your friends? Are you opposed to both forms of bias? Do you seek out tidbits of evidence of bias in both situations? Should Tom Diehl be spending Lake Delton taxpayer money on blue dye?

Rahm's clearly crafty enough to find a new way to couch his bias if he ever tries to discourage this chain. Similarly, Walker's crafty enough to use "this will create jobs" instead of saying out loud "this business owner is a reliable Republican campaign donor and will help us wrote a good press release".

You don't even need to see the maps in order to bless them, right?