John Sheirer: The wisdom (or lack thereof) of taking President Obama to court

Sunday, August 10, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — When I first heard that Congressional Republicans were planning to sue President Obama, I checked to see if the information came from a satire outlet. The current crop of Republicans has given The Onion plenty of material since President Obama’s election. Suing the president would be as mind numbing as claiming Obama inherited a successful Iraq War from President Bush.

The proposed Republican lawsuit, unfortunately, was not satire. In an all-too-real July 7 editorial on the CNN website, Speaker of the House John Boehner rambled about how President Obama has “consistently overstepped his authority under the Constitution.” A reasonable person might expect examples of presidential overreach, but Boehner’s editorial was about as specific as a toddler’s explanation of where babies come from.

Carl Sagan of “Cosmos” fame was fond of saying, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Speaker Boehner clearly does not subscribe to Sagan’s theory. Of the 553 words in his editorial, not a single syllable indicated a specific case of the President exceeding his authority.

Republicans have been trying to label President Obama a dictator for years. Talk radio, the fever swamps of the Internet and Fox News have ranted about how the president is a ruthless tyrant for the grave sins of trying to help people get health insurance or protect children from gun violence. But Republican luminaries such as Paul Ryan and John McCain repeated these accusations, bringing the fringe to the mainstream.

The weeks following Boehner’s CNN editorial saw the proposed Republican lawsuit praised by conservative media outlets that promoted the Obama-as-tyrant narrative. Some connected any news event with Obama’s fictionalized dictatorial tendencies. That passenger jet shot down over Ukraine? Obama did that to distract from the investigations of his many unconstitutional abuses — obviously.

Responsible members of the media, on the other hand, rightly pointed out Boehner’s vagaries. So in a July 27 editorial in USA Today, Boehner finally revealed the specifics of President Obama’s alleged crimes against the nation. After telling three outright lies about the president’s actions relating to the environment, POW Bowe Bergdahl and welfare, Boehner claimed that he must sue the president because he had delayed one provision of Obamacare, the mandate that companies with more than 50 employees provide health insurance for their full-time workers. Here’s a fun fact: Republicans in the House had voted just last year that the president should delay that same employer mandate.

Let’s be clear: Republicans planned to sue the president for doing what they wanted him to do — awfully nice for a dictator. House Republicans then passed a resolution for their lawsuit on July 30, interrupting their plans to jet off on yet another of their vacations away from the burdensome task of ignoring the nation’s real problems. Almost immediately afterward, Republicans shredded the fabric of reality by criticizing the president for not taking executive action to address the border crisis that they have failed to address.

I’m not an attorney, but I can read. The legal analysis I’ve read shows that the Republican lawsuit is without merit for at least two basic reasons. First, the courts have given presidents plenty of latitude to enforce laws as they see fit. Obama’s delay of the employer mandate falls comfortably within that standard. Second, House Republicans must prove the president’s actions have caused them damage. The president has lately been pointing out Republican incompetence, but Republicans’ own actions have far more frequently brought that condemnation upon themselves.

Is this silly lawsuit a prelude to or substitute for the lunacy of impeachment? Despite their recent denials, many Republicans have brought up impeachment practically since Obama’s first election. Now that Democrats have been calling them out on their impeachment rants, Republicans have taken offense and tried to deny their previous statements. Fortunately, inventions such as sound and video recording technology have captured their impeachment fantasies for rebroadcast on magical television and computer devices.

Perhaps Republicans will also sue the inventors of these technologies that highlight their dishonesty.

Will the absurd Republican lawsuit even be filed? Probably. Republicans are fond of carrying on narratives that have long since been disproven. They keep trying to repeal Obamacare even though it has helped insure millions of Americans. And after every investigation has shown no wrongdoing in the Benghazi tragedy, the GOP is gearing up for yet another set of hearings to rehash their baseless attacks.

As my friend Naomi Minogue of Liberal Fix Radio says, Republicans keep throwing spaghetti at the walls. None of it ever sticks, but that never stops them from throwing more spaghetti. Naomi’s analogy for today’s Republican Party is fitting: tantrum-throwing children flinging half-baked pasta around the Capitol Building.

Aren’t Republicans supposed to be against frivolous lawsuits? Didn’t they trumpet tort reform as a cure-all during the health care debates? How much will this lawsuit cost American taxpayers? What actual issues will Republicans continue to ignore as they pursue their witch-hunts?

Will the lawsuit further damage Congress’s single-digit approval rating? What should we call this Congress when it has done far less that the historically inept Republicans that President Truman dubbed the “Do-Nothing Congress”?

Most important, will Americans reward Republicans for their insulting and embarrassing lawsuit at the voting booth in November?

If so, maybe it’s time to sue Republican voters for civic negligence.

John Sheirer of Northampton writes a monthly column. He can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.

To the editor:

Those of us fortunate enough to experience the blessings of the Norwottuck Rail Trail need to exercise common sense in its use. The trail is inherently multi-use, frequented by individuals and groups, of commuters on bikes, dog walkers, bird watchers and runners.

To ensure a convivial environment, groups need to extend respect to others using the trail.

It is incumbent upon groups occupying the full width of the trail to be aware of others in front and behind them, enabling those sharing the trail to pass without being asked.

Anything less is simply inconsiderate, detracting from everyone’s experience in this magnificent environment.

Michael Aronson