By Mr. Curmudgeon:
Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) told the Daily Caller that President Obama should be given the power to raise the nation’s debt ceiling without congressional authority. Citing Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Davis said, “Sometimes when we’ve gotten great answers is when presidents have had enough authority to take some actions. I mean, remember that we just celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and if Abraham Lincoln had not had the power, authority and the will to make that decision, we may have gone on with the war that was going to last several additional years and much longer, and thousands and thousands of people could have and would have, in all probability, lost their lives.”
Davis obviously skipped U.S. History and Constitutional Law. And he apparently missed the latest Steven Spielberg movie regarding the last months of Lincoln’s life. In the film, there is a fascinating scene with Lincoln explaining to his cabinet the legal challenges facing the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Proclamation, Lincoln says, was issued using the war powers granted him as Commander-in-Chief by the U.S. Constitution. Lincoln adds that since he does not recognize the Confederate States of America – that his government is merely battling the rebellious elements within them – the United States is legally not at war and his war-making powers can’t legitimately be invoked. He tells his cabinet that after the war the courts will likely declare his Proclamation unconstitutional, risking the eventual reestablishment of slavery. And Roger B. Taney, who wrote the majority opinion in the infamous Dread Scott decision, was still Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
An historical fact lost on Davis – and most Americans for that matter – is that Lincoln’s Proclamation only applied to those slave states in open rebellion against America. Delaware, which remained in the Union and sent troops to fight for the United States, was a slave state and, therefore, unaffected by the Emancipation Proclamation.
In the Spielberg film, Lincoln tells his cabinet that the only guarantee of freedom for the slave is to amend the Constitution. The story then shifts to the herculean efforts, some underhanded, that led to the passage by Congress of the 13th Amendment that ended slavery in America.
Lincoln knew the limits of his power as the nation’s chief executive and that our flawed Constitution sanctioned slavery in America. Leaders come and go, but the law remains. Lincoln used lawful means to amend the Constitution, which required two-thirds of the states to ratify the anti-slavery amendment – dispelling the silly and absurd neo-Confederate claim that Lincoln was a “tyrant.”
Rep. Davis, on the other hand, would love nothing more than for President Obama to govern as a tyrant. In fact, Davis appears ready to relinquish his constitutional duties as a member of the lower House, which is to control the nation’s purse strings, and allow the president to serve as chief executive, legislator, treasurer, judge and jury.
If Davis is sincere, he and other congressional Obama cultists should show their seriousness by resigning their seats to clear the way for America’s Hugo Chavez. Besides, House Speaker John Boehner is already giving the fearless leader all he asks.