President or king? That’s what the Supreme Court is asking about Obama.
All is forgiven if you’re not familiar with the “take care” clause in Article II of the Constitution about the presidency, the words that say “he shall take Care that the laws be faithfully executed.” The Supreme Court hasn’t fooled with it in many years. The words are buried below the State of the Union clause, and the business of receiving “Ambassadors and other public Ministers.” They lack resonance; they sound polite.
But their meaning, traced back through hundreds of years of history and translated into today’s colloquial English is indeed a command: They mean “Mr. President, don’t act like a king” — administer the law, but don’t dispense with it or change it.
Is the president acting like a king? It’s one of those questions ordinary people have asked in recent years, but not the Supreme Court. That’s why it’s a been a bit of an abstraction, until last week, when suddenly the justices, or some of them at least, took an interest.
When the court decided to review a lower court order temporarily blocking President Obama’s 2014 decision to defer deportations of “dreamers,” an action he took in the wake of Congress’s failure to pass the “DREAM Act,” the court surprised everyone by dusting off the clause and asking for argumentsabout whether, in doing so, the president had “faithfully” executed the nation’s immigration laws.
That the justices would review the case, decided on less lofty grounds in the lower courts, was expected. The question about the “take care” clause was not.
One law professor called it a “bombshell.”