Obama the constitutional lawyer ... ha

“After several meetings and phone calls, the rival legal analyses were submitted to Mr. Obama, who is a constitutional lawyer, and he made the decision.”
–The New York Times, June 17, 2011.

One of the more hilarious fictions in President Barack Obama’s biography is that of him as a constitutional lawyer, scholar, professor and expert. It was used during his first presidential campaign to give he of the wafer-thin resume some gravitas, and it will someday be used by a future Democratic President to try to get Obama on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the meantime, it was trotted out again this week to support Obama’s decision to ignore the War Powers Act with respect to the war in Libya. The Act is supposed to limit the president’s ability to wage wars without Congressional involvement.

So what about his legal expertise? Let’s go to his friendly biographers:

“While most colleagues published by the pound, he never completed a single work of legal scholarship.”
–The New York Times on Obama’s 12 years teaching part-time at the University of Chicago Law School, July 30, 2008.

“Over the nine years that Obama’s law license was active in Illinois, he never handled a trial and mostly worked in teams of lawyers who drew up briefs and contracts in a variety of cases.”
–David Mendell, Obama: From Promise to Power (2007), p. 105.

About the only people who actually believe Obama is the law’s next Brandeis or Scalia are the Obamas. And something tells you Michelle is just repeating what she has heard from her hubby around the dinner table.

“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
–Obama to a candidate to be his political director, 2007.

“Starting the first thing in the morning and going late into the night, this is a man who is hunched over briefing books. He reads every single word. He is gifted. He is able to retain, make notes, ask questions. He knows more than the people briefing him.”
–Michelle Obama at Beverly Hills campaign fundraiser at which tickets cost as much as $35,000 a piece, June 13, 2011.

(She did not mention the 73 rounds of golf he has played as President as of June 18, 2011.)

Barack Obama’s undistinguished legal career nevertheless far exceeds his record as a student of economics. His stewardship of the U.S. economy has been abysmal: high debt, high unemployment, low growth, crony socialism run amok. He summed it up best way back in 2004:

“I’m LeBron, baby.”
–Barack Obama, July 27, 2004.

Indeed he is. Lots of activity, great showmanship, high self-regard, but no titles.


Appendix: More from the NY Times on Obama and the War Powers Act:

President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

Presidents have the legal authority to override the legal conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel and to act in a manner that is contrary to its advice, but it is extraordinarily rare for that to happen. Under normal circumstances, the office’s interpretation of the law is legally binding on the executive branch.

Still, the disclosure that key figures on the administration’s legal team disagreed with Mr. Obama’s legal view could fuel restiveness in Congress, where lawmakers from both parties this week strongly criticized the White House’s contention that the president could continue the Libya campaign without their authorization because the campaign was not “hostilities.”

After several meetings and phone calls, the rival legal analyses were submitted to Mr. Obama, who is a constitutional lawyer, and he made the decision.

The theory Mr. Obama embraced holds that American forces have not been in “hostilities” as envisioned by the War Powers Resolution at least since early April, when NATO took over the responsibility for the no-fly zone and the United States shifted to a supporting role providing refueling assistance and surveillance — although remotely piloted American drones are still periodically firing missiles.


The writer, whose legal career was every bit as undistinguished as the Obamas’ legal careers, has been researching Obama’s record for a project that will be unveiled this fall.

This essay was cross-posted at TL4A.com.