A piece, with the laughable title America’s Legal Order Begins to Fray, in the venerable and generally respectable Wall Street Journal written by some Fellow of a prestigious think tank made this observation on the disintegrating respect for law enforcement officers in the United States:
Police officials I have spoken with in recent months say that they long to hear America’s leaders change the tone of the national conversation before respect for the rule of law itself deteriorates further. [Emphasis mine]
The talking heads and braying asses of the professional anti-immigrant movement spout the phrase “rule of law” in an incessant drone to justify an immigration regime that includes search and seizure of American citizens persons, houses, papers and effects anywhere within 60 miles of a border or coast without a warrant. That brayingest of braying asses, Chris Christie, makes reference to the rule of law (and, laughably, self-control) in his opposition to the 9th & 10 Amendments to the United States Constitution. All of these blowhard ignoramuses are forgetting two things about this phrase. First and most basically, they are ignoring the full phrase.. Second and more importantly, by dropping the second half of the phrase they purposely obscure the reason that the rule of law is important, confusing themselves and anyone who pays attention to their bloviating.
The actual phrase is “the rule of law and not of men.” President John Adams made the statement more clear, and less subject to its current abuse, saying that we have “A government of laws and not of men.” The rule of law is not important for its own sake. Ruthless, authoritarian regimes of the worst sorts can cross the i’s and dot the t’s of a system of written laws that constrain the ruled but not the rulers. In fact a regime of laws with the aim of constraining the citizenry is the furthest thing from the “rule of law and not of men.” The rule of law is intended to constrain government, to protect the life, liberty and property of citizens against the rule of men in an oppressive, uncontrolled state.
The reason that respect for the police is deteriorating is because the police have themselves shown an utter disregard for the rule of law, opting instead for the rule of the badge and the men who wear it. Further, when caught on camera or audio recording violating the law their response is to deny wrongdoing in the face of overwhelming evidence, rally around their own even for the most heinous acts of rape and completely unjustifiable homicide, malign their victims and generally behave as lawless thugs. The blame for lack of respect of police lies first at the hands of the police that commit lawless acts and second at the hands of their brethren who condone and excuse, rather than condemning, investigating and insisting on the prosecution of, those acts. If those who would foment racial tension have taken advantage, their blame is at best tertiary. Of course, there is room for debate on that and should be a robust debate on how to fix the problem, but any debate that claims indiscriminate respect for all badges is the same as the “rule of law and not of men” so misunderstands the concept that calling it Orwellian is an understatement.
The anti-immigration crowd, so intent on the rule of law, support a regime that trashes the 4th Amendment rights of citizens and interferes with private contracts. Not satisfied with that, they call for a new form of citizenship that will require a vast national bureaucracy to decide which American born person qualifies (probably complete with National ID Cards) , for a Wall and, Hillary Clinton had this one right, for boxcars, all in the name of and without regard for the meaning or purpose of “the rule of law.”
Chris Christie thinks the current President has failed in upholding the rule of law in one of the rare instances where he has respected the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land. Mr. Christie’s idea of the rule of the law, one which ignores the most basic law in favor of the ordinance of the day, would be laughable were it not so dangerous. While many of the talking heads are simply ignorant, Christie is a deliberate, intelligent, deceitful advocate of totalitarianism with himself as head of the state, the very definition of the rule of men and not of laws.
Of course, people are free to misuse the phrase, as an integral part of maintaining the rule of law and not of men is free and open debate. That said, they should expect a verbal smackdown when they do. The rule of law does not mean, among other things, “rule of the badge,” unwarranted search and seizure, extrajudicial executions for non-capital crimes, or disregard for the Constitution. It does mean a government constrained by laws that protect the lives, liberty and property of the citizens.