TAMPA, July 21, 2013 — President Obama made a speech on Friday that liberals are calling courageous and conservatives are criticizing as race-baiting and divisive. Whether it was prudent from a political perspective or not remains to be seen. How it makes conservatives or liberals feel is irrelevant.
The important and ominous part came near the end, where Obama floated his ideas on what the government should do.
First, Obama recognized what big government supporters would see as “the problem.”
“Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government. The criminal code and law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.”
No, Mr. President, the prosecution of murder and theft isn’t done at the state and local levels because of “tradition.” It’s done at the state and local levels because the U.S. Constitution does not delegate any power to the federal government that could remotely be interpreted to allow it to prosecute someone for murder or theft.
That means that no one ever consented to giving the federal government that power.
To ensure that those who don’t understand this wouldn’t exercise the power anyway, a Bill of Rights was ratified that leaves no room for confusion:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The architects of the $4 trillion federal monster have traditionally circumvented this troublesome “obstacle” by claiming that new powers they want to grant the federal government (without amending the Constitution) are actually part and parcel of “regulating interstate commerce,” although the high priests in black robes recently pulled off a novel innovation in ruling Obamacare a tax.
Courts have made some inroads into the reservation of this power to the states or the people when crimes such as kidnapping or murder have included travel across state lines. But so far, murders that do not involve what federal courts liberally interpret as “interstate commerce” have remained within the sole jurisdiction of the state or local governments.
This is more than just a formality. When one is accused of the highest of crimes and presumed innocent until proven guilty, it matters which government is authorized to prosecute. The most local government and a jury of one’s peers have the greatest interest in preserving local justice and keeping the local peace. They are less likely to be motivated by political or other factors. We saw this in the Zimmerman case, where the local prosecutor declined to prosecute based upon lack of evidence.
Then, the president weighed in, prompting the Governor of Florida to override the Sanford District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute. The local police chief was fired for refusing to charge Zimmerman with a crime.
It’s not as if the Sanford police or district attorney are “pro-defendant” or reluctant to prosecute criminals. If there was a shred of credible evidence of Zimmerman’s guilt, they would have indicted him. It’s the exception rather than the rule that the law enforcement community decides not to prosecute. It’s even more unusual for a lead detective to testify that he believes a defendant’s story, but that’s just what eventually happened in the trial.
Zimmerman’s supporters, likely motivated by political correctness, feel an obligation to qualify their support of the verdict with statements indicating that Zimmerman “may have acted irresponsibly” or “made mistakes” like following Martin after the police dispatcher told him not to.
But there is no evidence that Zimmerman did any of these things. No one seems to be considering the possibility that Zimmerman didn’t do anything wrong at all. Yet, that’s what the evidence seems to suggest. That’s why a police detective, normally biased against believing anyone, made the unusual statement that he believed Zimmerman’s story.
This whole fiasco has been a demonstration of the wisdom of reserving the power of prosecuting most crimes to the states or local governments. They certainly aren’t perfect, but they don’t bring the additional political baggage that the federal government would bring to exercising this power.
The federal government isn’t any less racist in its administration of justice, either. If you need proof, visit a federal prison. If you conclude that blacks make up 13% of the inmates, you need glasses, remedial math lessons, or both. Most are non-violent drug offenders, prosecuted for breaking laws that were originally passed to target specific racial groups.
Mr. Obama has every right to express his opinion on any matter as a private citizen. But when he says “I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws,” alarm bells should immediately ring. Just who is “us” and what does “examine” mean? If he is talking about the federal government having any influence over power reserved to the states or people, he’s just continuing the ongoing assault on the Bill of Rights.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.