Can you call something a law if following it is optional?

The John Kerry confirmation hearing provided an interesting discussion between Senator Kerry & Senator Rand Paul (watch it here). A big part of the discussion centered around the executive branch’s past and present history of going to war without the consent of Congress. Kerry talked about his support for presidents unilaterally going to war in some cases but not in others.

His explanation exposed a trick that politicians frequently use. When Kerry believes that the United States military should not engage in a conflict that a president is attempting to start unilaterally, he cites the law of the land. When Kerry believes a president should unilaterally begin an attack, the law of the land should not apply when the circumstances are (subjectively) sufficient.

Kerry exploits the Constitution when it is convenient. But he exposes that he really has no respect for the law by picking and choosing when to follow it and when to cast it aside. He believes that through persuasion the law should be subvertible. This is a great example of the difference between respecting “rule of law” or “rule of man”. If laws are optional depending on the persuasion of governing individuals, then we are really not a nation of laws. We are instead at the mercy of the political whims of an unconstrained government. Historically this brings terrible consequences, and we should be knowledgeable enough to reject it.

 

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