Yes, in the Bush years the air was also thick with accusations that the Constitution was being “shredded.” We now know that the professed concern for the Constitution was fake. We know it was fake because the same Bush claims of executive authority in war that provoked such apoplexy in our pundits, professors and politicos have for the most part been embraced by Mr. Obama—all to the distinct sound of silence.
Today we have a wholly different order of constitutional complaint. Where the accusations against Mr. Bush were led by prestigious law faculties and law firms, those against Mr. Obama reflect a more popular hue. Where the indictments of Mr. Bush were largely limited to war policy, those against Mr. Obama’s extend broadly to all areas of policy: foreign, economic and social. And where critics of Mr. Bush were obsessed with outcome, the discontent with Mr. Obama has been magnified by the uneasy sense that he is changing the fundamental rules of the game.
This awakening started with the tumultuous legislative path to Mr. Obama’s health-care victory. Along the way, Americans watching were given an education in words like “cloture” and “filibuster,” and saw the leaders of the Democratic House and Senate consider a maneuver whereby the House would “deem” the Senate version of the health-care bill to have passed without having to vote on it. That left a bad taste.
It proved only the beginning.