Civil disobedience presents a problem for liberal democracies with the rule of law. It is always by definition illegal (otherwise it wouldn’t be civil disobedience) and except in certain special circumstances I believe it’s immoral, too. When the civil rights demonstrators of the 1960s engaged in civil disobedience in the South it was moral because the democratic process there had been subverted. They were being treated unjustly and they had no other choice.
However, when student protesters occupied college administrators’ offices, preventing normal business from being done, it was immoral. They were subverting the process in order to impose their own views on others.
It’s even more problematic when government officials engage in civil disobedience:
We now know that the IRS told Treasury and the White House about the missing emails in April—yet the Obama Administration withheld that information from Congress and the public. Did the FBI know too?
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has testified that he didn’t tell the FBI about the missing emails. But if that’s the case, why aren’t the G-men shouting to high heaven? If the FBI discovered a private company had withheld documents in the course of a federal investigation, the handcuffs would be flashing. The FBI’s gumshoes seem to be remarkably relaxed about getting IRS answers.
Ditto the rest of the Justice Department. Congress learned in January that Justice assigned the IRS probe to an Obama donor, Barbara Bosserman, an attorney in the Civil Rights Division. Justice has refused to reassign the case—despite her political conflict of interest—and Ms. Bosserman has so far turned up nothing.
Then there’s the House’s May 7 contempt citation against Ms. Lerner. The section of the U.S. code governing contempt is clear: The House votes and then the Speaker sends the citation to the appropriate U.S. Attorney, “whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.” U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ron Machen has possessed that citation for eight weeks, yet his spokesman told us in late June that the matter is “still under review.”
What’s to review? Under the statute, Mr. Machen—an Obama appointee—has no role in analyzing the merits of the citation. His duty is to get it to a grand jury. Administrations have in the past directed U.S. Attorneys not to proceed—as the Obama White House did in a citation against Mr. Holder, and the Bush Administration did in citations against Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten. But unless the Obama White House is now stepping up to give Ms. Lerner special immunity from prosecution—she took the Fifth rather than testify to Congress—Mr. Machen’s job is clear.
I blame the Baby Boomers. They still haven’t gotten over the golden days of their youths. We have guerrilla theater in the House of Representatives and civil disobedience in the executive branch.