The following day, Mr. Obama's own Attorney General, Eric Holder, takes a look at the first referendum initiative and agrees with the Justice Department staff. "Sorry Mr. President," Mr. Holder says, "but the referendum would be illegal. You can't do it." Mr. Obama replies, "Eric buddy, you don't know what the heck you're talking about. Of course, it's legal. Don't worry about it, I'll handle it." A few days later, the US Supreme Court studies the first referendum initiative and overwhelmingly rules that it would be unconstitutional. It orders any activities aimed at staging the referendum to be immediately suspended and orders an injunction against anyone participating in it. Chief Justice John Roberts calls Mr. Obama to let him know of the ruling. By now Mr. Obama is starting to get annoyed, because none of the legal minds within his own party and government will agree with him.
So Mr. Obama opts to go ahead with his first referendum initiative and take his chances. But he needs money to proceed with the referendum, because he knows he'll have to hire personnel and buy TV and radio advertising time, ballots, and all the other stuff one requires to put on a country-wide vote. Might also need some "funny cash" to encourage voters to mark "yes" on their ballots. So Mr. Obama instructs his Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, to withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars from the US Department of the Treasury. Note that Mr. Obama, at this point, has not only gone against the rulings of his Justice Department and Attorney General, he has deliberately violated the Supreme Court's injunction order. He knows he's playing with fire, but chooses not to give a damn. After all, he is the President.
To make things worse (... yeah, they can get much worse), Mr. Obama's instructions to Mr. McDonough to withdraw money from the Treasury is akin to a genteel bank robbery, because Congress, which controls the purse strings in a three-branch democratic system of government, has not approved any funds for the first referendum initiative -- which, of course, it wouldn't dare to since the Public Ministry, Attorney General, and Supreme Court have all ruled the referendum to be illegal and unconstitutional. At this point, though, Mr. Obama is in knee-deep, so he's way past caring about "legal details" or minor nuisances like the separation of powers -- again, another key foundation of a democratic system.
So Mr. McDonough calls up US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and he tells him to walk over to the Treasury's main vault and wheel out on carts hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to be used for the first referendum initiative. Secretary Hagel says, "Sure, no problem. Will do." Mr. Hagel doesn't think to ask, "Has Congress okayed this?" He's a team player, and so he naïvely assumes everything is on the up and up. Hey, the President's Chief of Staff gives an order, ya follow it. Mr. Hagel arrives at the Treasury and instructs his subordinates to go to the vault and load up the carts... and off they go. The cash is delivered to Mr. McDonough.
Mr. Obama realizes that he doesn't quite have all the money he needs, so he tells Mr. McDonough to go back to the Treasury and retrieve a couple of hundred million dollars more. "Sure thing boss," says Mr. McDonough, who picks up the phone and calls up the Director of the US Secret Service, Julia Pierson. "Julia dear, please go personally and withdraw two hundred million dollars from the Treasury. President needs it," says Mr. McDonough. "Uh, okay sir. You got it," says Director Pierson, who marches over and gets the cash, and delivers it to Mr. McDonough.
While all this is going on, Mr. Obama has ordered the Chief of Staff of the US Armed Forces, General Raymond Odierno, to prepare to deploy US soldiers onto the streets of towns and cities throughout the United States, because they will have to help with the security and logistics needed to conduct the referendum. Tens of millions of Americans are expected to turn out for the vote. But Gen. Odierno isn't sure that what Mr. Obama is asking him to do is legal, so he consults Chief Justice Roberts and other Supreme Court justices, and they all tell him, "No, ya can't do it. It's unconstitutional. We already warned the President about that." So the good general refuses to obey Mr. Obama's order. Incensed, Mr. Obama immediately fires Gen. Odierno for insubordination.
At this point, Mr. Obama starts sensing that he might have a problem. So he goes on TV and gives a series of rambling addresses to the nation from the White House. In some of his speeches, Mr. Obama looks tired, kind of drugged up. He sounds incoherent, irrational. He appears to resemble a man under siege. Suddenly, he announces that he will personally lead a caravan of his Cabinet secretaries and supporters on a little trip. He won't say where exactly, only that the buses will soon arrive to take everyone on a trip. It's a secret adventure.
Dozens of buses arrive at the White House, and Mr. Obama jumps on the first one and signals for the others to follow his lead. He's hanging out the bus door leading what might resemble some sort of frontal charge. Onward, follow me he motions. The buses can be seen lumbering down Pennsylvania Avenue headed eastward toward the Capitol Beltway, attracting mobs of people chanting and screaming and pumping their fists in the air. It's party time. Hundreds of cars, minivans, and SUVs are now trailing the buses. Dozens of taxis. Everyone's honking their horns. It's a glorious time to be alive.
When they reach the Capitol Beltway, the buses turn right, southward. They continue on past the Suitland Parkway. Looks like they're headed toward Andrews Air Force Base. Yep, sure enough that's where they're going. They reach Andrews, and Mr. Obama gets out to talk to the guard at the entrance gates. Within minutes, one of the base commanders, Maj. Gen. Darryl Burke comes out looking somewhat bewildered at the sight of President Obama and the mob of thousands of rowdy people and vehicles. Mr. Obama chats with Gen. Burke and gently puts his arm around his shoulders and cheerfully yells out to the approving throngs that this here is truly a good man who clearly recognizes who his commander in chief is. "Good man, need more like him." Gen. Burke smiles awkwardly; he's clearly uncomfortable with the situation, but what can he do?
Within minutes, the gates open and the flood of people and vehicles rush through and head for one of the big warehouses -- the one housing thousands of boxes of paper ballots for the first referendum. Rumor has it that the ballots were printed in Venezuela or Nicaragua. The crowd opens the warehouse doors and proceeds to load up trucks with the ballot boxes. Mr. Obama is smack dab in the middle of things, lifting boxes and savoring the adrenaline rush. Soon they are on their way back to DC to an undisclosed destination to prepare for the referendum, which is only a couple of days away.
The triumphant Mr. Obama settles back into the Oval Office, props his feet atop the big oak Resolute desk, and readies himself for the controversial referendum (or whatever else may lie ahead). He knows he has aroused concern, anger, and outright fear throughout the country. He knows he has probably broken the law, but he's a gambler and he's willing to see if his political opponents have the guts to take him on. They can try to impeach him, but the authors of the Constitution, in their infinite wisdom, didn't write in articles of impeachment.
So what are the options? (8/17/14) (photo courtesy Internet)
Note: The author is the editor and cofounder of Honduras Weekly. He is also the author of the book, "The Good Coup: The Overthrow of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras". His next book, "The Wolf We Feed: Post-Coup Honduras Under Pepe Lobo", will be published in the fall of 2014.