Tell me if this sounds familiar:
As a senator and presidential candidate, [Barack Obama] had criticized George W. Bush for flouting the role of Congress. And during his first two years in the White House, when Democrats controlled Congress, Mr. Obama largely worked through the legislative process to achieve his domestic policy goals.
But increasingly in recent months, the administration has been seeking ways to act without Congress. Branding its unilateral efforts “We Can’t Wait,” a slogan that aides said Mr. Obama coined at that strategy meeting, the White House has rolled out dozens of new policies — on creating jobs for veterans, preventing drug shortages, raising fuel economy standards, curbing domestic violence and more.
Each time, Mr. Obama has emphasized the fact that he is bypassing lawmakers. When he announced a cut in refinancing fees for federally insured mortgages last month, for example, he said: “If Congress refuses to act, I’ve said that I’ll continue to do everything in my power to act without them.”
Aides say many more such moves are coming. Not just a short-term shift in governing style and a re-election strategy, Mr. Obama’s increasingly assertive use of executive action could foreshadow pitched battles over the separation of powers in his second term, should he win and Republicans consolidate their power in Congress.
Amazingly … or not so amazingly … the Lefties are defending this using the exact same rhetoric the GOP once used to defense Bush’s power grabs: Congress is obstructionist; Congress is partisan; Congress is determined to see the President fail; Congress left the toilet seat up. All that might be true. But it was just as true when George W. Bush did it. We heard the same rhetoric then about mindless obstructionism and bullshit partisanship. Anytime Bush reached across the aisles, his fingers got bitten. All that’s changed is the letter after the respective names.
But there are numerous reasons why this is still bad, apart from two wrongs not making a right. Obama ran as a manager, as someone who would be the adult in the room. This kind of ridiculous tit-for-tat is supposedly beneath him, right? What it really does — what a lot of what Obama has done — is cement in place the Bush-era abuses. Indefinite detention, executive orders, signing statements, etc. could all have been stopped. But by continuing these policies, Obama has exposed the previous opposition from himself and his party as partisanship. And he has set these policies in stone. By continuing Bush’s bypassing or ignoring the legislative process, Obama has made it the way things are done. We will not thank him for that.
Second, Barack Obama is not the first President to encounter this kind of opposition. Harry Truman, in fact, ran against a “do-nothing” Congress. Skilled Presidents are able to make their opponents’ mindless opposition an electoral weakness. But Obama has failed to do so, mostly because the general public isn’t too keen on his policies anyway.
Finally, there is one and only one situation where Republican opposition can bear the blame: the failed Grand Bargain that should have emerged from the debt showdown. Accounts differ, but I think it’s quite likely the GOP balked at even a modest tax increase in exchange for Medicare reform. That’s shameful. But it’s not like Obama has been proposing a raft of great policies since then. If you look at the We Can’t Wait site, most of this involves either stuff that is an executive concern (stopping payments to dead people) or stuff that really isn’t going to stimulate the economy (mortgage refinancing, subsidies, etc.).
It’s this kind of stuff that makes me enthusiastic about the “leave town” idea I linked below. If Obama and the Republicans are unwilling or unable to solve the country’s problems, they are only going to make things worse by hanging around in Washington, passing the occasional executive order or recognizing National Tampon Day. Obama’s use of executive orders is not some bold attempt to solve our nation’s problems. It’s a misguided attempt to make it look like he’s doing something. And in the process, he is throwing away the key that George Bush used to lock up our Constitutional process. You can’t possibly defend that. Inaction is better than this.
As I seem to keep saying, neither party has any respect for the Constitution, the Rule of Law or our basic liberties. Neither has any ideas of how to fix things or the political courage to enact them. All they care about is the next news cycle. And this is just Obama’s latest: make himself appear as the bold Superman bypassing a useless Congress.
Congress may be useless, but that does not make Obama Superman.