07 Jan 2012

A Sign of Weakness

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John Podhoretz explains that Barack Obama’s end-run around the Constitution this week is really evidence of his political weakness and desperation.

President Obama’s executive power-grab this week — making four “recess” appointments when the Senate isn’t in recess — is a mark not of his strength, but of his relative weakness. He is asserting an authority he does not possess through the Constitution because he has precious little personal authority left to assert.

He had it and he lost it, and he can’t figure out how to get it back — so he’s just going to take it.

“When Congress refuses to act, and as a result hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them,” Obama said Wednesday as he trumpeted his installation of Richard Cordray as head of his new consumer-activism bureau.

This is rhetoric designed to thrill liberals and Democrats, who (like all partisans and ideologues) love what they take to be the “good fight,” and don’t particularly care how it’s waged. That’s true even if they spent eight years screaming about supposed unconstitutional actions on the part of the Bush administration, every one of which had a far firmer foundation in constitutional law than Obama’s unprecedented action this week.

They also love it because they think it represents an awakening by Obama to the nature of the obstructionist efforts against him (and a winning re-election strategy) when he says he’ll do “what I can” to combat Washington’s brokenness.

This supposedly a) acknowledges the public sentiment against the city whose most powerful resident he is, b) alleges he’s not the reason for the problems and c) places the blame on the recalcitrant Congress.

Maybe it’s the best hand Obama has to play, but it’s not a very good hand. For one thing, the voters who have turned on him don’t think he has exercised too little power, but rather too much — so bragging about doing things without congressional sanction may not play well.

Second, no matter how resolute he sounds, the fact that he has to act in a somewhat rogue manner is an expression of a profound loss of presidential authority — and one that he can’t successfully blame on Congress.

Obama lost his ability to push his agenda through Congress when he received what he himself called a “shellacking” in the November 2010 elections. That shellacking was primarily the result of massive policy overreach when he had a Democratic Congress in his pocket.

He spent 2009 and 2010 getting what he wanted: a trillion dollar stimulus. Auto-industry nationalization. And, of course, his health-care law. It was a wildly successful first 18 months — and it led directly to the bruising defeat he suffered as soon as the American people could render their judgment on those actions.

The independent voters who’d put him over the top in 2008 were horrified by the results. Exit polls showed a 24 percent swing among them, from 8 percentage points in favor of Obama and the Democrats in 2008 to 16 points against in 2010.

What may have been even more painful for Obama’s vanity was his discovery in 2011 that his rhetorical gifts had lost their oomph. He gave speech after speech on topics dear to his heart — and found, each time, that the talk was either ineffectual or actually convinced more people to oppose him.

Read the whole thing.

Podhoretz is perfectly right. Obama’s discreditable (and illegal) ploy is only a short-term strategy to gratify his base and keep the small body of support he still possesses behind him by making a strong gesture of partisanship that makes them happy. Who cares that his action will set a really terrible precedent? Who cares that the appointments will probably be struck down in court? Just as long as he can fire up the base.

4 Feedbacks on "A Sign of Weakness"

bob sykes

The biggest power grab in American history was Chief Justice Marshall’s claim that the Courts had the power to judge the constitutionality of acts of Congress.

They don’t. The Constitution does not grant them that power and neither does the Common Law tradition. In fact, the Common Law required judges to interpret and enforce laws not judge their validity.

Another usurpation is Presidential war powers. Despite the requirement for a formal Declaration of War, ever since WWI (or earlier) Presidents have gone to war without a Declaration. A Congressional or Security Council resolution does not suffice.

There are numerous other examples. The Constitution is a shambles. The federal government (all of it, both parties, all branches and the bureaucracy) is both lawless and illegitimate. Obama is in good (or at least large) company.


What choice does he have? His two major domestic initiatives — Obamacare and the Stimulus plan — are in disfavor with a majority of the electorate. He couldn’t get a budget through Congress even when he had control of both houses. He’s punted on his own commission’s recommendation for tax reform.
This is all about politics. With the Chicago mob, it’s all about politics ALL the time. The Constitution is simply a gnat to be swatted away, and, as you say, if he’s rebuked by the courts, what has he lost that he hasn’t already lost?


This is his game plan for the next 12 months. Win or lose the election he intends to force a far left agenda on this country by fiat. Congress needs to grow a pair and fight this action. They should pass nothing and spend 100% of their effort on reversing this and his other anti-constitutional acts. They should be doing this even though the Senate is controlled by Democrats. Force the Democrats in the Senate to take a stand so the voters will know their position. This is important. The only way to stop Obama from spending the next 12 months creating havoc with our constitutional republic is to fight back.

No Man

All that plus: it is vital that the left have this $400 million (10% of the Fed System income) handed over to an unaccountable, uncontrollable far-left thugocracy, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, so that money can change the financial system that has been slamming working class Americans.

If the greedy bankers were not also in the tank for the reds, they would litigate every CFPB action. They won’t.

Same M.O. as the $355 million from the discrimination “stick-up” of Countrywide/Bk of America, most of which will be funneled, not to supposed victims of discrimination, but to leftists to fund power grabs.

Same M.O. as the Holder assault on mortgage servicers over the “robo-signing” lie. The $25 billion they want to expropriate won’t go to the six families people actually harmed by being incorrectly foreclosed but to far left activists and Obama voters who can’t pay their debts.


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