Obama still evolving on executive power?

posted at 10:01 am on June 25, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Ross Douthat marveled yesterday on Barack Obama’s apparent evolution on executive power — and that of the Left as well.  When Obama ran for the presidency in 2008, he championed the Left’s hostility toward George W. Bush’s supposed “imperial presidency,” often using his experience as a Constitutional law lecturer to assail Bush for his unilateral approach to the job.  He even appointed Harold Koh, one of the Bush administration’s fiercest critics on the use of executive power, to work in the Obama administration at the Office of Legal Counsel.

Now, as Ross notes, rather than reverse the use of unilateral executive power, Obama has grown a lot more comfortable with it — and so has the Left:

On issues large and small, from the conduct of foreign policy to the firing of United States attorneys, the Bush White House pushed an expansive view of executive authority, and Democrats pushed right back — accusing it of shredding the constitution, claiming near-imperial powers and even corrupting the lawyers working in its service.

That was quite some time ago. Last week the Obama White House invoked executive privilege to shield the Justice Department from a Congressional investigation into a botched gunrunning operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The previous week the White House invoked powers that President Obama himself had previously claimed to lack, unilaterally revising the nation’s immigration laws by promising to stop enforcing them against a particularly sympathetic population.

Both moves were entirely characteristic of this presidency. Obama campaigned as a consistent critic of the Bush administration’s understanding of executive power — and a critic with a background in constitutional law, no less. But apart from his disavowal of waterboarding (an interrogation practice the Bush White House had already abandoned), almost the entire Bush-era wartime architecture has endured: rendition is still with us, the Guantánamo detention center is still open, drone strikes have escalated dramatically, and the Obama White House has claimed the right — and, in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, followed through on it — to assassinate American citizens without trial.

Ilya Somin notes that Obama has gone farther than Bush:

Douthat does not mention what was perhaps Obama’s biggest reversal on executive power. The man who in 2007 wrote that “[t]he President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” last year waged a war against Libya without any congressional authorization. Even Bush never went that far.

Actually, the unilateral exercise of executive power started from the beginning of this presidency — and Gitmo is an example.  Without taking time to consult with Congress, overwhelmingly dominated by Democrats at that time, Obama issued an EO on his very first day in office ordering Gitmo closed within a year.  Obama had promised just such an order for almost two full years on the campaign trail, but soon discovered that it’s a lot easier to issue orders than to have them fulfilled when you go it alone.  By the time the next year rolled around, the Christmas Day bomber had scorched his gonads in a nearly-successful attempt to bomb a plane over Detroit, Nidal Hasan had killed 14 in a shooting spree at Fort Hood, and Americans decided they didn’t like the idea of giving Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a media platform in lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center location where his plot killed almost 3,000 people.

As I wrote in my column for The Fiscal Times, the problem with Obama’s use of executive power isn’tjust the hypocrisy involved — but also the exposure of his incompetence:

The most expansive use of extraordinary executive authority came next.  Obama demanded authorization to spend $800 billion in a stimulus package to rescue the economy and keep unemployment below 8 percent.  Democrats locked Republicans out of the crafting of the bill, and the end result gave Obama access to an amount of money in excess of the gross domestic product of Poland today, which ranks 23rd in world economies, with little oversight on its use.

Despite arguing that these extraordinary executive resources could succeed in rebuilding the economy and protecting jobs, unemployment soared to over 10 percent. It has not dropped below 8 percent since then, with the civilian population participation rate in the workforce plummeting to a 30-year low as millions despaired of finding work in the US economy.

Finally, of course, this week provided the ultimate in executive action.  Obama assertedexecutive privilege in an investigation of how guns run into Mexico by the ATF resulted in the deaths of hundreds in Mexico, the murders of two American law-enforcement agents (Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and ICE agent Jaime Zapata), and how the Department of Justice misled Congress by claiming the program didn’t exist and that ATF never allowed guns to walk across the border at all.

In this case, we have executive action designed to hide the failures of previous extra-legal executive action, this time within agencies that derive their authority in part from Congress itself.  That is likely to work out just as well as Obama’s previous assertions of extraordinary executive authority, and the escalation of the fight over Operation Fast and Furious practically guarantees that national media outlets will have to cover the scandal in much greater detail than over the past sixteen months of House Oversight Committee investigation.

The political problem with this much unilateral executive action is that when things go wrong, no one shares the blame.  Whatever momentary bump one gets for being a Man Of Action will evaporate rapidly when the action proves ineffective or counterproductive.  Obama has had too many of the latter and has no political cover from the consequences, and neither do those who sold out on limited executive power as soon as George W. Bush headed for Marine One on January 20th, 2009.


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All hail King Choom the Incompetent.

HeckOnWheels on June 25, 2012 at 10:05 AM

Yeah, he’s “evolving” alright, right into Hugo Chavez.

Buh bye Urkel.

ICanSeeNovFromMyHouse on June 25, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Yah but when TFGRP oversteps his bounds it’s just so….beautiful.

Bishop on June 25, 2012 at 10:11 AM

Obama’s evolving like a Dodo bird.

fogw on June 25, 2012 at 10:13 AM

rather than reverse the use of unilateral executive power, Obama has grown a lot more comfortable with it — and so has the Left:

…so…then why was Putin mad at him?…He’s trying to rule like our old friends… and their party.

KOOLAID2 on June 25, 2012 at 10:13 AM

By the time the next year rolled around, the Christmas Day bomber had scorched his gonads in a nearly-successful attempt to bomb a plane over Detroit

The bombing wasn’t successful because”the system worked“. Obama’s Head of Homeland security said so.

Cavalry on June 25, 2012 at 10:14 AM

Idiot in chief

cmsinaz on June 25, 2012 at 10:15 AM

He’s evolving into a black gay Richard Nixon.

RBMN on June 25, 2012 at 10:19 AM

Here’s another of those traffic driving Romney posts!

tommyhawk on June 25, 2012 at 10:19 AM

I don’t mind the thuggery. Just as long as my guy us doing da Thug’n

roflmmfao

donabernathy on June 25, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Wait until you see how TFGRP evolves after ObamaCare is shot down.

Bishop on June 25, 2012 at 10:29 AM

Stupid Bush. You should have fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys like Clintern, then no hassles.

This is another dog bites man story. SCOAMF Obama lies. Ooops, I meant ‘evoooolves.’

Schwalbe Me-262 on June 25, 2012 at 10:32 AM

donabernathy,

Nice..oh and classy.

Just wish you hadn’t forced me to think about incest before my second cup of coffee.

UGH

Nana on June 25, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Why does a president give so much power to the next president? Obama is young and will be around a looong time and may be sent to a reeducation camp by a president who is the beneficiary of these progressively power hungry robots elected as presidents.

Herb on June 25, 2012 at 10:34 AM

You say “potay-toe”, I say “potay-tah”. You say “evolving”, I say “incompetent”.

Weebork on June 25, 2012 at 10:34 AM

I wish they’d stop using the term “botched” to describe F&F. If you suggest it was botched, please tell me how. What element or elements, specifically, were “botched”?

BKeyser on June 25, 2012 at 10:40 AM

These people never stop to think that someday (soon) there will be a Republican President. They are setting a precedent that they will not like when they do not hold the White House.

rjh on June 25, 2012 at 10:40 AM

All hail King Choom the Incompetent.

HeckOnWheels on June 25, 2012 at 10:05 AM

Guess I shouldn’t have been sipping coffee when I read that!

yubley on June 25, 2012 at 10:42 AM

And if it F&F wasn’t botched, in that it accomplished everything they had hoped, or simply was executed in the manner planned, then the use of EP is now clearly an attempt to cover up a crime.

Additionally, I’ve seen apologist after apologist for the Obama team try to imply that we already know what happened, the investigation should be closed. Yet to date, no one has been held accountable. The EP prevents that further.

This is like saying, “Okay, we have a murdered Border Agent, we have the smoking gun, and we’ve got a pretty good idea who did this. Thanks guys, we’re done here. Let’s move on to something else.”

BKeyser on June 25, 2012 at 10:44 AM

This must be the first time the messiah has been in the center during dodge ball. He’s good a throwing things at other folks. Now we’ll see if he’s as good at ducking, bobbing and weaving.

Don L on June 25, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Obama is evolving. And we aren’t even allowed to say from WHAT it is evolving…

Archivarix on June 25, 2012 at 10:59 AM

The left are totalitarian sh!theads. Plain and simple. They are tyrants.

They complained about Bush’s use of Executive power – disingenuously, as Bush went through Congress – as it related to defense, which is the purview of the federal government and for which the Presidency has always had much latitude – but then they turn around and exercise tyrannical rule for everything else (with defense being the only thing they ever want to hack out of the federal government.

The Left are totally and unequivocally anti-American. THey hate this nation and everything it ever stood for, which is why they vote for “America, Fundamentally Deformed”. They really don’t belong here as all they ever do is work to undermine the foundations of our nation.

Barky is a third worlder, on top of this, and just hates America and the West in general. He is the sort of truly hateful enforcer representing our enemies that the left always pined to be (but couldn’t because they were trapped, to a large extent, by being raised in American culture). Barky is the person totally detached from America in every way (so far as being ineligible for the Presidency) that the left always pined for. The cultural foreigner to change America into something totally foreign.

America will not be able to continue intact with such a huge percentage of the population being people holding such antipathy to America. We just will not be able to make it very much further like this. It’s about time for a divorce. The left can have their cherished tyranny and national government but I refuse to live in such an America.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on June 25, 2012 at 11:11 AM

These people never stop to think that someday (soon) there will be a Republican President. They are setting a precedent that they will not like when they do not hold the White House.

It will not be a problem. They will reverse their positions and the MSM will give them cover for it. When you can have a shrink saying in Time mag that Mormons are congenital liars, you see that the media has no level to which it will not sink to help a Democrat.

drunyan8315 on June 25, 2012 at 11:12 AM

and a critic with a background in constitutional law, no less.

Did he argue any cases before any Appellate of Supreme Courts at the State or National Level? If not, then I will contest his supposed background in constitutional law. Lecturing to a single class a semester/year about lowshi’s rules for radicals is not constitutional law. And yes I know it is Alinsky but imho he is lower than a p*ssant.

chemman on June 25, 2012 at 11:33 AM

Ross Douthat marveled yesterday on Barack Obama’s apparent evolution on executive power — and that of the Left as well.

This is not ‘apparent evolution’. Call it what it is – hypocrisy.

DaveDief on June 25, 2012 at 11:36 AM

All hail King Choom the Incompetent.

HeckOnWheels on June 25, 2012 at 10:05 AM

For that gem, I dub thee Sir Osis of the Liver.

The Rogue Tomato on June 25, 2012 at 11:42 AM

I wish they’d stop using the term “botched” to describe F&F. If you suggest it was botched, please tell me how. What element or elements, specifically, were “botched”?

BKeyser on June 25, 2012 at 10:40 AM

The only way I can see it was “botched” is that no one was supposed to find out about it, but I don’t think that’s what they mean when they say it.

The other thing that amazes me is that Holder offered to “brief” the committee if they agreed to stop the investigation. Not produce the documents, but “brief” them.

Night Owl on June 25, 2012 at 11:44 AM

Let’s not forget the “recess appointments” while congress was in sessuion.

Oxymoron on June 25, 2012 at 11:51 AM

Not evolving. Just no longer feels the need to keep up the pretense. As he said in 2001, the transformation he wants requires that we “break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution“.


2001 Obama WBEZ Interview Redistribution Wealth Warren Court on YouTube

To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasnt that radical. It didnt break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution…

petefrt on June 25, 2012 at 11:57 AM

The best part of all this is the continued shredding of the Idiot King’s fraud image as a “Harvard constitutional scholar” and the growing recognition that he’s an affirmative action nitwit.

Jaibones on June 25, 2012 at 1:17 PM

It’s GOOD to be THE KING!

GarandFan on June 25, 2012 at 2:16 PM

Is this really a surprise? Fascists always rely more on executive power, because the sheep don’t always herd like they should.

tom on June 25, 2012 at 6:26 PM