The National Journal, a very serious publication whose mission it is to elucidate the politics of this great nation, would like to inform you that President Barack Obama bears no responsibility for his actions as the elected executive of the United States government. He is wholly a man acted upon, forced into any distasteful stretching of his Constitutional powers and his own progressive values by his adversaries.
If you are an urbane liberal or a disaffected Democrat, you may have been mildly disturbed by the signing statements Obama signs that he once decried; by his eschewing of the War Powers Act he once lauded; by his secret kill list and efficient droning of American citizens unencumbered by judicial proceedings; by his appropriation of the power to declare Congress in recess when it has declared itself in session; or by his waiving or delaying of large parts of the Affordable Care Act–all fueling a swing toward executive power that was infuriating under the Bush administration and now constitutes “the rise of an uber presidency unchecked by the other two branches,” as notable and liberal George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley put it.
If any of those things bothered you, does the National Journal White House Correspondent James Oliphant have a culprit for you: Republicans. There, that feels nice, right? It’s morphine for your intellectual open wounds, a facile salve for that itchy cognitive dissonance. Sink into the warm comfort of blaming every problem the country faces on exactly the people you already disliked. Because, journalism:
The carping is familiar. President Obama has “overreached” and abused his authority by releasing terrorist prisoners without notifying Congress and in promulgating new environmental rules. But, as usual, Republicans have few remedies beyond press releases and the promises of hearings.
That’s the state of play in Washington: trench warfare that has lasted more than three years.
Obama began 2014 vowing that he would no longer be sidelined by Republican obstructionists—and he appears to be making good on his threat. More executive actions are likely on the way, as the president may well impose deportation curbs if the GOP won’t constructively work toward immigration-reform legislation.
House Republicans should stop and consider it—not because of the political benefit the party might, maybe, enjoy by helping to broker an immigration solution. No, the better reason is this: If they truly fear the unchecked growth of presidential power, then their best option is to come to the table and force compromise. It’s the one sure way to keep Obama from going cowboy (or, in their minds, tyrant).
You know who else’s actions can and have kept presidents from going cowboy? The press. But today, the pen which was formerly mightier than the sword is more flaccid than the half-hearted chicken sandwiches of a working group on the Hill. The lowly reporter can do naught but observe that the “toxic atmosphere in the capital and the nearly total lack of trust between the two sides has brought about a situation that should make few who care about functional government happy.”
He can further observe that when the president acts on his own, he “engender(s) further mistrust” and “risks fundamentally altering the dynamic of power between the executive and legislative branches.” But to hold the president in any way accountable for the fact that the “monster is loose,” would be uncomfortable.
So, we have the predictable complaints about cap-and-trade, which “died a grisly death on the floor of the Senate in 2010.” The article allows, literally parenthetically, that its failure may have had something to do with Democrats who controlled the Senate opposing it. Democrats had 59 votes in the Senate in the summer of 2010, but Sen. Harry Reid abandoned the bill entirely, promising coal-state colleagues like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia that it was dead to ensure their elections. If one were in favor of a cap-and-trade bill, there was plenty of blame to go around for this whiffed attempt at passing legislation with 59 votes in the Senate and a catalyzing environmental news hook. Time outlined them, even mentioning the president among them.
If I may, let me offer another plausible inflection point for cooperation in Washington, D.C. Unlike James Oliphant, I do not wholly blame the Democrats’ unpopular, unrelenting, procedurally unconventional, and at times unscrupulous passage of the Affordable Care Act for every problem in Congress and the country, ever. I guess that would make me a reporter at a national straight-news outlet of some prestige. I am not that. Instead, I am a mere ideological hack who allows for the possibility that there are many reasons— systemic, Constitutionally designed, personality driven, and yes, particular to Obama’s failures and overreaches—that Congress isn’t passing his every whim as soon as it passes his lips. (It is, by the way, passing things, but those things are conveniently left out of assessments of the state of the country which rely on unrelenting Republican obstructionism as their mustachioed villain.)
The passage of a major entitlement without significant bipartisan buy-in was unprecedented. The passage of a major entitlement through reconciliation was unprecedented. The passage of a major entitlement so unpopular with the American people was unprecedented. The blaring failure to implement an ambitious major entitlement with a bare minimum of competence is unprecedented. The monthly declarations that the law can change to whatever happens to be workable at any given moment of its disastrous roll-out do indeed “engender further mistrust” that any future law —perhaps the comprehensive immigration reform Oliphant makes clear he desires—would have its hard-fought compromises and promises honored.
To prevent damaging overreach, just roll over, the entire column explicitly suggests–only to have Oliphant insist “this is not to suggest the GOP should ever just roll over on the president’s agenda.”
The last time I remember a report of a liberal paragon being rendered so helplessly forced into misdeeds by dastardly Republicans, it was in the Washington Post in 2009, where we learned Rep. Alan Grayson is a reserved intellectual who says crazy things because Republicans:
Back in Washington, he took to the House floor and denounced his colleagues across the aisle. “If you get sick, America, the Republican health-care plan is this: Die quickly.” A Harvard graduate with a soft voice, he had decided to fight invective with invective.
I could have saved you and the National Journal a bunch of pixels and time by editing down this column to its core:
“These Republicans are the nastiest skanks I have ever met. Do not trust them. They are fugly sluts.”