Quotes of the day

President Barack Obama’s advisers are finalizing a proposal that would expand background checks on gun sales without congressional approval.

White House adviser Valerie Jarrett says the president has asked his team to complete a proposal and submit it for his review “in short order.” She says the recommendations will include measures to expand background checks.

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Speaking with South Carolina’s attorney general during a question-and-answer forum, Trump vowed that if elected president, he would repeal Obama’s executive orders allowing undocumented children and parents to remain in the U.S. The state’s attorney general, Alan Wilson, is suing the president over those executive actions along with 25 other states.

“I don’t think he even tries anymore. I think he just signs executive actions,” Trump said of Obama, before pointing to the U.S. government system of checks and balances.

“That’s the way the system is supposed to work. And then all of a sudden, I hear he tried, he can’t do it, and then, boom, and then another one, boom,” Trump said.

But just two nights before, Trump proposed an executive order of his own, vowing that he would mandate the death penalty in the sentencing of all convicted cop killers.

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In response to an audience member’s question on what a President Trump would do in his first days in office, the real estate mogul said he would like to “knock the hell” out of Obama’s signature legislation.

“In the first 100 days, we’re going to knock the hell out of Obamacare,” Trump declared to his audience’s approval. “You know the great thing about executive orders is that I don’t have to go back to Congress. I just sit down… and I will be unsigning many, maybe not all. Maybe there’s a couple of good ones [Obama policies], I don’t know, I doubt it.”

“But we’re going to be unsigning a lot of executive orders, especially his [Obama’s] order that basically lets anybody they want just pour into our country. That’s going to end,” the billionaire added.

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While the White House has condemned Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigrants as “disqualifying” and “toxic,” President Barack Obama may have only himself to blame if a President Trump ever succeeds in putting his plan, or some version of it, into action.

In his efforts to work around Congress, Obama has made the aggressive use of executive power, particularly on immigration, an increasingly effective and politically accepted presidential tool. While legal scholars are divided on whether Obama has accelerated or merely continued a drift of power toward the executive branch, there’s little debate that he’s paved a path for his successor…

“Unfortunately I think the bill will come due for many Democrats,” said Jonathon Turley, a George Washington University law professor. “In a future administration, they will hear the same arguments played back to them as they watch a different president go after a different set of priorities.”…

If not a full ban on Muslim visitors, as Trump proposed, prosecutorial discretion might be used to argue for prioritizing deportation of Muslim immigrants. A president might place visitors from Muslim countries under special screening or ask them to register, moves that would have some recent precedent.

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Barack Obama has done plenty of damage to the country, but perhaps the worst is his determined destruction of Washington’s guardrails. Mr. Obama wants what he wants. If ObamaCare is problematic, he unilaterally alters the law. If Congress won’t change the immigration system, he refuses to enforce it. If the nation won’t support laws to fight climate change, he creates one with regulation. If the Senate won’t confirm his nominees, he declares it in recess and installs them anyway. “As to limits, you set your own,” observed Dan in that editorial. This is our president’s motto.

Mr. Obama doesn’t need anyone to justify his actions, because he’s realized no one can stop him. He gets criticized, but at the same time his approach has seeped into the national conscience. It has set new norms. You see this in the ever-more-outrageous proposals from the presidential field, in particular front-runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump…

Mr. Obama’s dismantling of boundaries isn’t restrained to questions of law; he blew up certain political ethics, too. And yes there are—or used to be—such things. Think what you may about George W. Bush’s policies, but he respected the office of the presidency. He believed he represented all Americans. He didn’t demonize.

Today’s divisive president never misses an opportunity to deride Republicans or the tea party. He is more scornful toward fellow Americans than toward Islamic State. This too sets new norms. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid now uses the chamber to accuse individual citizens of being “un-American.” Asked recently what “enemy” she was most proud of making, Mrs. Clinton lumped “Republicans” in with “the Iranians.” Ted Cruz rose to prominence by mocking his Republican colleagues as “squishes.” Mr. Trump has disparaged women, the other GOP contenders, Iowans, wives, the disabled, Jews. (Granted, he might have done this even without Mr. Obama’s example.)

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But if Democrats are alarmed by this glimpse into a Trump administration, they are in part to blame. They have supported President Obama’s claims of unchecked authority in a variety of areas, particularly immigration. And the Obama model will be attractive to successors who, although they may have a different agenda, have the same appetite for unilateral decisions…

Of course, the expansion of presidential authority did not start with Obama, and his predecessor George W. Bush was widely criticized (including by me) for seeking unilateral powers after the 9/11 attacks. Yet Obama has been particularly aggressive in his unilateral actions. From health care to immigration to the environment, he has set out to order changes long refused by Congress. Thrilled by those changes, supporters have ignored the obvious danger that they could be planting a deeply unfortunate precedent if the next president proves to be a Cruz rather than a Clinton. While the policies may not carry over to the next president, the powers will…

Trump has insisted that killing terrorists is not enough. He told Fox News that “you have to take out their families .” While many people were horrified, Trump is simply adding another target package to a program formalized by Obama. The current administration has asserted the authority to kill even U.S. citizens, anywhere, at any time, if it deems them to be imminent threats to national security…

The problem with allowing a president to become a government unto himself is that you cannot guarantee who the next president might be. Now the leading Republican candidate is someone who views most of his creations in eponymous terms — as reflected by 20-foot letters spelling out his name on top of his hotels. He is the perfect uber personality to fit our uber presidency.

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President Obama’s operating principle is: If Congress won’t do what I want, I’ll do it on my own through executive orders, Constitution be damned. The president’s approach here has to be understood in the wider context of the Democratic party’s newfound commitment to totalitarianism: attempting to repeal the First Amendment, seeking to lock people up for expressing unpopular political opinions, proposing that Americans be stripped of their constitutional rights (with no due process, trial, or appeal) if the president puts their names on a secret list, outlawing unapproved criticism of political figures by private citizens, denouncing political opponents as “traitors” and demanding that nonconformists be punished for “disloyalty” while making glib references to martial law, etc…

Last week, the civically illiterate reality-television grotesque [Donald Trump] declared before a meeting of a policemen’s union that one of his first acts in office would be to issue an executive order mandating capital punishment for anybody convicted of murdering a police officer. Never mind that the president has no such power and that Trump doesn’t seem to understand the difference between state and federal law; we have so quickly accustomed ourselves to believing that anything that sounds good to us is right and proper (“constitutional” in 2015 anno Domini means “I like it”) that no one other than a few persnickety constitutionalists (that suspicious foreigner Charles C. W. Cooke leaps to mind) even bothered to note how nuts Trump’s promise is. In this, as in many things, Trump resembles Barack Obama and the Clinton mob, who have been, it bears remembering, his traditional political allies

Our susceptibility to this sort of demagoguery isn’t Barack Obama’s fault — it’s our fault, a failure of citizenship among Americans. There are (and long have been) stirrings of that kind of sentiment in some parts of the populist Right, but those vices generally are kept in check by conservatives’ practically scriptural regard for the Constitution. The Left has no such fetters upon its worst tendencies. Progressives since Woodrow Wilson have regarded the Constitution, and the order that it represents, as a hindrance to the rational, scientific management of society by heavily armed experts. If that is how you see the world, then of course the Bill of Rights, like the state of Pennsylvania, is just one more thing that gets in your way when you’re trying to get to where you want to be. Of course you can jail people for their political beliefs. Of course the president should supersede Congress.

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These are the wages of progressivism at the end of the day. Big government inevitably leads to government incompetence. That incompetence leads to growing and now dominant distrust – both in government’s basic competence, and in the values of the people who still insist upon it. Our modern elites respond to that rational distrust by smearing it as vile hatred, which further divides and toxifies our politics. And Trump is a perfect personality to exploit these divides, offering the promise of an authoritarian who represents the people in place of an authoritarian who represented the elites

Republicans have spent much of the past three years wringing their hands over how to win the white working class – Donald Trump is showing them how: by confronting and rejecting the values and authority of the elites, and offering a vision of a presidency for a new authoritarian era, where the Commander in Chief rules by Tweet. This latest storm over his promise to block all Muslims will cast him again as the man who calls the elites on their bull, who promises to bomb America’s enemies or bend them to knee, to sweep away the pretensions of the elites who say what you are not allowed to want with a wave of his hand…

There is a marked frustration in the president’s lectures of the American people, an undercurrent that has only grown over the course of his tenure. At first he was frustrated with politicians in Washington not listening to him. Now he seems more frustrated with the American people for not listening, either. But they have taken a lesson from these lectures over the past seven years that is now very clear, and that is fueling the Trump phenomenon – the lesson that we were wrong about Obama, just as he is wrong about us.

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Via RCP.