Ovation for Lawlessness

Allen West with a way to trim some fat from the federal leviathan:

I have an idea to cut government spending immediately. Every Member of Congress who stood and applauded when Obama said he can take steps without legislation can be immediately fired since they agree they are irrelevant — including their staff. Their constituents can then live under the rule of edict instead of the rule of law. I think that would save us a whole bunch of money — including their congressional pensions since they abandoned their duties.

Not to mention that they should be fired for giving an ovation to Obama’s boastful threat to continue violating the Constitution by bypassing Congress — something that specifically contradicts their Oath of Office.

Embarrassment

It infuriates me that Barack Obama, our supposedly responsible, supposedly honorable leader, stands in front of the country and repeats, with histrionic assuredness, the widely discredited pablum that women earn 3/4 of what men earn for the same work:

“You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”

No, Mr. Obama, you are an embarrassment.

Our Imperial President

Ted Cruz on the brazen lawlessness of Barack Obama:

Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the president’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat. On Monday, Mr. Obama acted unilaterally to raise the minimum wage paid by federal contracts, the first of many executive actions the White House promised would be a theme of his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The president’s taste for unilateral action to circumvent Congress should concern every citizen, regardless of party or ideology. The great 18th-century political philosopher Montesquieu observed: “There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates.” America’s Founding Fathers took this warning to heart, and we should too.

Rule of law doesn’t simply mean that society has laws; dictatorships are often characterized by an abundance of laws. Rather, rule of law means that we are a nation ruled by laws, not men. That no one—and especially not the president—is above the law. For that reason, the U.S. Constitution imposes on every president the express duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Yet rather than honor this duty, President Obama has openly defied it by repeatedly suspending, delaying and waiving portions of the laws he is charged to enforce. When Mr. Obama disagreed with federal immigration laws, he instructed the Justice Department to cease enforcing the laws. He did the same thing with federal welfare law, drug laws and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

On many of those policy issues, reasonable minds can disagree. Mr. Obama may be right that some of those laws should be changed. But the typical way to voice that policy disagreement, for the preceding 43 presidents, has been to work with Congress to change the law. If the president cannot persuade Congress, then the next step is to take the case to the American people. As President Reagan put it: “If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat” of electoral accountability.

President Obama has a different approach. As he said recently, describing his executive powers: “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.” Under the Constitution, that is not the way federal law is supposed to work.

The Obama administration has been so brazen in its attempts to expand federal power that the Supreme Court has unanimously rejected the Justice Department’s efforts to expand federal power nine times since January 2012.

There is no example of lawlessness more egregious than the enforcement—or nonenforcement—of the president’s signature policy, the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Obama has repeatedly declared that “it’s the law of the land.” Yet he has repeatedly violated ObamaCare’s statutory text.

The law says that businesses with 50 or more full-time employees will face the employer mandate on Jan. 1, 2014. President Obama changed that, granting a one-year waiver to employers. How did he do so? Not by going to Congress to change the text of the law, but through a blog post by an assistant secretary at Treasury announcing the change.

The law says that only Americans who have access to state-run exchanges will be subject to employer penalties and may obtain ObamaCare premium subsidies. This was done to entice the states to create exchanges. But, when 34 states decided not to establish state-run exchanges, the Obama administration announced that the statutory words “established by State” would also mean “established by the federal government.”

The law says that members of Congress and their staffs’ health coverage must be an ObamaCare exchange plan, which would prevent them from receiving their current federal-employee health subsidies, just like millions of Americans who can’t receive such benefits. At the behest of Senate Democrats, the Obama administration instead granted a special exemption (deeming “individual” plans to be “group” plans) to members of Congress and their staffs so they could keep their pre-existing health subsidies.

Most strikingly, when over five million Americans found their health insurance plans canceled because ObamaCare made their plans illegal—despite the president’s promise “if you like your plan, you can keep it”—President Obama simply held a news conference where he told private insurance companies to disobey the law and issue plans that ObamaCare regulated out of existence.

In other words, rather than go to Congress and try to provide relief to the millions who are hurting because of the “train wreck” of ObamaCare (as one Senate Democrat put it), the president instructed private companies to violate the law and said he would in effect give them a get-out-of-jail-free card—for one year, and one year only. Moreover, in a move reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s looking-glass world, President Obama simultaneously issued a veto threat if Congress passed legislation doing what he was then ordering.

In the more than two centuries of our nation’s history, there is simply no precedent for the White House wantonly ignoring federal law and asking private companies to do the same. As my colleague Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa asked, “This was the law. How can they change the law?”

Similarly, 11 state attorneys general recently wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying that the continuing changes to ObamaCare are “flatly illegal under federal constitutional and statutory law.” The attorneys general correctly observed that “the only way to fix this problem-ridden law is to enact changes lawfully: through Congressional action.”

In the past, when Republican presidents abused their power, many Republicans—and the press—rightly called them to account. Today many in Congress—and the press—have chosen to give President Obama a pass on his pattern of lawlessness, perhaps letting partisan loyalty to the man supersede their fidelity to the law.

But this should not be a partisan issue. In time, the country will have another president from another party. For all those who are silent now: What would they think of a Republican president who announced that he was going to ignore the law, or unilaterally change the law? Imagine a future president setting aside environmental laws, or tax laws, or labor laws, or tort laws with which he or she disagreed.

That would be wrong—and it is the Obama precedent that is opening the door for future lawlessness. As Montesquieu knew, an imperial presidency threatens the liberty of every citizen. Because when a president can pick and choose which laws to follow and which to ignore, he is no longer a president.

And the citizenry yawns.

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The Teflon President

From Roger Kimball:

The best line of the day comes from “Obama’s Belated Defense of the NSA,” Andrew McCarthy’s reflection on Obama’s speech about spooks, spying, and national security yesterday. No, it’s not his characterization, toward the end of his essay, of Obama’s behavior as a “toxic mix of passive unseriousness and active harm.” That’s the second-best line of the day, a grimly accurate summary of what this Potemkin President is all about. But the best line comes at the top, at the very beginning of McCarthy’s column: “It is very hard to take President Obama seriously.”

Bingo. The architect of “the most transparent administration in history”; a man who repeatedly promised the public that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it, period”; the fellow who put it about that the slaughter of four Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, was caused by an internet video; the guy who has twice raised his right hand and sworn to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” to the best of his ability while also (just last week, for example) announcing out of the other side of the orifice his intention to proceed with his agenda “with or without Congress” — how can you take this man seriously, where by “seriously” I mean, how can you trust him?

The brief answer is, “You can’t.” You can’t trust him. He has willfully and repeatedly lied to the American people about all manner of things touching their vital interests. It’s almost comical, or at least it would be if Obama’s behavior didn’t intrude so blatantly upon issues of individual liberty, economic dynamism, and national security. Think about it. One the one hand, Obama has spent the last five years governing as if he were a dictator. Any time he doesn’t like a law, he flouts it, “waiving” it without authority for groups he likes (Obamacare, for example, is the law of the land, except if you are a member of Congress or belong to a favored union). His Justice Department is dedicated to an agenda of racialist activism.

But, on the other hand, he never seems to be held to account. I’m not saying there isn’t plenty of criticism. There is. I’ve tried to contribute my fair share in this column and elsewhere. But here’s the thing: the criticism never seems to get traction. It bounces around in the echo chamber of conservative angst but never seems to penetrate into the broader consciousness. To me, it is astounding that Obama has (so far) weathered the scandal of Benghazi with only minimal damage. I cannot understand how his deployment of the IRS as a political weapon can proceed without instigating widespread demonstrations, if not worse. How is it, I’ve wondered, that Obama can have blatantly lied about so many aspects of Obamacare without there being a serious backlash? I am really at something of a loss. Perhaps it has something to do with his mastery of the art that Gertrude Stein described as “knowing how far to go in going too far.” He salts his mendacity with dollops of, not truth, exactly, but with dollops of earnest equivocation that might be mistaken as truths by the credulous and unwary. He is aided, moreover, by the inertia of affluence and stupefying national power. The United States commands extraordinary resources, economically and militarily. It takes time to degrade them. And although the middle class is much worse off now than when Obama came in to office, and although the country’s military might has been seriously diminished these last several years, there is still a long way to go before the public at large will sit up and take notice.

By then, alas, the damage will likely be irrecoverable and Obama will be long gone. Much as you might like to believe otherwise, the world is not standing still. It is an increasingly dangerous place, and the United States is increasingly poorly equipped to respond with authority. Whose tocsin is sufficiently clear, and bright, and persuasive to rouse an indifferent public, a complicit media, and a self-serving political elite into action? What we are witnessing is not only a concerted attack on the Constitution (how abstract that sounds) but also an assault on our way of life: our habits of individual liberty and free enterprise, our assumption of national security and global prerogative. The hour is late. Who will recall us from our dogmatic slumbers?

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Government by Mere Mortals

From Mark Steyn:

Not everyone at the Mandela jamboree was doing selfies with the Danish pastry. One reader passed along this photograph: No sign of Barack buddy David Cameron, but here are three of the Queen’s other prime ministers – Australia’s Tony Abbott, Canada’s Stephen Harper, New Zealand’s John Key – having a working lunch ahead of the memorial service. All three are conservatives, and, while there are many who’d like a bit more red meat with respect to this or that, every single one of them is well to the right of President Obama. Come to think of it, their respective leftie (Liberal/Labour) predecessors (Julia Gillard, Paul Martin, Helen Clark) were also to the right of President Obama. For a supposed “right of center” nation, it is striking how at odds with its allies America is.

But what I like about the photo is its ordinariness, right down to the restaurant decor, the wall print of wine bottles, and the spare chair. The Obama cult doesn’t seem to allow for anything so low-key – see, for example, this absurd scene from the US Embassy in London. After five years under the klieg lights of Obama glamor, there’s something to be said for being governed by non-messiahs.

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Obama Finally Discovers That Big Government Is Too Big

From Mediaite:

On Fox News Sunday, Fox News contributor George Will had a chuckle over President Barack Obama’s comment in a recent interview that seemed to place some blame for the woeful rollout of the Affordable Care Act on cumbersome government agencies.

“Not to put too fine a point on it,” host Chris Wallace said, “but it’s those outdated agencies the president talks about that he, under Obamacare, is going to have oversee about a sixth of the economy. ”

“The education of this president is a protracted and often amusing process — as it was this week — as he continues to alight upon the obvious with a sense of profound and original discovery,” Will replied. “He’s alighting on what is obvious to governors. This is really why we should have governors more often than senators as president.”

“The president is saying the trouble with big government is it’s so darned big,” he continued. “And like a lot of other big organisms — dinosaurs spring to mind — it has a simple nervous system, it’s sclerotic, it’s governed by inertia, and it’s hard to move. This from a man who’s devoted his life to increasing the power of government as an instrument of the redistribution of income, because government is wiser than markets at that. It’s, as I say, highly amusing.”

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Bias by Omission

On November 23, USA Today published an article listing the top five best- and worst-run states. In the article, the authors say that, “While each state is different, the best-run states share certain characteristics, as do the worst run.” But they completely omit probably the most important characteristic in how well a state is run: that is, who is running the state. A revealing pattern arises when you look at the party affiliation of the governor and legislatures running the best- and worst-run states.

The Five Best-Run States

1. North Dakota:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Large Republican majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Republican majority

2. Wyoming:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Large Republican majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Republican majority

3. Iowa:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Slight Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Slight Republican majority

4. Nebraska:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Legislature (unicameral and nonpartisan) – the vast majority of its members are Republicans

5. Utah:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Large Republican majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Republican majority

The Five Worst-Run States

46. Nevada:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Slight Democrat majority
  • Assembly – Large Democrat majority

47. Rhode Island:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Democrat majority

48. Illinois:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Democrat majority

49. New Mexico:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Democrat majority

50. California:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • Assembly – Large Democrat majority

Something Obama Didn’t Lie About

From Mark Steyn:

In Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, the eponymous Auric Goldfinger observes:

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it’s enemy action.

That may be overly generous.

A couple of weeks back, cancer patient Bill Elliot, in a defiant appearance on Fox News, discussed the cancelation of his insurance and what he intended to do about it. He’s now being audited.

Insurance agent C Steven Tucker, who quaintly insists that the whimsies of the hyper-regulatory bureaucracy do not trump your legal rights, saw the interview and reached out to Mr Elliot to help him. And he’s now being audited.

As the Instapundit likes to remind us, Barack Obama has “joked” publicly about siccing the IRS on his enemies. With all this coincidence about, we should be grateful the president is not (yet) doing prison-rape gags.

Meanwhile, IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, in his testimony to the House Oversight Committee over the agency’s systemic corruption, answers “I don’t recall” no fewer than 80 times. Try giving that answer to Wilkins’s colleagues and see where it gets you. Few persons are fond of their tax collectors, but, from my experience, America is the only developed nation in which the mass of the population is fearful of its revenue agency. This is unbecoming to a supposedly free people.

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A Remarkably Superficial Mind

From Bret Stephens:

Seven score and 10 years ago, Abraham Lincoln delivered his sacred speech on the meaning of free government. Edward Everett, a former secretary of state and the principal speaker for the consecration of the Gettysburg cemetery, instantly recognized the power of the president’s 272 words.

“I should be glad, if I could flatter myself,” Everett wrote to Lincoln the next day, “that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Barack Obama is not scheduled to be present at Gettysburg on Tuesday to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the address. Maybe he figured that the world would little note, nor long remember, what he said there. Maybe he thought the comparisons with the original were bound to be invidious, and rightly so.

If that’s the case, it would be the beginning of wisdom for this presidency. Better late than never.

Mr. Obama’s political career has always and naturally inspired thoughts about the 16th president: the lawyer from Illinois, blazing a sudden trail from obscurity to eminence; the first black president, redeeming the deep promise of the new birth of freedom. The associations create a reservoir of pride in the 44th president even among his political opponents.

But, then, has there ever been a president who so completely over-salted his own brand as Barack Obama? “I never compare myself to Lincoln,” the president told NBC’s David Gregory last year. Except that he announced his presidential candidacy from the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Ill. And that he traveled by train to Washington from Philadelphia for his first inauguration along the same route Lincoln took in the spring of 1861. And that he twice swore his oaths of office on the Lincoln Bible. “Lincoln—they used to talk about him almost as bad as they talk about me,” he said in Iowa in 2011.

No, this has not been a president who has ever shied away from grandiose historical comparisons. If George W. Bush reveled in being misunderestimated, Mr. Obama aims to be selfhyperadulated. “I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president—with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR, and Lincoln,” the president told “60 Minutes” in 2011. Note the word possible.

But now that has started to change. The president has been humbled; he’s pleading incompetence against charges of dishonesty; the media, mainstream as well as alternative, smell blood in the water.

And his problems on that score are just beginning: ObamaCare is really a political self-punching machine, slugging itself with every botched rollout, missed deadline, postponed mandate, higher deductible, canceled insurance policy and jury-rigged administrative fix. John Roberts, we hardly knew you: Your ObamaCare swing vote last year may yet turn out to be best gift Republicans have had in a decade.

All this will force even liberals to reappraise the Obama presidency. Lincoln’s political reputation went from being “the original gorilla” (as Edwin Stanton, his future secretary of war, once called him) to being celebrated, in the words of Ulysses Grant, as “incontestably the greatest man I have ever known.” Obama’s political trajectory, and reputation, are headed in the opposite direction: from Candidate Cool to President Callow.

That reappraisal is going to take many forms, not least in the international goodwill Mr. Obama’s presidency was supposed to have brought us. But since the occasion of this column is the Gettysburg sesquicentennial, it’s worth turning to the question of the president’s once-celebrated prose.

Abraham Lincoln spoke greatly because he read wisely and thought deeply. He turned to Shakespeare, he once said, “perhaps as frequently as any unprofessional reader.” “It matters not to me whether Shakespeare be well or ill acted,” he added. “With him the thought suffices.”

Maybe Mr. Obama has similar literary tastes. It doesn’t show. “An economy built to last,” the refrain from his 2012 State of the Union, borrows from an ad slogan once used to sell the Ford Edsel. “Nation-building at home,” another favorite presidential trope, was born in a Tom Friedman column. “We are the ones we have been waiting for” is the title of a volume of essays by Alice Walker. “The audacity of hope” is adapted from a Jeremiah Wright sermon. “Yes We Can!” is the anthem from “Bob the Builder,” a TV cartoon aimed at 3-year-olds.

There is a common view that good policy and good rhetoric have little intrinsic connection. Not so. President Obama’s stupendously shallow rhetoric betrays a remarkably superficial mind. Superficial minds designed ObamaCare. Superficial minds are now astounded by its elementary failures, and will continue to be astounded by the failures to come.

Is there a remedy? Probably not. Then again, the president’s no-show at Gettysburg suggests he might be trying to follow Old Abe’s counsel in a fruitful way: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool,” the Great Emancipator is reported to have said, “than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

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