The 'Tom Thumb' Presidency
It seems impossible, but Barack Obama has taken the most powerful office on the planet and reduced it to the size of a patent clerk's sinecure. And while Einstein may have made his most important contributions to science while whiling away the drudgery in a tiny Swiss patent examination office, the president has made an art form of talking big and acting small -- so small that insignificance has become the new normal at the White House.
The president's "executive actions" on curbing gun violence are so vanilla and pedestrian that the reactions from Republicans -- impeachment, arrest for federal agents sent to enforce the regulations, even civil war -- smack of hysteria. One congressman, Representative Dan Benishek of Michigan, said in a Twitter message: “Let me be clear, I will fight any efforts to take our guns. Not on my watch.”
Very heroic but hardly relevant. No one has proposed taking anyone's guns. In fact, even the ban on "assault weapons" (if everyone could ever agree on what they are) doesn't propose any such dramatics. And even Harry Reid is dubious a ban could clear the Democrat-controlled Senate.
So what is all the hubbub about? Our liberties are threatened because of proposals like this?
1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
They are already required to do so, but I guess you could stretch the point and make it an impeachable offense to issue a presidential memorandum.
And this is supposed to be the equivalent of firing on Fort Sumter?
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
Couldn't he just pick up the phone and call him? What does he need an executive order for? We know AG Holder is busy looking for racism in voter ID bills but we're pretty sure he might take five minutes or so to scan the "categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun."
Crazies? Check. Mental patients? Check. Felons? Check. Um...how about Republicans? Never mind. Back to finding racists hiding under the bed...
And I don't know about you, but if I were a federal agent and had to enforce this show-stopper of an executive order, I'd be steering clear of Texas:
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
In other words, enforce the damn law. If we haven't maximized our efforts to stop crime by now, there is something seriously amiss with our federal government.
If we're going to impeach the president, let's do it for something big, huge, consequential -- like maybe taking too many days off or playing too much golf. But this gaggle of white-bread executive orders isn't worth tearing the country apart.
Charles Krauthammer agrees:
The problem is he doesn't know what to do and no one knows what to do. The things he signed today, the executive orders, are useless. It's the appearance of motion. I think it's sincere, he wants to do a little at the edges; a little research here, a little encouragement here. But everybody understands it's not going to make any difference. So, he is saying that the three big items are the ban on assault weapons, on the big magazines and the idea of having the background checks. I think they are not going to pass. I think he will expend some capital, but the country simply isn't ready to do anything near that.
Media headlines refer to the "most expansive gun-control agenda in a generation." But compared to what the gun grabbers were proposing back in the 1970s and '80s, Obama's milquetoast ideas are cotton candy as opposed to five-alarm chile. There was serious talk to ban handguns back then, and it took all the power and influence of the NRA and Second Amendment advocates to stop it.
The NRA is making a big deal about going after these new regs, calling their effort the "fight of the century" (the "Mother of all Battles?"). What they won't tell you is that they will defeat all congressional attempts at gun control and do it with one hand tied behind their backs. The culture has shifted dramatically -- even since 1994 when a string of high-profile murders by criminals using assault weapons led to the original ban. The right to bear arms is more firmly ensconced in the public consciousness than ever before, and even if congressional proposals to require a background check on all gun purchases passed -- a dubious supposition -- it would be watered down and made virtually meaningless.
What all this bibble-babble from Obama reveals is a presidency afflicted with Tom Thumb Syndrome -- a small man, with little or no imagination, pushing small ideas and trying to pass them off as transformational changes. As a candidate for re-election, President Obama did not run on any big ideas, or advocate massive change. His "investment" proposals consisted of throwing more money at the same cronies he funded during his first term -- teachers, unions, "green" technology companies -- while baiting the envious and paranoid voter with promises to sock it to the rich. It was a singularly small-minded campaign, unworthy even of a liberal.
His ideas to reduce the deficit and address the national debt are similarly timid. The GOP might be a little crazy about wanting to shut down the government, but when faced with a president who doesn't think we have a spending problem, one can sympathize with their madness. At least Republicans are thinking big -- too big for many but far better than the president's denial of reality. At least the GOP is giving us a baseline for cuts in spending. The president prefers to imagine he can draw most of his deficit-reduction package by closing loopholes and reforming the tax system -- once again, going after the "rich."
It is indicative of the dearth of ideas and lack of recognition of what must be done that have characterized the Obama administration since 2010. Aside from the year and a half it took to pass Obamacare and the financial reform legislation -- both signed into law while the Democrats owned a massive majority in the House and Senate -- there has been nothing worthy of the label "transformational" emanating from the Obama White House. It has been one minor-league play after another. Climate change legislation? Given up and even EPA regs on making carbon dioxide a poisonous gas put on hold. A promise for second-term action not serious. Card check? No way, no how. Immigration reform? It's coming, said Obama pre-election. If it does come, it is guaranteed not to be comprehensive or fix much of anything.
Surely Republican opposition has had something to do with these failures. But Bill Clinton also served during a time of hyperpartisanship and outright GOP hatred for the president and he managed to work with the Republican House to pass welfare reform -- the most significant piece of social legislation in a generation. George W. Bush was considered illegitimate by most Democrats but managed to work with the opposition to pass education reform and prescription drug legislation.
It can be done -- if a president thinks big and works hard to accomplish his goals. But this president prefers style over substance, atmospherics over real accomplishment. Thus, his plan to reduce gun violence and protect children will do neither because he lacks the boldness and clarity of mission to address the underlying causes of the violence that actually might make a difference.
Reforming our mental health codes and recognizing the role that guns can play in self-defense might go against the grain of his ideology. But because he is wedded so strongly to his beliefs, he must put on a dog and pony show with children as props to stage a meaningless press extravaganza that featured a lot of sound and fury about dealing with gun violence while signifying absolutely nothing.