The PJ Tatler

Would a Lame Duck Obama Really have a 'Substantially Reduced Capacity to Do Harm'?

George Will says so, in an attempt to get Republicans to focus more on Congress than the presidential election this fall:

Will argues that a Republican-controlled Congress would be able to strongly oppose the president’s agenda.

“If Republicans do, their committee majorities will serve as fine-mesh filters, removing President Obama’s initiatives from the stream of legislation … [A] re-elected Obama — a lame duck at noon next Jan. 20 — would have a substantially reduced capacity to do harm,” he says.

I don’t agree. In fact, perversely, this particular president might find it much to his advantage to lose Congress and then act unilaterally. He would dare a Republican Congress to oppose his acts, and then slam them with whatever weapon — race, class, gender, etc — he found at hand. And he would act in the full knowledge that it will take years of court action to undo whatever he does because there is little real will even among elected Republicans to do the hard work of reversing his actions. That most of his most effective actions come not in legislation, but in bureaucratic interpretations of pre-existing law, make the job of repealing Obama that much more difficult.

We’re already seeing this unilateral behavior, in fact, and have since the 2010 midterm when Democrats lost the House and nearly lost the Senate. Obama has unilaterally changed immigration policy, essentially gutting immigration law enforcement. And he has dared anyone to oppose what he has done. His immigration change was both a sop to the Hispanic left, but more importantly I think, a provocation to the right to raise a loud objection that he can use to paint his opponents as racists. The right has by and large not played along. We’ve learned a thing or two since the last round of “comprehensive immigration reform.”

We’re seeing this behavior even more blatantly in the abortifacient mandate. That mandate puts government in the drivers seat of insurance companies, dictating to them by fiat that they must pay for a particular product out of their own pockets or face fines or jail (or shut down altogether). It violates the First Amendment, the lynchpin of all of our freedoms. When Catholics and others objected, Obama has almost comically lied about the policy. He and his allies have cast the fight as being about access to contraceptives, which isn’t even close to the truth. It’s about government mandating business decisions and running roughshod over freedoms we have all taken for granted up to now.

The big insurance companies, by the way, aren’t fighting the mandate despite how it alters their relationship with the government. They may see it as yet another way to use regulation to keep smaller competitors at a disadvantage.

We’ve seen Obama’s unilateral behavior on energy, the EPA and the XL Pipeline. The regime’s lie, that the Republicans actually scuttled the pipeline, is so dishonest that even Jay Carney can’t really believe it. Yet it’s their official line and they’re sticking to it. And while Obama claims that we’re producing more oil than ever now, the fact is his administration has kept vast amounts of federal land off limits for exploration and increased the amount of land that’s off limits. We’re still about 3 million barrels a day off the nation’s production peak. We also need new refining capacity but we’re not building it. The boost in production is occurring on private land, and is due to new drilling technology. Obama has had nothing to do with either, and is probably looking for a way to stop both. His EPA isn’t slowing down its war on coal fired power plants — a war he promised to declare before he was even president.

Notice, by the way, that Obama isn’t really using the Democrats in Congress for any of this. He doesn’t really need them. The Democrats still control the Senate, but all they’re doing with that control is fly a holding pattern. They’re not advancing anything. Oh, they’re running interference for Obama in the press and fundraising and other menial tasks, but they can do that in a majority or a minority. It just takes one Democrat loudmouth to go on MSNBC, and there are more than enough of them for that. There will still be more than enough of them even if the GOP takes both houses in November.

What George Will, and probably most Democrats by the way, miss is that Barack Obama is a fundamentally different kind of president from any of his predecessors. For one thing, he doesn’t care about his party at all once it has served his purposes. ObamaCare cost Democrats the House and legislatures around the country, but that hasn’t slowed him down. Recall, his disdain for the Constitution stems from his misinterpretation of its purpose. The founders lived under an unlimited monarchy, and wrote the Constitution to limit the power of the new government in relation to a free citizenry. Obama views it as a “charter of negative rights” that doesn’t grant government enough power over people he believes government should provide for. That limit on government power is the Constitution’s chief feature, not a bug, but Obama sees it as a bug. And he wants to fix that bug.

Four years, no worries about re-election, no moderates in the party to have to pretend to care about, and a conveniently powerful but divided enemy in control of both houses of the Congress he despises as a brake on his power. He still wants to fundamentally transform the country to conform to his definition of “fairness.” That arrangement of Republicans in control of Congress but Obama in control of the executive branch isn’t likely to work peacefully or to the nation’s benefit.