Shortly after the oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court this past spring– which didn’t seem to go very well at the time — Obama warned against a version of constitutional “activism”:
“And I’d just remind conservative commentators that, for years, what we have heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism, or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”
At the time, the thought of our President attacking the third branch of government seemed a little absurd, a little whiny. Now, looking back over the past three years of his presidency, the hypocrisy is alarming. Obama has continuously engaged in “ executive activism” from the Executive Branch.
Back in March 2008, President Obama made the following claim:
“The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m president of the United States”.
In hindsight of course, we now know that Obama doesn’t mean what he says. His executive activism has increased since he lost the House in 2010, but was evident from his liberal use of Czars and quasi-autonomous agencies since the beginning of his term.
Turning the tables on his aforementioned Supreme Court remarks, which specifically questioned the power of an “unelected group of people”, it is unfathomable for Obama to have raised such concerns in light of Obama’s cadre of unelecteds.
For instance, many of Obama’s czars are neither confirmed by Congress nor accountable to the president. The “Pay Czar”, Ken Feinburg, made unilateral decisions about the compensation of private businesses — something that is certainly not within the realm of the government’s constitutional authority. Or what about the “WMD Czar”, officially titled as Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism? Gary Samore is unconfirmed; his job description is that of a “coordinator,” a title with vague and broad responsibilities.
Additionally, Obama has frequently made use of government agencies to impose that which failed to become law. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed limitations on emissions and implemented almost in its entirety the cap-and-trade bill that failed in Congress. Likewise, the National Relations Labor Board (NLRB) passed rules that are virtually as onerous as the card check, which failed to get through Congress.
Abroad, the term QUANGO is widely used to describe such government agencies, standing for “QUasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organizations”. They execute actions meant to be carried out by the legislature. Among the most offending here are the Federal Reserve, the NRLB, the EPA, and the the Federal Trade Commission. Indeed, Obama has established an “order of succession” for several agencies via Executive Order, thereby raising the level of their importance.
Obama even created a new program specifically devoted to his “activism”, which was announced last October. Obama revealed new programs to aid college students to repay their federal loans, veterans to find employment, and homeowners make their mortgage obligations. All three initiatives were without legislation. He remarked, “We can’t wait for Congress to do its job. So where they won’t act, I will. We’re going to look every single day to figure out what we can do without Congress.” Calling the offical program, “We Can’t Wait”, Obama claimed that inaction by Congress requires action from him, a clear overreach of power and presumption.
Legal criticism also mounted from Obama’s recess appointments last January. Circumventing Congressional confirmations, Obama approved the appointments on his own, whining that the “pro forma” sessions during the break – held specifically to block the ability of a recess appointment — were not legitimate. Of course, Obama was quick to forget that Senator Harry Reid was the creator of the “pro forma”, a strategy implemented by the Democrats themselves during the latter years of the Bush administration.
Earlier this summer, Obama implemented a version of the Dream Act and just announced it at a press conference. His policy is very similar to Mark Rubio’s undrafted legislation that was expected to enter Congressional debate very soon. Contrast Obama with Bush, who tried to get his somewhat unpopular ideas passed through Congress, including Social Security reform and immigration reform. The difference is that Bush didn’t skip the Constitution – and he wouldn’t have even considered such an idea. Obama, on the other hand, did precisely that.
Obama’s use of the Executive Order (EO) has also been alarming. His total count so far has been 130, and while this is in no way an extraordinary number compared to some other presidents, it’s the content of many of the EOs which gives pause. The most recent EO on July 6, 2012, allows for control over communications during a crisis, while earlier ones include subjects related to confiscation of private property and labor, national defense resources preparedness, control over food production, and more.
What happened to the Obama who (we were told) was supposed to bring everyone together? The Obama who criticized executive activism? What we have today is a President purposely making unilateral decisions to advance his own agenda. The various tactics that Obama have grossly expanded the power of the Executive Branch. The result is a sort of reckless imperialism, which will only continue to undermine the nation if he is once again elected to the Presidency.