Obama Power Grabs on the Horizon
How the Democratic Party will show its totalitarian face in the coming weeks.
Leftists and their media advocates, well aware that the tragedy of Newtown must be exploited before Americans regain their emotional balance, are pulling out all the stops. Almost a dozen new gun control bills were introduced on the first day of the new congressional session. Joe Biden's task force continues its frenzied pace of activity, even as it broadens its scope far beyond the reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, moving into such arenas as universal background checks for gun buyers, a national database tracking the movement and sale of weapons and measures that Obama could enact by executive order. Yet such an imperious manner of governance will not be limited to gun control. Obama and Democrats are embracing the same strategy with respect to raising the debt ceiling, absent any genuine spending cuts. In short, they're acting like Republicans are irrelevant.
Yet the administration is well aware that its “never let a crisis go to waste” approach is on tenuous ground regarding gun control. The Washington Post notes that “as the shock and sorrow over the Newtown, Conn., shooting fades, the tough fight facing the White House and gun-control backers is growing clearer.” The paper then reminds Americans of several gun-related tragedies, such as the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, the Aurora movie theater massacre, the shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and one at an army base in Texas, “all of which occurred during Obama's first term,” even as none of them elicited “national progress on curbing gun bloodshed." The Associated Press also speaks to the urgency of getting comprehensive gun control legislation through Congress as quickly as possible, because "as the shock of the Newtown shooting fades, so, too, will the prospects that pro-gun lawmakers will work with the White House to tighten restrictions.”
The implications here are obvious: a president facing reelection was “powerless” to take on “entrenched interest groups,” as in law-abiding Americans who support the Second Amendment. Now that the election is over, Obama, much as he promised Russian President Dmitri Medvedev with respect to foreign policy, can be more “flexible” in his approach to gun control. Furthermore, because of the emotionalism necessary to sustain such broad (and likely unconstitutional) changes, time is of the essence. Ergo, Obama will be entirely justified in taking whatever steps are necessary as quickly as possible, even if that means pushing the boundaries of executive power – or stepping over them.
Such brinksmanship is hardly accidental. Although the president and Democrats knew as far back as August 2011 that the combination of tax increases and spending cuts engendered by the last debt ceiling debate would kick in on January 1, 2012, serious negotiations were put off until the very last minute – and beyond. This intransigence was intentional. The Democrat-controlled Senate tabled every spending bill sent to them by the Republican-controlled House, and failed to enact any budget for more than three-and-a-half years. The same party that completely derided the extension of the Bush tax cuts in 2010 as an unconscionable addition to the national debt, suddenly favored them. Yet in the end, the so-called “grand bargain” was a farce, producing little more than an additional $3.9 trillion dollars of debt over the next ten years, according to the CBO.
Furthermore, even as negotiations were ongoing, America once again reached its borrowing limit on December 31, as the national debt climbed to more than $16.3 trillion. On December 26, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warned he could take “extraordinary measures” to prevent America from defaulting on its obligations for a couple of months.
Now one might be inclined to think that national default would trump gun control as the most pressing issue of the day. Republicans certainly think so. “The biggest problem we have at the moment is spending and debt,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last Sunday. “That's going to dominate the Congress between now and the end of March. None of these issues will have the kind of priority as spending and debt over the next two or three months.” Yet once again, the president has indicated that he will push the envelope. “While I will negotiate over many things, I won't have another debate with this Congress on whether they should pay the bills we racked up in the past,” he said on January 2.
And just like they are doing with gun control, Democrats are urging the president to run over congressional Republicans, using executive authority. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has reportedly told other Democrats he supports such a move, using the 14th Amendment as a vehicle. Nancy Pelosi echoed that assessment. “I've made my view very clear on that subject: I would do it in a second,” said Pelosi on January 4. They are joined by Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and James Clyburn (D-SC), the second- and third-ranking Democrats in the House, as well as Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and former president Bill Clinton, who claimed he would do it “without hesitation and force the courts to stop me.”
Section 4 of the 14th Amendment states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” Harvard law professor and former Obama advisor Laurence Tribe underscores the arrogant nature of Democrats' thinking. “We shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking the 14th Amendment gives [Obama] this authority,” he warned. “It's just a fantasy.” John Yoo, a former legal adviser to President George W. Bush, agreed. “The Framers wanted the president to exercise emergency power in response to national security threats, not over domestic affairs where Congress and the president have had plenty of time to deliberate and figure out a solution,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Obama himself has said he will not bypass Congress and invoke the Amendment, but given the president's track record of lying and/or changing his mind at the last minute, Americans should take no comfort from the statement. What Americans should take from this issue, and the issue of gun control, is that Democrats are more than willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want, and “force the courts to stop” them, even if it necessitates creating one of the most divisive atmospheres Americans have ever endured in the process.
That is the essence of imperiousness and brinksmanship. Thus, while they are rushing gun control legislation while emotions are still raw, they will delay debt ceiling negotiations until they can gin up a similar level of public frustration on that issue. That is why Obama, despite getting his tax increases on the “rich,” wants to re-negotate tax increases. “Now, if Republicans think that I will finish the job of deficit reduction through spending cuts alone … then they've got another think coming. That's not how it's going to work,” he said, two days after the fiscal cliff deal was made. “It's going to have to be a matter of shared sacrifice, at least as long as I'm president. And I'm going to be president for the next four years.”
And for the next two years at least, Republicans will control the House of Representatives. In a logical world, that would mean Democrats have to find some common ground with the GOP. Yet somehow the president and his party have convinced themselves that Republicans are an obstacle – not a partner – in solving America's most pressing problems. No doubt a large part of their arrogance is due to the reality that, when Americans get utterly disgusted by this continuing spectacle, they have the utmost confidence the mainstream media will blame Republicans for any and every debacle.
Yet that odious arrangement may be far more tenuous than both Democrats and their media sycophants realize. A substantial number of Democratic voters were shocked to discover that their taxes went up when the temporary payroll tax deduction enacted in 2009 went back up from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. For many of them, that may have been one of the first indications that the “raise taxes on the rich” narrative promoted by the unholy Democrat-media alliance was a fraud. If the president and his party continue to push the envelope on imperious governance and brinksmanship, it won't be the last shock they receive. Not by a long shot.
Arnold Ahlert is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine.