It’s safe to say that there has rarely, if ever, been a president more absolutely sure of the utter and total correctness of his positions than Barack Obama. While outward humility and the intentional display of human hesitation have long been staple behavioral facets of virtually every first-rate high-level communicator as he tries to connect with (and win the support of) his constituency when making difficult decisions, words such as “I’ve really struggled with this” or “I’ve thought long and hard about this one” seldom seem to emanate from President Obama’s lips. Instead, complete self-assuredness bordering on smug, condescending arrogance has been the hallmark of his demeanor.
His “signature domestic achievement” – The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) – was brought into existence only by an arcane budgetary trick pulled off by then-Senate majority sycophant Harry Reid. After winning a Massachusetts Senate seat in January 2010, Scott Brown became the “41st senator,” the one who would complete a Republican filibuster and prevent the ACA from becoming law.
But the ACA per se was never voted on by the full Senate, and Brown never got the chance to play his role as the 41st Senator in a filibuster. Sparing everyone the long, sorry, detailed saga, Reid managed to get the ACA to be dependent on a Senate vote under reconciliation, a budget technicality that requires only a simple majority of 51.
Hats off to Reid. It was brilliant political maneuvering. Arguably the most sweeping, significant domestic policy in U.S. history, Obama’s ACA was implemented without a single Republican vote in either the House or Senate. Never has policy of such magnitude been passed without having convinced even one member of the opposition party of its worth and thus have any opposition support. Not one Republican vote.
It is also quite accurate to say that there has never been a president who implemented such fundamentally impactful policies while circumventing the usual legislative process as Barack Obama. No president has ever announced that he has “a pen and a phone, and I intend to use them if Congress won’t act.” Two examples are the bold immigration acts (transparently designed to legitimize illegal immigration and the next-generation of sure-fire Democratic voters whom those illegal immigrants will produce) and presidential EPA appointees who then enact punitive environmental edicts that could never pass through the normal legislative process, for the purposes of helping the administration solidify political and fundraising allegiances with the sympathetic Green lobby while simultaneously inflicting financial damage on “evil” Republican-run capitalistic enterprises.
The champion of all non-legislative “executive actions” was the controversial Iran nuclear agreement. As was the case with almost all of his unconventional actions, President Obama tried hard to give this one the appearance of legitimacy. He “authorized” Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with Iran on multiple occasions, to “hammer out” the fine details of a sensitive agreement to effectively end Iran’s nuclear development and prevent the Iranians from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The deal’s actual particulars are not the topic of discussion here. This is the point, and it’s fascinating: the entire Iran nuclear agreement is a private agreement between President Obama and Iran. It carries no legal weight or significance. It is not a “treaty,” which would have needed to be ratified by two thirds of the Senate. It never went through the Senate. It’s a nod-nod, wink-wink of zero legal legitimacy. It is a water bucket made out of a window screen; it holds no water and was never intended to. It was intended to give the appearance of being a high-level agreement between two adversarial countries, designed to look as if it had been painstakingly negotiated on multiple occasions between the highest-ranking surrogates of each respective government. Both sides know that it’s a nothingburger, and they have known that all along. But to President Obama’s everlasting political credit, he skillfully lent the entire process an air of visual legitimacy, safe in the knowledge that his allies in the liberal media would never call it for what it was.
The Plan was for Hillary to follow Obama into the Oval Office. Sharing exactly his philosophies and intents, she’d preserve every executive order, protect every piece of shaky legislation that slithered through with nary a Republican vote, and continue the strategy of governing by Cabinet-level appointee. In this way, Obama’s legacy – born mostly of legal shortcuts, legislative sleight-of-hand, and a lazy disregard for the tough work of across-the-aisle negotiation and honest compromise – would be cemented for all time.
Sometimes, lazy is good. Lazyman lobster and lazyman lasagne come to mind. But lazy isn’t good for formulating and implementing presidential policy. President Obama didn’t allow for the possibility of a President Trump succeeding him into office. Trump will undo Obama’s entire shaky Jenga-esque policy tower, and all of Obama’s precious “accomplishments” – ill-conceived, shoddily constructed, and condescendingly presented – will come tumbling down.
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