By George Will
Barack Obama’s increasingly grandiose claims for presidential power are inversely proportional to his shriveling presidency.
Desperation fuels arrogance as, barely 200 days into the 1,462 days of his second term, his pantry of excuses for failure is bare, his domestic agenda is nonexistent and his foreign policy of empty rhetorical deadlines and redlines is floundering. And at last week’s news conference he offered inconvenience as a justification for illegality.
Explaining his decision to unilaterally rewrite the Affordable Care Act, he said: “I didn’t simply choose to” ignore the statutory requirement for beginning in 2014 the employer mandate to provide employees with healthcare. No, “this was in consultation with businesses.”
He continued: “In a normal political environment, it would have been easier for me to simply call up the speaker and say, you know what, this is a tweak that doesn’t go to the essence of the law . . . it looks like there may be some better ways to do this, let’s make a technical change to the law. That would be the normal thing that I would prefer to do. But we’re not in a normal atmosphere around here when it comes to Obamacare. We did have the executive authority to do so, and we did so.”
Serving as props in the scripted charade of White House news conferences, journalists did not ask the pertinent question: “Where does the Constitution confer upon presidents the ‘executive authority’ to ignore the separation of powers by revising laws?” The question could have elicited an Obama rarity: Brevity. Because there is no such authority.
Obama’s explanation began with an irrelevancy: He consulted with businesses before disregarding his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” That duty does not lapse when a president decides Washington’s “political environment” is not “normal.”
When was it “normal”? The 1850s? The 1950s? Washington has been the nation’s capital for 213 years; Obama has been here less than nine years. Even if he understood “normal” political environments here, the Constitution is not suspended when a president decides the “environment” is abnormal.
Read the full column at Press Display.