After nearly five years in office it should be clear that President Obama has always been a man on a mission to change America and the world. To be sure, we couldn’t disagree more with his vision – and in this we think we speak for most Americans.
It would be off the mark, however, to pooh-pooh his sincerity or not to appreciate that he indeed feels strongly about an expansive role for government, a redistribution of wealth and health care reform to name just a few core issues – and dismiss him as some evil person bent on destruction.
Similarly, Mr. Obama declared almost from the onset of his first term that while he would never abandon America’s longstanding relationship with Israel, he wanted to reset or repair U.S. relations with the rest of the world – he specifically mentioned the Arab/Muslim world – which he felt had been compromised by American selfishness and shortsightedness.
But the Obamacare fiasco has become so toxic to the president, sending his approval ratings tumbling and rendering him radioactive even to congressional Democrats worried about their reelection prospects, that he appears to have assumed lame duck status even with three years remaining in his presidency.
So we are not surprised that Mr. Obama would try to jumpstart his efforts to bring about radical change. As we noted last week, there are signs the president, with the assistance of his remaining allies in the Democratic-controlled Senate, is positioning himself to be able “to do pretty much what [he] wants in domestic affairs” despite the opposition of Republicans and some Democrats to his agenda.
Since the Republicans control the House of Representatives and are fiercely resistant to most of Mr. Obama’s initiatives, the Democrats know it will be virtually impossible to achieve their objectives legislatively. So the president, as appears increasingly likely, will pursue his agenda by bypassing Congress through executive orders and agency rulemaking by his appointees and have them approved by ideologically friendly judges he appoints to the U.S . Court of Appeals in Washington, which passes on most executive orders and agency rulemaking.
Case in point: the recent rule change engineered by the Democratic majority in the Senate which effectively removed the filibuster option for Republican senators wishing to oppose Mr. Obama’s administrative agency and judicial appointments as part of the Senate’s advise and consent process, a move that paves the way for friendly appointments, enabling an end-run around the Republican majority in the House.
And the president’s alarming cave-in regarding Iran’s nuclear program, almost universally criticized, indicates to us that he is anxious to rev up his plans in the international arena as well. The concessions he authorized were so transparently unilateral and so much a reprieve for Iran that they show Mr. Obama to be a man in a hurry, willing to throw caution to the wind on the exceedingly slim chance that he can get Iran to act responsibly and honestly.
Indeed, the broad authority granted to a president in the conduct of foreign affairs is a measure of the particular dangers posed by a chief executive who fears his time to make a difference on the world stage is running out.
Accordingly, Secretary of State Kerry’s feverish full court press to reconvene negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and his suddenly renewed criticism of Israel’s settlement policies can hardly be written off as mere happenstance.
It will be recalled that early in his first term President Obama and his first secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, didn’t mince words in pressuring Israel to ending new settlement construction. It was only after strong congressional pushback that the president retreated from publicly challenging Israel.
Yet last month, when renewed negotiations stalled over Palestinian objections to new settlement construction – which, it’s important to note, Israel never forswore – Mr. Kerry immediately adopted the Palestinian perspective: “[W]e consider now and have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate. The Palestinians believe that the settlements are illegal. The United States has said that they believe the settlements are not helpful and are illegitimate.”
Several days later, in a television interview, the secretary of state delivered an incredible follow-up, seemingly justifying any Palestinian violence that would result should Israel choose not to go along with the Palestinian position on settlements:
“If we do not resolve the question of settlements, and who lives where and what rights they have; if we don’t end the presence of Israeli soldiers perpetually in the West Bank, then there will be an increasing feeling that if you cannot get peace with a [Palestinian] leadership that is committed to non-violence, we may wind up with a leadership that is committed to violence…. The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential for violence…. Does Israel want a third intafada?”
Congress has both the responsibility and the wherewithal – power of the purse, veto-proof legislation, resolutions, rallying public support – to stay the hand of even a president as determined as Mr. Obama to leave his imprint on history.Editorial Board
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