Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Bully Pulpit

What’s new Today

Story #1 relates how Obama seems to feel the executive branch is higher than the legislative or judicial.  #2 the first story leads to the second where a federal appeals court is taking issue with the executive branch.  #3 is an interesting piece.  A study has been done and it find liberals don’t get it when it is conservatives.  #4 lays out the Obama Administrations stealth amnesty program.  #5 tells us the Obama isn’t very good with actual facts.  #6 is about the EPA.  #7 looks at the state of the Republican race to see if it’s over (hint: pretty much).  Finally #8 looks to see if Romneycare will hurt the Republicans chances in the election. 

1.  His Imperial Highness, Barack H. Obama

President Obama has made it his mission to wield the club against the other two branches of government in a manner unprecedented in American history. Yesterday, Obama, rejecting the heart of judicial review for purposes of his own power, stated, “I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” That, of course, is precisely what the Supreme Court does on a daily basis: it reviews acts of a democratically-elected Congress. The reason the justices are unelected is that they are supposed to be free of outside influences in defending and protecting the Constitution.

But for Obama, the Supreme Court is an obstacle to his own power. And so he goes to war with the Supreme Court. As I noted yesterday, this is nothing new for President Obama – in his 2010 State of the Union Address, he lied about the Supreme Court and attacked them as judicial activists for striking down campaign finance laws that violated the First Amendment. That prompted Justice Alito to mouth the words, “Not true.” But undercutting the authority of the Supreme Court in a setting where the justices had to sit and take it was just the beginning, apparently.

And Obama doesn’t respect Congress, either. Congressional authority is his bête noire. He has routinely suggested, “if Congress won’t act, I will.” He said it about his jobs plan. He said it about an executive order regarding the Food and Drug Administration. His budget officials say it about his legislative priorities. Obama has used the power of the executive branch to “recess” appoint officials to the National Labor Relations Board, even when Congress wasn’t in recess; “when Congress refuses to act, and as a result, hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them,” he said…

Obama is probably the most lawless president since Andrew Jackson simply ignored the Supreme Court. 

2.  The Courts Strike Back

In the escalating battle between the administration and the judiciary, a federal appeals court apparently is calling the president's bluff -- ordering the Justice Department to answer by Thursday whether the Obama Administration believes that the courts have the right to strike down a federal law, according to a lawyer who was in the courtroom.

The order, by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, appears to be in direct response to the president's comments yesterday about the Supreme Court's review of the health care law. Mr. Obama all but threw down the gauntlet with the justices, saying he was "confident" the Court would not "take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."

Overturning a law of course would not be unprecedented -- since the Supreme Court since 1803 has asserted the power to strike down laws it interprets as unconstitutional. The three-judge appellate court appears to be asking the administration to admit that basic premise -- despite the president's remarks that implied the contrary. The panel ordered the Justice Department to submit a three-page, single-spaced letter by noon Thursday addressing whether the Executive Branch believes courts have such power, the lawyer said.;contentBody

This is funny since the court is treating the executive branch like a naughty child at school and is being punished for talking out of turn. 

3.   Liberal Don’t Get it

What can explain liberals’ widespread failure to anticipate the Court’s wariness of the mandate? Research conducted by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt suggests one possible answer: Liberals just aren’t as good as conservatives and libertarians at understanding how their opponents think. Haidt helped conduct research that asked respondents to fill out questionnaires about political narratives—first responding based on their own beliefs, but then responding as if trying to mimic the beliefs of their political opponents. “The results,” he writes in the May issue of Reason, “were clear and consistent. ”Moderates and conservatives were the most able to think like their liberal political opponents. “Liberals,” he reports, “were the least accurate, especially those who describe themselves as ‘very liberal.’”

Liberals, on the other hand, have a different theory. The Court is just a bunch of partisan hacks who’ve bought into the most extreme ideas of the Republican base.  Lithwick has argued that despite the law’s self-evident constitutionality, the decision has “everything to do with optics, politics, and public opinion.” Harvard law professor and former Solicitor General Charles Fried, who signed an amicus brief arguing in favor of the law, huffed that “the whole thing is just a canard that’s been invented by the tea party and [anti-mandate legal architect] Randy Barnetts of the world, and I was astonished to hear it coming out of the mouths of the people on that bench.”

The liberal position on the Court seems to be that as long as it accepts their arguments, it's an independent legal arbiter. But whenever it doesn't, it's a partisan political enforcer. The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn makes this explicit, arguing that it isn't just the health law that's on trial, but "the legitimacy of the Supreme Court."

So what now? To quote Lithwick: Optics, politics, and public opinion. Neera Tanden, a former administration health adviser and the president of the influential liberal organization the Center for American Progress, previewed the broader liberal response when she told The New York Times this week that “If this court overturns the individual mandate, it will galvanize Democrats to use the courts as a campaign issue….The idea that we would have gone through Bush v. Gore, Citizens United and now this.”

Liberals never really took the legal arguments against ObamaCare seriously. But it turns out they are deeply concerned about the surrounding politics.

The utter frustration of liberals over SCOTUS and Obamacare while understandable is just another weakness in their intellectual make up.  Empathy doesn’t appear to be their long suit. 

4.  Obama’s stealth Immigration Amnesty

In its quest to implement stealth amnesty, the Obama Administration is working behind the scenes to halt the deportation of certain illegal immigrants by granting them “unlawful presence waivers.”

The new measure would apply to illegal aliens who are relatives of American citizens. Here is how it would work, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announcement posted in today’s Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government; the agency will grant “unlawful presence waivers” to illegal aliens who can prove they have a relative that’s a U.S. citizen.

Currently such aliens must return to their native country and request a waiver of inadmissibility in an existing overseas immigrant visa process. In other words, they must enter the U.S. legally as thousands of foreigners do on a yearly basis. Besides the obvious security issues, changing this would be like rewarding bad behavior in a child. It doesn’t make sense.

But the system often causes U.S. citizens to be separated for extended periods from their immediate relatives,” according to the DHS. The proposed changes, first announced in January, will significantly reduce the length of time U.S. citizens are separated from their loved ones while required to remain outside the United States during the current visa processing system…

Obama can’t wait for the Congress to act.  He’s running for reelection.

5.  Obama and the truth

President Obama’s fiery, partisan attack on Republicans before a crowd of laughing reporters Tuesday was riddled with misleading statements, contradictions, and elisions.

In a speech delivered at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention in Washington, D.C., the president slammed House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan’s (R., Wis.) latest budget proposal as “thinly veiled Social Darwinism” that is “antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility”—a budget that sharply reduces federal spending on education, research, energy, and infrastructure.

In doing so, however, Obama displayed a questionable sense of how the Congressional budget process works.

“Ryan’s budget does not outline specific spending cuts because that’s not what budgets do,” a Republican aide told the Washington Free Beacon. “That’s up to the Appropriations Committees. The president knows that, but he’s willfully distorting the record.”…

The old joke of how can you tell when a politician is lying?  His lips are moving.  I guess Obama is just another politician. 

6.  EPA Abuses

Last summer, I wrote about the Environmental Protection Agency’s shameful persecution of a Texas natural-gas company, Range Resources Corp. The year before, EPA had slapped the company with an “emergency order” under the Safe Drinking Water Act, alleging that it “caused or contributed to” the contamination of two water wells west of Fort Worth. Almost immediately, however, EPA was forced to admit that Range had no connection whatsoever to the contamination in question. It nonetheless insisted on the company’s obedience to the original order.

I argued then that this was all a shameful abuse of power. Well, just last week, after a nearly two-year odyssey in which the company has spent $4.2 million defending itself, EPA agreed  to drop the whole thing. The withdrawal of the emergency order was officially announced at the end of last week, where the government usually tries to bury its embarrassments. But the question remains: Why now?

EPA should never have issued the order in the first place. From the start, EPA staff admitted that they had no theory of how methane could have migrated into the shallow aquifer in question from Range’s natural-gas well a mile underground. It quickly became clear that the methane in the aquifer had migrated naturally from an entirely different geological formation than the one from which Range was pumping gas, and that the area’s water wells had long contained small quantities of natural gas. Texas regulatory authorities, which conducted their own vastly more professional investigation in short order, concluded that Range was not related to the gas contamination in any way.

Rather than withdrawing its order at any of these points, EPA’s regional office raised the ante, seeking enforcement of the original order, along with fines that soon totaled millions of dollars. Confronted with incontrovertible evidence that the source of the gas had nothing to do with Range Resources, EPA claimed that the law didn’t require it to prove or even allege any connection between Range and the contamination…

Here is a good example of the abuse of power that the government can inflict on citizens and a good reason to roll back government to a smaller less powerful entity. 

7.  Is it over?  It sure looks that way.

Last night Romney picked up 85 delegates while Santorum got 6.  It’s pretty much over. 

8.  Romney and Obamacare

Moreover, the broader bipartisan assumption that Romney will be hurt by Romneycare in the general election is deeply flawed.

First of all, Obamacare is unpopular (a fact a lot of political coverage conveniently overlooks). That’s why Democrats don’t talk about it on the stump, and neither did Obama for a very long time — until the Supreme Court forced him to re-acquire political ownership. If the court upholds the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obama is not going to want to remind voters of his responsibility for an unpopular piece of legislation. If the court throws it out, Obama is not going to want to remind voters that his signature accomplishment — which distracted him from a bad economy and cost the Democrats the House — was so flawed that the court had to reject it. Either way, Obama will not be racing to talk about health care. But Romney will.

It’s often said that Obama will respond to Romney’s attacks by saying the mandate was based on Romneycare. Romney will respond, “Well, you did it wrong” and promise to repeal and replace the law. All the voters really need to know is that Romney is against Obamacare. Besides, Romney will have plenty of other lines of attack: the raid on Medicare, the rationing board, the tax hikes, the religious liberty issues, the creation of a vast new entitlement when the existing ones are crushing us with debt, etc.

Core Republican voters will vote against Obama, not for Romney. Polls show GOPers are more enthusiastic about voting in 2012 than Democrats. Meanwhile, the independents and moderates who dislike Obamacare, but who are not libertarians, will most likely see Romneycare as evidence that Romney is not one of the right-wing crazies the “Today” show keeps warning them about.

Democrats are truly comfortable only attacking Republicans as “extremists” of one flavor or another. But over the weekend Joe Biden tried attacking Romney for being too “flexible.” That might have bite coming from the right in the primaries, but it looks as if the primaries are over.

Romney will be the nominee and the next president of the United States not despite Obamacare but with an assist from Obamacare. 

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