As the second year of his first term cranks up, President Obama is perhaps showing some of the maturity that comes with having been around the block already. Perhaps he is following a plan he has intended all along. In either case, he is showing a set of canines that Congress had forgotten about.
The New York Times is reporting that he is planning a raft of executive action in the face of congressional gridlock, something that will either light a fire under legislators on both sides of the aisle, leave them standing looking fooolish – or both.
With much of his legislative agenda stalled in Congress, President Obama and his team are preparing an array of actions using his executive power to advance energy, environmental, fiscal and other domestic policy priorities.
I have had some experience leading teams of very qualified people through very complex times, and my thoughts on when and how a leader should show their teeth to such folks are fairly evolved. My view is that it is necessary to believe fundamentally and visibly that everyone around you has the best intention and the ability to accomplish their part of the group effort: in the end this is almost ubiquitously true and you are going to need all these people to win the game, anyway. However, after enough time and space has passed and they still have their horns tangled with each other it is quite often incredibly useful for the Big Dog to make it very clear that things will be getting done.
I (read: “you”) will be f&^%ed if we’re going to be still sitting here with stupid looks on our faces six months from now. So, let me tell you what is going to happen!
Obama has extended the olive branch far enough – I think there is no debate about that – and now is not a bad time to remind folks that it is also a stick.
Mr. Obama’s success this week in pressuring the Senate to confirm 27 nominations by threatening to use his recess appointment power demonstrated that executive authority can also be leveraged to force action by Congress.
You want to hold up appointments? I’ll pass them all the moment you go on recess. Bush did this 177 times, Clinton 139, so all y’all take your whines outside.
Mr. Obama has already decided to create a bipartisan budget commission under his own authority after Congress refused to do so.
Congress is not on the same *side* as the President just because the same party is in control. We’ll just get this bit done for you and you can show everyone what you can get done.
His administration has signaled that it plans to use its discretion to soften enforcement of the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the military, even as Congress considers repealing the law.
We’ll see how many officers choose to base their careers on enforcing a rule the Commander in Chief of the United States Military has been clear he doesn’t want to be bothered with.
And the Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with possible regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change, while a bill to cap such emissions languishes in the Senate.
Planet still warming up? Well, let’s just pull the handbrake a bit while you folks see if you can figure out how to operate the cruise control.
There is a huge range of positions between patsy and dictator. The last President took Executive Power into realms that even I – who voted for him once – was extremely uncomfortable with: but his party’s congress worked very effectively with him, perhaps because they knew he would do what he wanted regardless. This President has showed that he is willing to let Congress coil enough rope to cross the chasm – or hang themselves – and now he seems to be showing them that the rest of us will cross it without them if needs be.
Good for you, Mr. President. Don’t be afraid to draw a little blood.