Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Let’s Talk About Teeth

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.


  1. is that the Wing Nut Brigade, who was largely silent while GW carved a huge moat around Executive powers, and embiggened the scope of Presidential powers by such a large degree that the Vice President was deemed to be its own special branch outside the purview of both Congress at the GAO, will take these moves with all the bile that those who hand them their “Independent” voices will allow…

  2. fogiv

    This Obama guy is pretty good.


    Some snippety highlights from the latest CBC/NYT poll:

    President Obama enjoys an edge over Republicans in the battle for public support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

    Americans blame former President George W. Bush, Wall Street and Congress much more than they do Mr. Obama for the nation’s economic problems and the budget deficit, the poll found.

    They credit Mr. Obama more than Republicans with making an effort at bipartisanship, and they back the White House’s policies on a variety of disputed issues, including allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military and repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

    …the poll suggests that Mr. Obama and his party have an opportunity to deflect the anger and anxiety if they can frame the election not as a referendum on the president and his party, but as a choice between them and a Republican approach that yielded results under Mr. Bush that much of the nation still blames for the country’s woes. That is what the White House has been trying to do since the beginning of the year.

    For all the erosion in support for Mr. Obama, Americans say he better understands their needs and problems and has made more of an effort to be bipartisan than Congressional Republicans, the poll found.

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