Barack Obama famously aspired to be a historically consequential president like Ronald Reagan, a leader to alter America’s course and change its politics. Five years in, it’s clear he’s transforming some things but won’t claim the ultimate prize he sought.
Obama has debased and coarsened his presidency--and national politics--to match the Chicago street fighting of the community organizer he was. It’s too soon to know whether the changes he wrought are permanent, but they won’t be easily reversed. The destiny that will elude Obama, however, is to become an icon revered by his party, fondly remembered by Americans, and grudgingly honored and imitated by his opponents.
Orwell advised it takes constant effort to see what’s right in front of our nose. In the midst of things, it’s easy to miss the remarkable changes Obama has wrought.
Obama dazzled America into tolerating, then accepting a president unbound by the duty to obey or uphold the law.
The president exploits every crisis he faces as an opportunity to ignore the law and make up what he wants to do. After BP’s disastrous Gulf spill, you might think the most powerful, rich, and enduring Republic in history had an adequate framework of environmental law, remediation, enforcement, and civil justice to address the problem. Obama didn’t think that. He demanded BP post a $20 billion bond for civil compensation, appointed a czar to distribute the ransom, and improvised from there.
When General Motors and Chrysler crawled cup-handed to Washington for life-support, you might suppose the biggest, richest economy on the globe had commercial and bankruptcy laws adequate to sort things out. Not Obama. In addition to taking ownership of two auto companies, he trashed volumes of law, gutted secured claims, and grasped billions in equity from company owners as gifts for union auto workers.
It’s not accidental the Senate didn’t pass a budget for Obama’s entire first term. The President conspired with Harry Reid to pass “continuing resolutions’ and capture the “emergency” bail out expenditure—20% of the total--and lock in a permanent, massive expansion of the budget.
At least the financial crisis, oil spill, and auto crash gave plausible cover of emergency circumstances. But, Obama’s implementation of his own namesake initiative elevates lawlessness to an art form.