Barack Obama, Anti-President

In this week’s National Review, I describe the structural flaw in the Obama presidency:

In the 1960s and 1970s, Hollywood created a new type of film protagonist — the anti-hero. He played the leading role, but was the opposite of a hero. Barack Obama is becoming the anti-president: He is acting on a vision of his office directly at odds with the Framers.

The recent leak of the Justice Department white paper on the targeted killing of Americans by drone warfare is the latest indication of the president’s failure to understand the constitutional purpose of his office. Some critics claim that the memo shows that the president is attempting to seize an unchecked, unilateral power to deprive citizens of their most fundamental right: the right to life. Some members of Congress have even unwisely proposed to rein in these attacks on Americans who have joined al-Qaeda, and to establish a special federal court to issue the functional equivalent of death warrants. (President Obama broadly endorsed this idea of judicializing military strikes in his State of the Union address. “I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world,” he declared.)

But the white paper on drone strikes is most important for what it reveals about Obama: his desire to weaken his own office’s ability to fulfill its constitutional duties. Eighteenth-century Americans understood the executive’s powers to focus on two main functions: the protection of national security and conduct of foreign relations, and the execution of the laws.

I go on to argue that President Obama has expanded beyond the Constitution’s limits the domestic function of the office, most notably by refusing to enforce the immigration laws, while retreating from the President’s leading role in protecting national security abroad. Do I have it right?

  1. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    Yes, you do.

  2. GingerB

    Ditto!

  3. Colin B Lane

    I believe the country can ultimately recover from his efforts to shrink America’s influence in the world while expanding the federal government’s influence at home.

    What I fear we may never recover from is his debasing of the Office of the Presidency. His treatment of the office as a sort of permanent campaign headquarters ensures that nearly 50% of the country will always feel alienated from the presidency. 

    His active demonization of those who disagree with him has begun to tear at the very fabric of e pluribus unum

    And his tendency to resort to lowest common denominator entertainment to defend his ideas has the distinct odor of rabble rousing (and now his wife is in on the act).

    Even Bill Clinton understood that being POTUS meant being leader of the entire country, and not simply the cheerleader (bomb thrower?) for one faction of one party.

    I pray he has not designed a new template for the office.

  4. Keith Preston

    Yup.   Too bad our lapdog media and 51% of the voting public don’t give a rat’s hindquarters.

  5. Tuck

    “… the president’s failure to understand the constitutional purpose of his office.”

    Oh, I think he understands it perfectly well.  He just does not feel constrained by the Constitution.  That’s been evident for a while now…

    The way to understand Obama, IMHO, is to see him as a socialist Cromwell: he’s here to discard the old regime.  At least that’s what he aspires to do.

  6. 3rd angle projection

    Yes. And most everybody, I would argue, understands this but is unwilling to do anything about it. I find this very interesting and very disheartening. Why does he get such a pass?

  7. Ryan M

    Yes, John, I believe you do.  No surprise there, of course.

  8. Ladyhawk

     No, John, I don’t think you do, if I read you right. He does not have the right to kill Americans without due process, even in the name of national security, especially if he defines “due process” as deciding by himself who goes next.

    How can you be so sure of the data he uses to identify these men and their connection with AQ? How can you be so confident that this president correctly chooses who is an enemy of the state, when you don’t know how he does that? If no one else is monitoring him, how can you be comfortable with the decisions, both current and future? Why is it alright for him to bypass Constitutional safeguards that protect us all, just because you believe that national security is at stake? This is very far removed from targeting obvious enemy soldiers on a battlefield. Battlefields barely exist anymore. This activity does not constitute a “military strike” in any conventional sense of the word.

    I agree that this president is expanding his domestic powers beyond their Constitutional limits. And I see the kill list as another manifestation of his disrespect for the law of the land.

  9. Dave Roy

    The man did say that he was going to fundamentally change the country.

    And too many people seem to be going along with it.

    I agree with Colin. I do believe the country will recover from the economic problems at some point, though it will require a lot more time than it should.

    But it may not recover from what Obama has done to the office, and it also may not recover from some of the domestic policies put into place.

    Look at Canada. Once socialized medicine gets entrenched, it’s almost impossible to get rid of. Even the most conservative politician (successful one, anyway) is more likely to talk about how to manage the healthcare system rather than dismantling the socialized system.

    It’s here to stay.

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