President Obama Misunderstands His Constitutional Role in Domestic Matters

 

As Sally and others have already noted, President Obama inserted himself into the Wisconsin budget battle by saying last week:

Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions.

President Obama continues to display his misunderstanding of the constitutional order by repeatedly inserting himself into matters reserved to the states and localities, such as the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, the location of a mosque near ground zero in New York City, and much of Arizona’s immigration bill. In ignoring the proper division of responsibility between the national and state governments, Obama distracts the national political state from the pressing responsibilities on its own docket, such as spending no more than revenues and protecting the nation’s security.

Obama’s intrusion into all of these matters has not just created a track record of political misstep after misstep; it has also wasted the valuable political capital of the presidency on matters that are not its business. Ultimately, this will make Obama weaker when it comes time for him to call upon the powers of his office for something truly important, such as maintaining a surge in Afghanistan, correcting his mistaken views on Guantanamo Bay, or balancing the budget.

Obama’s intervention also shows that he misconceived the constitutional priorities of his office. The president’s primary job is to protect the national security and conduct foreign affairs. The chief executive’s role in domestic affairs was primarily intended to be one of moderating Congress. Obama seems to wish that someone else would take the lead on national security, preferably the courts. And he seems to think his job is to push the domestic political system to extremes, not moderation — hence health care and now his assault on Wisconsin. He also wants to deprive our system of one of its greatest virtues: experimentation in solving problems by the states. If Wisconsin is harassed by Obama and his national allies into giving up on their experiment in cutting public employee benefits, that is one more tool lost to solve our dire budget problems.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @wilberforge

    Obamas only real claim to fame has been as a lecturer, simple and to the point.

    A mold that made the man and one he cannot break, for he knows not how….

    Aloof and seperation serve as his tools… Simply removed and safe from reality..

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe

    I suspect that Barack Obama knows what he is doing, John. He does not acknowledge the constitutional restraints that you note. He calls his administration the New Founding, and he does so, knowing full well what that means.

    • #2
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    @KCMulville

    If the job of president was merely to manage the executive branch, Obama wouldn’t want the job. He’s attracted by the megaphone that the media gives him to offer his “insight” on all matters. Sitting down and haggling out a budget? Way too beneath him.

    I recall (but can’t currently document) a moment during the 2008 campaign when Obama described what he thought the chief executive’s role was. He referred to JFK’s challenge to the country to go to the moon. The president sets the target. But in Obama’s reckoning of it, having set the target, the president stands by and watches everyone else achieve the task. I recall being stunned at the time by the amateurish shallowness of that view.

    It’s like a general who feels that his only job is to point out where the enemy is. Far be it from him to actually do any fighting.

    Let’s face it, Julius Caesar, fighting with his men at the front … this ain’t Obama …

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Inactive
    @AaronMiller
    Paul A. Rahe: I suspect that Barack Obama knows what he is doing, John. He does not acknowledge the constitutional restraints that you note. He calls his administration the New Founding, and he does so, knowing full well what that means.

    Exactly. Obama doesn’t misunderstand the Constitution. He simply doesn’t care.

    • #4
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    @CharlesMark

    He showed what he thought about the separation of powers when he “assaulted” the Supreme Court in SOTU 2010.I agree that he knows exactly what he is doing-he disdains the constitutional restraints because he knows he’s on the right side.And if the majority don’t see that, tough.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Kervinlee
    Aaron Miller

    Paul A. Rahe: I suspect that Barack Obama knows what he is doing, John. He does not acknowledge the constitutional restraints that you note. He calls his administration the New Founding, and he does so, knowing full well what that means.

    Exactly. Obama doesn’t misunderstand the Constitution. He simply doesn’t care. · Feb 20 at 3:59pm

    “The New Founding.” That’s all one needs to know about the reign of our philosopher-king. It”s on par with “Year Zero.” He’ll be breaking your eyeglasses next.

    • #6
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    @GoodBerean

    The great philosopher kings don’t play by the rules, they make up the rules for others to play by; didn’t you know?!

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Pseudodionysius

    The great philosopher kings don’t play by the rules, they make up the rules for others to play by; didn’t you know?!

    I think that’s the Thirty Tyrants of Athens, and they were no philosopher kings.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Barack Obama despises the Constitution. He sees it as an ancient document drafted by white racists who sought to perpetuate the hegemony of the privileged classes.

    Let’s be honest: Obama hates American exceptionalism.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Member
    @AmishDude
    Kenneth: Barack Obama despises the Constitution. He sees it as an ancient document drafted by white racists who sought to perpetuate the hegemony of the privileged classes.

    Let’s be honest: Obama hates American exceptionalism. · Feb 20 at 4:42pm

    But he loves Obama exceptionalism.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Inactive
    @flownover

    And states are just titles for football and basketball teams, airports, and the rest. This is Slaver Americana Reparationspalooza ! Power for the philosophers and money for their handlers ! We ain’t see nuthin’ yet ! The old interlocking directorates and Glass Steagall were gentlemen’s agreements compared to the Liberal Fascism that will be bearding for the redistributors of wealth that ly in wait. They are all 10% guys, the Arlisses of the third world. They just have to get the ten percent of what is thrown to the winds of ignorance and waste. Different games, less principled and morally bereft as they’re mostly secular or lapsed and lazy degenerates.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Inactive
    @ultravires

    John, your view presupposes that Obama would want to use his political caital on things such as: 1) surging in Afghanistan, 2) changing his view on Guantanamo, or 3) solving our budget problems. Isn’t it entirely possible that Obama views his intervention in the affairs of the states as use of his political capital? A more important question then becomes, whether the Supreme Court will strike a blow to his intrusion on state affairs. See spending clause argument against Obamacare.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Member
    @BereketKelile
    KC Mulville: If the job of president was merely to manage the executive branch, Obama wouldn’t want the job. He’s attracted by the megaphone that the media gives him to offer his “insight” on all matters. Sitting down and haggling out a budget? Way too beneath him.

    I recall (but can’t currently document) a moment during the 2008 campaign when Obama described what he thought the chief executive’s role was. He referred to JFK’s challenge to the country to go to the moon. The president sets the target. But in Obama’s reckoning of it, having set the target, the president stands by and watches everyone else achieve the task. I recall being stunned at the time by the amateurish shallowness of that view.

    It’s like a general who feels that his only job is to point out where the enemy is. Far be it from him to actually do any fighting.

    Let’s face it, Julius Caesar, fighting with his men at the front … this ain’t Obama … · Feb 20 at 3:49pm

    How about that scene from Patton when he’s shooting at the German fighter?

    • #13
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    @PaulARahe
    Kervinlee

    Aaron Miller

    Paul A. Rahe: I suspect that Barack Obama knows what he is doing, John. He does not acknowledge the constitutional restraints that you note. He calls his administration the New Founding, and he does so, knowing full well what that means.

    Exactly. Obama doesn’t misunderstand the Constitution. He simply doesn’t care. · Feb 20 at 3:59pm
    “The New Founding.” That’s all one needs to know about the reign of our philosopher-king. It”s on par with “Year Zero.” He’ll be breaking your eyeglasses next. · Feb 20 at 4:26pm

    Oops, I slipped. I meant “The New Foundation.” But my point stands.

    • #14
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    @RossC

    I don’t think it is Obama’s choice. The unions are the life’s blood of the Democrat party. Without their contributions and get out the vote efforts the Democrats can’t win. That’s true especially on the state and local level.

    However, the unions are a tiger that the Democrats ride nervously. In CA the Unions are the masters and the politicians are the servants. That may be true in other states I don’t know. I think Obama is just showing proper obeisance. He can’t stay out and retain their full support.

    • #15
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    @SallyZelikovsky
    Paul A. Rahe: I suspect that Barack Obama knows what he is doing, John. He does not acknowledge the constitutional restraints that you note. He calls his administration the New Founding, and he does so, knowing full well what that means. · Feb 20 at 3:48pm

    I agree he knows what he is doing w/ an endgame in mind. I am not familiar w/ him calling his admin the New Founding…could you direct me to where you read/heard that? I must have missed that one. Thx.

    • #16
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    @MatthewOsborn
    Sally Zelikovsky, Tea Party Correspondent

    Paul A. Rahe: I suspect that Barack Obama knows what he is doing, John. He does not acknowledge the constitutional restraints that you note. He calls his administration the New Founding, and he does so, knowing full well what that means. · Feb 20 at 3:48pm

    I agree he knows what he is doing w/ an endgame in mind. I am not familiar w/ him calling his admin the New Founding…could you direct me to where you read/heard that? I must have missed that one. Thx. · Feb 20 at 7:01pm

    Look here for further info. Also check out Krauthammer.

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Inactive
    @outstripp
    Paul A. Rahe: I suspect that Barack Obama knows what he is doing, John. He does not acknowledge the constitutional restraints that you note. He calls his administration the New Founding, and he does so, knowing full well what that means. · Feb 20 at 3:48pm

    Isn’t that the very essence of Progressive politics?

    • #18
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    @UmbraFractus
    Matthew Osborn Look here for further info. Also check out Krauthammer. · Feb 20 at 7:13pm

    I hate to be the wet blanket here, but “New Foundation” and “New Founding” are not even remotely the same thing. The President was making a construction metaphor, not saying we should abolish everything and start over from year zero.

    There are enough problems with what he actually said; we shouldn’t be putting words in his mouth.

    • #19
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