What in the World is the Obama Administration Doing?

Soon-to-be-former President Barack Obama has been busy. He sprints through the final days of his term like a bargain basement, determined to have something significant Trump can’t undo. To that end, the president has devoted last week to bridge-burning with our allies.

It began when a UN resolution was passed that condemned Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The U.S. historically vetoed anti-Israeli bills like these but they didn’t this time. No explanation for the about-face on U.S. policy was given to the public, but Secretary of State John Kerry gave Israel a patronizing lecture that contained a few clues. “You can be Democratic or you can be Jewish, but you cannot be both,” he said. Note: This is the only documented instance of John Kerry saying anything interesting on record. Who cares if it’s nonsense?

Planned talks for a 2-state solution collapsed two years ago, and it didn’t trouble Obama until last week. His refusal to stand by Israel is more likely a byproduct of his icy relationship with Netanyahu.

netanyahu

No bromance here

Trump sent a tweet calling Kerry a traitor and inexplicably referring to him as “the worst import from Vietnam”. He appeared with Don King for a mini-press conference (because why not?), and the boxing promoter waved small U.S. and Israeli flags. Trump said relatively little about Kerry except his speech “spoke for itself.”

The Israeli government responded quickly: “We have ironclad information that the Obama administration really helped push this resolution and helped craft it.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Secretary Kerry of supporting terrorism, which was unfairly harsh. Kerry doesn’t originate ideas or map out strategies. His only skill is reading in grave, statesman-like tones; he probably thinks the West Bank settlement is a condo community in Georgetown. 

Seriously, I don't know anything. But I look just like Andrew Jackson, right?

Seriously, I don’t know anything, but I look a lot like Andrew Jackson.

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The Origins of Barack Obama’s Madness

In the twilight of President Obama’s term, I’ve been vaguely worried he might have a surprise or two up his sleeve. Not so much flowers and tax relief. More like one last black eye from your soon-to-be-ex. A parting gift, if you will. I’m sorry to be proven right. I’m even sorrier I underestimated the extent of his hijinx.

With the final weeks of this president’s term winding down, each frigid day is punctuated with a string of ill-advised statements and poorly-thought-out actions, courtesy of the Obama administration. I want to share a key point about Barack Obama first, to give you an idea of what is driving him. It doesn’t make his actions any wiser but it’s good to know:

As the US and our allies watch uneasily, the outgoing president has stepped up his already infamous use of executive actions, to take increasingly serious steps, some with global consequences, without the advice or consent of anyone. Who needs other perspectives? The official term for this phenomena is midnight regulations, or laws created unilaterally by an outgoing president. Maybe these regulations are called “midnight” because the concept won’t bear close inspection. Too much examination would be sure to outlaw them.

Nostalgia has set in, and Obama can’t resist returning to his favorite character: the finger-wagging moralist lecturing the masses on ‘the right thing to do’. Midnight regulations are the perfect complement to executive actions, lest any skeptical person think they are at liberty to determine for themselves what the right thing to do is.

Obama

The president is stretching these regulations far beyond their limits. Why? The GOP leadership created a lot of unnecessary hostility between themselves and the president; they treated Obama shabbily, swearing to vote down anything the Democrats advanced, which is just ridiculous.

You can’t blame him for feeling angry at this unfair treatment but when they went low, Obama went even lower. He didn’t make an extra effort to gain allies in Congress as every other president has. Instead, Obama simply cut Congress out of the process, using executive action to pass whatever he wanted and saying bluntly, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.”

Because of the friction with Congress, the majority of President Obama’s important actions, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA), i.e., Obamacare, were passed through executive action. Note: a small piece of the ACA did go to Congress, but the majority was passed via executive action, under a very broad umbrella of budgeting legislation. Because stuff costs money, right? Trillions, in this case.

The Heart of the Issue

The founders were very clear about the separation of powers, and passing law through Congress, as prescribed in the Constitution. To safeguard the country against a president ruling like a king through executive orders (much as the president has done), there is a clause: anything passed by executive action can be repealed by executive action.

Everything important Obama did as president was via executive action. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal all of Obama’s executive orders.

It's me again!

It’s me again!

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Trump’s Twitter feed: Flag-burning

Donald Trump, U.S. president-elect, has a deep love for Twitter.

He’s stirred up much angst, using his account to create a spectacle of his personal and political attacks, and on occasion, as a way to make amends. Now that he is the president-elect and uses Twitter to communicate with the American people, his tweets can reasonably be looked at as representation of his official stance on any issue he comments on. That’s why today’s tweet about flag-burning gave me pause.

I have complex feelings about burning the American flag. I hate to see it — really hate it — and have nothing but contempt for people who do it. But I always come back to Freedom of Speech is a right that cannot be tampered with. So if flag burning is free speech, then flag burning is legal.

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It would be an interesting and fair point if Trump said, “The Supreme Court should revisit whether flag-burning is a Constitutional right.” But his tweet has different implications, and shows how important Freedom of Speech is, and it illustrates that he doesn’t realize he shouldn’t publicly rant about his opinions, when his opinion involves the controversial expression of a Constitutional right. Trump isn’t a private citizen anymore.

Presidents, over time, have been allowed to give themselves extraordinary powers they were never meant to have. One of the many dangers to allowing one person that much power is that presidents now can (and do) act unilaterally on matters of great importance.

It’s not just harmless venting when Trump says an activity that is now a Constitutional right should not be allowed, and suggests a year in jail and revoking citizenship as a penalty… not when he may conceivably have the power to do it.