Assessing the Balance of Power in an Era of Widespread Mistrust

This week, President Obama and Republicans have swung between advocating a muscular assertion of executive authority and seeking to circumscribe it.

Comments: 131

  1. Obama is only using the powers given to him by the Constitution and that any Republican President has felt completely entitled to use. I am delighted to see Obama move forward unilaterally using the powers he has since the Republicans have been completely uncooperative for 7 years. You go Obama and quite whining Republicans!

  2. He thinks he's a king, full of hubris and a deep disconnect from the real world.

  3. No, you and other right-wingers think that. The rest of us will welcome you back into the real world should you ever decide to re-enter.

  4. The only people who do not think that are his cheerleaders.....

  5. It doesn't matter what Obama does or does not do; in either case, he threatens our constitution as far as the GOP sees it.

  6. A Constitution, like their Bible, they have not read...

  7. PS,

    I have a copy of our Constitution on my tablet. I refer to it often. Our courts have admonished President Obama several times for overstepping his authority. There are more cases against the President pending.

    I have a copy of the bible too! I also read that!

  8. Richard

    No court has admonished this president. They don't have the power. Read that constitution again. You will not find a judicial power to admonish the president in it. Though, anyone who knows the constitution need not retread it to know this.

    That language is how racists slip in racism.

    Perhaps you heard it from someone else.

  9. In other words, some GOP people nostalgic for the Gilded Age are unhappy that Obama won't agree to full-blown, untrammeled corporatism at home and de facto imperialism abroad. Sorry, but when John D. Rockefeller & Co. sent out their henchmen with billy clubs to shatter the kneecaps and forearms of striking workers, he and other Robber Baron were on the WRONG side of history. And Teddy Roosevelt was wrong too when he concluded that Filipinos and Cubans were incapable of effective self-governance.

    On environmental matters, I can't comprehend the complaints of right-wing Americans. What do these people want? Have they seriously concluded that Chicago and Seattle must become as badly polluted as Shanghai and Delhi in order for America to prosper? Why do they think such things? Look at what madness the North Carolina governor, a former Duke Energy executive, has presided over by turning a blind eye to the dumping of coal ash into the rivers there. What is the rationale for supporting such unimpeded destructive behavior by corporations?

  10. Republican opposition to Obama has nothing to do with policies or principle. It is all about politics and the man. If Obama came out and advocated motherhood, apple pie and sunny days the GOP/Tea Party would surely start to oppose all three. And the only real "ideal" these clowns have is that Obama must be thwarted and, if possible, destroyed both personally and politically. That is what they think is good for the country. To deny this is to deny the history of the last 6 years and the governing realities we all face today.

  11. As he said in the State of the Union last month, he has no more elections to run, as he should know, he won both of them. I suspect that long after the 2016 election, in a mere 21 months, that the Republicans will still be beating up on PRESIDENT Barack Obama. There are still people beating up on Franklin Delano Roosevelt for 'wanting' to get us into World War II to break the grips of the Depression that his us in late 1933. Barack Obama will still be in his mid-50s when he leaves office in just less than 2 years. He has a lot of life ahead of him. Bill Clinton was about the same age as Obama will be when he left office in 2001 and still 13 years later has a lot of kick.

  12. Really? If Obama were a conservative black Republican, they would oppose him? I don't think so.

  13. If Obama was a combination of Goldwater, Reagan and all the T party stalwarts, Republicans will oppose him; because he is black.

  14. That is exactly how our constitution is supposed to work.

    Congress attempts to keep the president in check, the president trying to keep Congress in check.

    The current debate is healthy and important. Divided government is good for the country.

    The President and Congress should make an effort to work on things they actually agree on.

  15. My friends and colleagues think President Obama is pragmatic and rational. Then again, politics here is mostly normal - thanks to public funding of elections!

  16. What do you mean? Corporations are people too, and money is speech, at least in America...

  17. President Obama proves that it is possible to disappoint some of the people all of the time. It is probably more their fault than his.

  18. Since the legislative branch has absconded from working, it's inevitable that President Obama will have to pick up the slack. This Congress and the last fluctuate from dismissing him as ineffective and weak to imperial and dictatorial, depending on how they're trying to spin their own agenda (or lack thereof).

  19. You are soi right! The Congress and mostly Republicans, certainly not all Republicans in Congress, dismiss President Obama as they please and as it suits them, like you said one time they claim he is weak and ineffective and other times they claim he is overreaching and autocratic. President Obama can not win for losing. It seems to me it is mostly because of his color and because he is African-American. Nobody can convince me otherwise. Why on earth would anybody make a statment on the first day after his election saying something to the effect "Our number one goal is to make sure that Barak Obama is a one-term president" not even giving him a chance and denying him co-operation right from the start!
    As overseas friends reminded me these words were heard around the globe!

  20. Congress may or may not be "working, however one defines that (all the while recalling that nothing in the constitution requires the Congress to accede to the presidents policy agenda), nevertheless their is no default clause in the document. If one branch of the government doesn't perform adequately there is nothing that permits another branch to just step in and act in their stead. Following that reasoning, would you argue that if the courts refused to hear or decide certain cases the Congress or president can just issue rulings?

  21. Where was the press when Bush acted like a fascist dictator, invading another country based on neocon lies and rigged intelligence?

  22. Presumably the same place where they'd been when Bush invaded Iraq and authorized countless "dark sites" where people were tortured?

  23. Vote for military action i Iraq:
    Senate 77-23
    House 299-133
    Votes for "yes" included Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, John Kerry, former VP candidate John Edwards. The vote was VERY bi-partisan. The "rigged intelligence" was by Clinton appointee George Tenet.
    The only difference is, the Democrats tried to lie their way out of the vote and claim they were"tricked" and "lied to" but we all know who the true liars are. Hint: Some of them are "dead broke" and "dodge sniper fire."

  24. So it was Hilary who started the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Geez I forgot, thanks for reminding us that your boy W was just a numbskull figurehead. The next thing you will remind us of is the financial collapse in 2008 was the democrats fault. Here is a financial tip for you free of charge. When the republicans control the whitehouse, bury your money in the backyard.

  25. Obama's primary goal in all of this appears to be a return to normalcy once he leaves office.

  26. This is really a small part of this article and the comment maybe not all that relevant, but the government "retroactively" granting (or revoking) authority for anything is rather scary. Essentially what they are saying is, it doesn't matter what the law is now and whether it is being followed, we can just change it later (see FISA Amendments Act of 2008).

  27. Wouldn't "retroactive authorization" be an example of a prohibited ex post facto law?

  28. @jkw - No, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the 'ex post facto' clause applies only to criminal law.

  29. One--or many!--may disagree: at last, an anti-war President whose use of force request asked for the power to keep troops off the ground, demanding Congress set this limit! It's part of the complex nexus Barack Obama clearly outlined in his Nobel speech--the contradictions and limits of force for peace. He challenges policy tradition. But he protects the Office of the Presidency and its powers from Congressional encroachment by budget demands and legislative power grabs.

    His shift of American foreign policy from global hegemony to global cooperation has met complex and reactionary challenges, but he is no less brilliant for all the world's turmoil, and effectively separates blame from responsibility.

    The GOP is desperate to define terrorism as an extreme, religious based movement supported by dark money whose defeat demands boots on the ground. Their main thrust is to fund another war. The “sturm und drang” has begun. But they offer no plan forward and nothing new. Beyond blame, Republicans have no policy whatsoever.

    Remember war is the safety net for the rich. They don’t fight them, only profit from them, on and off the battlefield. Less than a decade from one of the biggest debacles in US history, the GOP is trumpeting a return to the path of snarls, death, and debt.

    The President's request irritatingly infers with the Republican hidden priority: fund war to fund wealth, even as GOP power logic says furlough 30,000 DHS workers, and force a 100,000 to work without pay.

  30. Quite a "news analysis."

    Start off with a false dichotomy, sure, but it gives a theme for the essay. An essay needs a theme. Validity, who cares? In a week, a new fake theme and dichotomy. Memory hole, we heart you. VSPs rentiers heart it too.

    Now, another round of "both sides do it." Apparently there are but two sides to every issue, but a few issues, and the two sides define reality. Sweet.

    Meanwhile Obama is imperial about human rights. He lectures India, he scolds the world on who is and is not Islamic, since this apparently prevents terrorism. He is imperial about democracy being what all nations must have, just as he says its lack causes terrorism. How do we know this is true? He said so. Bad Egypt! Bad Egypt! Kinda imperious imperial, western know it all, technocrat imperialism. He won't know this, he and his inner circle disdain the ideologies that cooked up the half baked assumptions they live by so they don't know any better, nor want to, it would hurt their morally superior to you self image.

    There are the drone strikes, stepped up Afghanistan raids, the bizarre (why pick this fight? Why?) Ukrainian non policy of old style imperial expansion of zones of influence, ineptly done, but, imperialism. The imperial decision on Cuba. The CIA and NSA, more powerful than ever. Most prosecutions ever.

    Lucky for him republicans are crazy, one of the two sides God gave us to make and live by false dichotomies, to allow for thoughtless "news analysis." So enlightening.

  31. Corrected comment (why don't they allow you to edit?)

    Obama's primary goal in all of this appears to be to prevent a return to normalcy once he leaves office.

  32. I believe that the majority of Americans do not want an endless war in the Middle East and think that the problem can be solved with diplomacy and allowing European countries to take the military lead in combating this treat. All the GOP cares about in how much money their corporate sponsors can make off of endeavor with no thought to the loss of American lives.

  33. I don't think the issue is executive power, but the Supreme Court's power. Starting with the Bush/Gore fiasco, the justices seem to be deciding when it should be up to the people. Citizens United is another example. That decision has limited the type of executives that will find the office--big money will filter away reform and diversity. With Citizen United, The president may have all the power in the world, so long as the oligarchs pull the real strings behind the scenes to get the president wanted in the oval office.

  34. I was watching PBS Newshour yesterday, and there was a discussion with two county officials in Texas who were talking about managing the day-to-day challenges of providing health services, education and proper policing to their residents. When the host raised the issue of immigration reform, one said that he was Republican, and thought the president went too far in his executive order, and the other said she was Democrat and thought the order was appropriate. However, both agreed that it was absolutely necessary that Congress take up the issue.

    What struck me is how cordial these two were with each other, and how much they agreed on what needed to be done in their communities. In fact, up until the immigration question, you could not tell who was affiliated with which party, only that they were both concerned public servants. What a far cry from the partisan shenanigans that we are subjected to on a daily basis in Washington, and what an indictment of the do-nothing politicians who spend their days there crowing and preening in front of TV cameras in order to satisfy big campaign donors.

  35. Yes, I watched the aforementioned discussion as well and agree with your observations completely. I also did not know what their party affiliation was until the immigration question came up.

  36. Interesting article giving insight into how the President is interacting with Congress and the Supreme Court. Navigating American foreign policy is quite complex.

  37. I have lots of bones to pick with President Obama on many issue. But almost everything that comes out of the mouths of Republicans are either lies or lunacy.

  38. Both.

  39. The Republicans are not rational players.

    For example, the President proposed and signed the ACA 'ObamaRomneyCare' health insurance law, which was originally the thought-child of a Republican think-tank starring the individual insurance mandate - it is a mild piece of legislation intended to increase insurance participation rates and control healthcare costs to a moderate degree.

    The President did not pass single-payer, which is a liberal and progressive (and much more effective) solution to healthcare.

    And yet the Republicans acted as if this mild piece of positive legislation (ACA) was going to destroy the nation, which it did not and which it will not.

    The President has proven himself to be thoughtful, rational, articulate and full of reasonable ideas.

    The opposition has repeatedly proven itself to be unreasonable, partisan, irrational and devoid of reasonable ideas.

    Republicans can only be trusted to lead the nation over their ideological cliffs, and Democrats can be trusted to clean up after them.

  40. S,

    Right you are, the Democrats in the form of the President are sending ground troops back to Iraq and leaving them in Afghanistan to clean up their mess as we speak.

  41. If the GOP were smart enough to run the show they would be. When you peddle the Palins and Romneys of the world you yield the right of way. Besides, when left to their own devices they just imperil civilization such as it is.

  42. The Republican's "view" of Obama's actions has really been consistent: they'll attack him every time, for everything, all the time! Same goes for their attack media!

    Who cares of they have to vacillate between labeling him as "timid" and as "authoritarian"? The "point" is to keep up a steady drumbeat of criticism -- all of it utterly partisan, and some of it based on distortion or pure lies distortion (cf. blatantly false attacks on his citizenship) -- in hopes that eventually the incessant clatter effects public perception.

    This is right out of the Lee Attwater playbook, as revised by Karl Rove. Hurl mud and something may stick!

    Sadly, much of the media seems to overlook the pattern in endlessly reporting on the "latest" critique ... missing the looming forest while excitedly reporting on each tree?

  43. Agree 100%. From 2008, I can't remember a single issue or legislation, where any Republican leader came out and said, Mr. President, good job? Obama saved us all from a financial calamity, created by a Republican President; Obama ended the stupid/horrendous/not needed Iraq war, started by a Republican President;Obama eliminated the Al-Qaeda leader, all Republicans wanted dead; the list goes on. Have you ever heard any Republicans utter even a faint word of praise?
    What I can't understand is, why the media is so cowardly and not call a spade a spade? Look at an example now. The stupid former NYC mayor, calls Obama unpatriotic and have you heard any Republican leader come out and spank re-pungent Rudy? How many editors have openly criticized Rudy on this ugly behavior?
    For my country's sake, I would rather not believe that the Republican party at its core and most of media (not all), cannot accept a black President?

  44. Makes sense. Anything that deviates from waging war against poor nations and crushing the poor at home does not sit well with Republicans.

  45. The GOP/Tea party must make up their minds....

    President Obama cannot be everything and nothing or described in terms that suit the specific GOP/Tea party Agenda/Talking Points for that moment.

    President Obama has done an outstanding job in-spite, despite the lack of support from the Republicans.

    Now, we are left to only imagine what both parties could have accomplished together if partisan politics had been pushed to the corner!

  46. At this point, Congress is essentially broken. Can anyone really blame President Obama or President Bush for pushing the limits of their executive powers? Nothing would get done if they didn't.

    If Republicans truly have a problem with the way the president is doing things, perhaps they, and Democrats, should take a step back and reconsider the partisan brinksmanship they've been practicing for so long now. The fact is that Congressional influence and power will continue to lag behind until it's members learn to compromise with one another.

  47. Peter Baker thinks that he's found a "disconnect" between Obama's assertiveness as a domestic and foreign policy president. Baker might consider this: Obama is president of the United States, not of the world. If he operates assertively on American policy issues it's because he has to. The GOP would have liked to have suspended governance entirely from 2009 to 2017. According to Baker, he should therefore be equally assertive overseas. Dumb idea. The world needs to be allowed to develop collective and intelligent responses to Russian expansion, ISIS, etc. Obama is taking a lot of heat for abandoning the America-first knee-jerk policies of the Cold War and early Post-Cold War worlds, but it's something that has to happen, sooner or later. A weaker president--say a McCain or a Romney--would have had us in several more wars by now.

  48. The Republican congressional leadership chose a policy of deliberate, no-holds-barred obstruction to Obama on every issue as a policy. The needs of the nation are absolutely nowhere on the Republican agenda. Proving government is dysfunctional by making it so is sad.

    The true goals of the Republican Congress are power and service to their paymasters, who want to be sure that their billions are taxed at the lowest possible rate or untaxed, their employees can be hired for a song by keeping a huge pool of laborers in terror of deportation, and that oil production is maintained worldwide at the point of a gun or pen.

    President Obama is doing what any president should do in his veto of the Keystone XL pipeline, and will do again to defend his actions to allocate (aggressively limited by Republican) funds for illegal immigration enforcement and border security. He is defending well established and frequently used (including by both Bushes) executive powers against a power-grab from Congress.

    The war powers discussion is an attempt by Obama to hold congress to one of its constitutional obligations: declaring war.

    Obama has taken a deeply conservative and patriotic position on these issues: preserving both Executive and Congressional powers of long standing. He was a constitutional scholar before he was Senator or President. His positions are consistent with our system of government.

    The Republican positions can be derived from their policies of obstruction and dysfunction.

  49. Thank you, very well put. It seem to me most Republicans care only for their rich friends and donors and could care less for the rest of Americans. Yes, lower taxes for the rich, no healthcare insurance for the less fortunate and poor, they certainly do not care about the crumbling infrastructures like crumbling roads and bridges. And why should the Republicans in Congress care when their wealthy friends provide private airplanes to transport them to wherever they need or want to go. Do they care that there is no money to repair aging gas lines and houses blow up because of it?
    Now they balk at funding Homeland Security because they want "strings" attached.
    This is what I mean, they certainly act dictatorial "It is my way or the highway".
    The only reason the Republicans fight for the XL Keystone Pipeline is because the Koch Brothers overwhelm them with money and of course the "pipers want their dues".

  50. C'mon, NY Times. This is an argument as old as the nation. The Constitution grants the president great authority on foreign affairs and as commander in chief. Domestically, however, the president is quite limited. To portray current arcuments as the GOP be two-faced is silly.

  51. Mr. Obama is poised to restore the powers and prestige of his office while routing an opposing and almost hateful Republican Congressional majority intent on bringing the country to its knees, held ransom because the Executive lawfully wants to do the right thing.

    Republicans nationwide must be careful lest their elected members of
    Congress deliver them a diminution of influence which could span generations. For these terribly misguided negativists embrace a political model which churns stomachs.

    Sixty-seven years ago, whistle-stopping America and brandishing the cudgels of the "bully pulpit," Harry S. Truman demonstrated the powers of his office.
    Today, let the same debarking of Republican cant and hypocrisy reoccur.

    Paul E. McArdle
    Boothbay, Maine

  52. The Republicans don't like the taste of their own medicine. They are accusing President Obama of imperialism. What would you call their behavior these last six years? A Democracy? They were more like a collective Dictator!!

  53. Except that the Congress is the one empowered to craft the laws, not the Executive branch. Thus when the president seeks to usurp the powers delegated to the legislature because they will not do what he wants (and which they have no obligation to do), he is the one who merits criticism.

  54. Presidents have made policy through executive orders since George Washington's time.

  55. Seems simple. The Republicans don't want to have to put their names behind anything that might have real impacts, so they would prefer to stay out of foreign policy. They love putting their names behind domestic issues which resonate with their base, so they want the final say on immigration, health care, and abortion, even more so when they know in advance that a Presidential veto makes their votes no more than political theater.

  56. It's not surprising that Congress does not want to touch presidential powers to declare war, even small war, even war-prevention war. They don't want their hands dirtied by war, sorry, necessary military action, votes or their names tied to any military action that could blow back at election time. And they know all too well that the country would not support a draft--a de facto indictment of any large military adventurism. But isn't this the way democracy works nowadays--the confusion of separation of federal powers simply mirroring the strong divisions in the electorate?

  57. I increasingly feel that the country is being taken over by wealthy interests who seek to accumulate power while managing a very, very sophisticated media initiative (WSJ, Fox, talk radio) that is effectively brainwashing 40% of the country. Consider;

    - Half of all republicans deny climate change is an issue

    - Almost all republicans believe supply side tax cuts drive jobs and growth when the clinton-bush-obama data show they do not and actually show that tax increases reduce deficits AND job growth

    - A large part of the conservative population believes individual voter fraud is an issue when it has been shown to be non-existent (and a very ineffective way to steal a election)

    - The vast majority of conservatives believe that government spending is "out of control" under Obama when the data shows growth in govt spending is well under Bush or Clinton.

    I could go on and on but this is starting to feel like Russia where Putin controls the media apparatus and is slowly brainwashing the population. The big difference is that in Russia the Oligarchs report to the leader vs. in this country the would be leaders grovel in front of the Oligarchs like Koch.

    Scary, scary, scary.....

  58. Love your last (complete) paragraph.

  59. Faulted as Imperial on Domestic Issues, the Opposite Abroad

    [ I would argue that our presidents have increasingly become imperial abroad and the opposite on domestic issues. I do not mean this in a flippant way, but seriously. Abroad, to my observation, our presidents have repeatedly acted imperially. Where there was a determined rationale to counter what were considered to be directly threatening activities, there is now a "responsibility to protect" rationale. ]

  60. He should have learned that whatever he wants done he must say he doesn't want it done. Six years of this is time enough for each side to learn how to deal with the other side. The nation takes a backseat when it comes to these folks. That's why the argument of who loves the nation and who doesn't is a joke. Seems like everyone loves their party first and the nation last.

  61. therein lies the problem, Steven. That would work if the republican party was one side; it's actually three sides in a two-sided maneuver.

  62. Domestic imperialism and foreign meekness are completely in line with the left wing, "progressive" world view espoused by this Administration. Indeed, the President demonstrates more contempt for John Boehner and the GOP than he does for ISIS or Putin. We can rest assured that if Mr. Boehner were leading ISIS, the full weight of the US military would be employed, and not the kabuki air campaign that is currently being waged by the West Wing. The American Left has never really cared about the Executive's National Security responsibilities, and reserves its energy for pursuing its domestic agenda, regardless of democratic process. As such, Mr. Obama is right in line with his wing of the party.

  63. "Indeed, the President demonstrates more contempt for John Boehner and the GOP than he does for ISIS or Putin."

    No. No true. But it sure sounds good.

  64. "Indeed, the President demonstrates more contempt for John Boehner and the GOP than he does for ISIS or Putin." This is not true. Obama merely knows that the US pays a huge price, probably a larger price, because of Boehner than we'll pay as a consequence of ISIS or Putin. In terms of lost opportunity, losses in environmental protection, losses in middle class development, losses in national stature, losses in fundamental self-respect as a nation.

    Unfortunately, the morons responsible for Boehner's position most likely will never connect the dots.

  65. Not true? What makes you so sure? So long as Islamic State doesn't call for tax reform or deregulation, they should enjoy a long stay in the Middle East. At least under this Administration.

  66. There is no debate about presidential power. It's simple. Republicans are for something until Obama is for it. Then they're against it.

  67. Same Republican behavior with deficits as with exercise of executive powers.... It's ok to great if a Republican does it, bad if a white Democrat does it and unforgivable if a black Democrat does it.

  68. Obama's muscular stances on domestic policy are a function of the GOP's stated goal of blocking his ENTIRE agenda.

    The election in 2014 of many more so called tea party members to the House and Senate can only mean the president will have to pump more iron to get anything done.

    On the other hand, the single biggest presidential power that needs oversight is the power to wage war. Here the Republicans go into hiding and insist the president declare to them how much war he should wage.

    Conservative logic here is as dangerous to our nation as the Nuremberg Laws were to 1930s Germany.

  69. This seems to be the core difference between the Republicans and Democrats. the Republicans are imperial abroad, trying to set up puppet governments to control natural resources; and they are anything goes, free market capitalism at home. Bush Jr. was the opposite of Obama. Which works better? I'll take Obama's approach everyday of the week. Sanction enemies from a distance in foreign policy, and closely regulate and manage at home.

    .

  70. @PE:
    The GOP is imperial at home too. They have no trouble using the Federal government to impose their views of God, right and religion all and sundry in the good old USA.

  71. “My large take,” he said, “is that lawyers shouldn’t be allowed to play around with the Constitution.” That's all that lawyers have been doing since the Constitution was ratified.

  72. The polarization in American politics now is really the bi-polarization of Republicans. On the one hand, Pres. Obama should shown the manly strength and courage of Putin; on the other, he is a Kenyan-born Muslim socialist dictator. When Pres. Obama who has issued far fewer executive actions than his predecessors does issue one, he is accused of doing something that will end American democracy. When Pres. Obama asks for support for military action in Syria, Republicans threaten to impeach him, then these same people turn around and say his biggest weakness was in not following through on his red line in Syria.

    This happened before with the bi-polar Republicans: in 1998, when Bill Clinton attacked suspected terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Sudan after there was intelligence to indicate bin Laden and his top associates were meeting at a training camp there, Republicans accused him of "wagging the dog" to distract from the Lewinsky scandal.

    But consistency is the defense of small minds.

  73. I, sincerely, doubt that Democrats would be so forgiving if a Republican president used the same justifications that Mr. Obama is using to push his agenda through.
    Example: Congress is not doing what he wants them to, so, he issues an EO and says that's the way it will be.
    Imagine the uproar if a Republican president did that.

  74. The President is forced to resort to executive orders because every action the Democrats have attempted has been filibustered. They probably don't mention that very often on Faux News. \

    Where was the Republican uproar when GW Bush issued his many, nefarious signing statements? Where were the fiscally conservative, deficit-obsessed Republicans when GW Bush repeatedly asked for and got supplemental budget funding for his illegal invasion of Iraq? How much do we actually owe to the Chinese as a result of Reagan's and Bush's borrowing?

  75. Researchers have know for quite some time that presidents of both parties have used executive orders for many years and that when relations with Congress are more difficult, presidents issue more executive orders.

  76. "The President is forced to resort to executive orders because every action the Democrats have attempted has been filibustered."

    Then the Democrats need to drum up support to remove the filibuster from the Congressional Toolkit. It's there for a reason.

  77. "Republicans have accused Mr. Obama of presiding over a new imperial presidency by exercising his executive powers on immigration, health care and other matters. At the same time, they have complained bitterly that he wants to limit his power when it comes to making war against the nation’s enemies."

    Well. This just reflects the disconnect between the priorities of the two parties, doesn't it? Republicans have failed to act on immigration and even healthcare (for decades), so when the President does, they scream like a stuck pig. Yet, when he wants to inject sanity and limits in war-making--limits, I might add, that might have prevented some of the Bush unilateral activism on terrorism--they squeal again.

    But what I find most alarming is the last lines of this analysis:

    "But he [Schmitt] said it would be better for courts to stay out and let the executive and legislative branches resolve it themselves. “My large take,” he said, “is that lawyers shouldn’t be allowed to play around with the Constitution.”

    Which is what appears to be happening more and more as a lazy Congress abdicates its responsibility and punts their decisions over to SCOTUS--rulings that are a lot harder to undo, than do, as we're increasingly seeing to our great dismay.

  78. Richard Nixon's presidency (1968-1974) turned the practice of executive privilege into a hot-button issue. The Watergate scandal involved the criminal abuse of executive power, not its use. Republicans, since January 20, 2009, have pored over every line in the Constitution searching for the magic formula that would emasculate President Obama's lawful use of unilateral action. They have failed to uncover any genuine example of rogue behavior by this president in either foreign or domestic affairs. And yes, Mr. Obama's calculations are entirely driven by the calculus of the moving parts that have been dictated by nothing but partisan politics. How else could he govern responsibly? And, as far as Republicans/Tea Party types are concerned, is this not the very point of their obstructionism? Were one of theirs sitting in the Oval Office, does anyone doubt that this would not be an issue of importance?

  79. "And, as far as Republicans/Tea Party types are concerned, is this not the very point of their obstructionism?"

    What you call "obstructionism" I call Representatives & Congresspeople acting on behalf of those that put them in office.

  80. It's hard to imagine a weaker interpretation of constitution wrangling than that put forward by Obama's constant critics. One of the purposes of such a binding document is target practice. Without examining the boundaries of your world, you will never know your world.

    In addition, there is no such thing as a perfect document; anything put on paper has been done so by humans. At least our Constitution was produced knowing this and thus intelligently gives cause and method for amending.

    I've known 12 or 13 presidents now, and regard Obama as by far, and without doubt, the best. He operates in a world 10x more complex than Reagan's, is 10x more transparent and available, and actually knows what he's doing.

    Obama's only real failing is not believing that it is possible to dismantle our outrageously hyped militarism and its driving, for-profit platform. Worshiping the military is the most misplaced love in all of humanity. Obama probably knows this, and it's understandable but unfortunate that even he can do almost nothing about it.

  81. Obama may or may not be good at foreign and/or domestic policies, which is very much dependant on one's point of view; but to assert any belief that he is "10x more transparent" than Reagan or any other president is clearly ignoring the facts.

  82. Time to go back and listen to the Iran-Contra hearings, GS. Time to go back and look at the death squads the US trained at the SOA. Time to go back and do a recount on Soviet-US missile fabrications. Time to go back and look at the Star Wars viability. Time to go back and see just how threatened those med students in Granada actually were. Time to go back and see who made trillions in the armament industry in the 80s. Time to go back and see who lied through their teeth about deficits.

    Sorry GS, there has never been any Republican transparency outside of Eisenhower's warning about the M-I complex.

  83. Much of this article appears to be in the spirit of false equivalence.

    It really is a waste of time for journalists to interview and get quotes from Republican politicians these days on almost any substantive issue facing this country.

    Republicans decided quite awhile ago that they would represent the self-serving interests of the mighty corporations and 1%, exploit the fears and prejudices of the working class & evangelicals to build a fanatical base and get out the vote, and put power politics over the needs and well being of our country and its future.

    As a result, the Republicans employ a lot of advertising and psychological conditioning techniques in order to PR and advertise their way to power--without, of course, any notion of truth in advertising and ethical responsibility to achieve their ends.

    As a result, these GOP politicians' analysis is mind-bending and worthless, since they refuse to give any kind of rational, fair-minded, thoughtful interpretations of events and key actors. They put so much spin on every issue--which boils down to Obama and Democrats Bad; Republicans Good--that I want to throw up.

    Also, since a number of our so-called think tanks have been funded, commandeered, and politicized by the likes of the Koch brothers and other agenda-setting wealthy business types, then journalists seeking a perspective and quotes from the employees (not really scholars) of these highly partisan propaganda organizations is also not enlightening or helpful.

  84. The notion that Obama is dovish on military actions has been floating around mainstream media echo chamber for almost the duration of his presidency - and there is absolutely nothing to support it.

    True, Obama ended an unpopular war in Iraq that wasn't accomplishing anything besides laying the groundwork for ISIS, and he's in the process of drawing down the troops in Afghanistan (after surging the troop numbers significantly in his first term).

    But he attempted to start US military efforts in Syria (until Putin defused the crisis); he unleashed warfare against Libya (with unfortunate results); he has greatly increased expanded Bush's drone assassination campaign throughout the region; he's playing hardball with Putin and overlooked the overthrow of Ukraine's democratically elected government; he ordered a trillion dollar upgrade of our nuclear weapons program (despite his dovish election rhetoric on the subject); Obama expanded Bush's domestic and foreign spying by the NSA; he has ramped up the the hostile stance toward China; and he has increased the defense budget significantly.

    That might qualify as "dovishness" to, say, a Donald Rumsfeld, Genghis Khan or a US media that refuses to give access to anti-war voices whenever proposed military action is discussed, but to sane, peaceful people Obama is a hawk.

  85. He'll negotiate and make compromises with our enemy, Iran.
    Refuses to negotiate or make compromises with Republicans who represent half of all Americans.

  86. Sometimes cutting deals with enemies is smart--the best of a set of poor options. Maybe you're different, but most critics of the Iran negotiations don't do a very convincing job of discussing the alternatives.

    PS I like the Eli Wallach icon.

  87. Yes, the people who don't like the negotiations with Iran need to lay out what they want done instead.

  88. If 50 percent of people vote and half or every so slightly more of them vote Republican, it can hardly be said that the GOP represents half of "all" Americans, more like a quarter. There is also the matter that the GOP represents the monied and corporate interest above the interests of everyone else.

    And just out of curiosity what good has it done not to negotiate with Iran? The same is true of Cuba. If in 50 years a more open policy proves to have failed, we can always return to the policy that had already failed for the 50 previous years.

  89. Oh brother! No, I didn't vote for President Obama, and there are still certain areas where I am not fond of where he stands. But, as a life-long Independent voter, who will admit to being a tad Right-of-Center, I find the party I have voted for more often than not ... well, the important thing is issues are being raised that need an open discussion [Freedom of Speech, 'member?] by all who are serious about their Civic duty. Okay, I'm stealing from the movie, The American President. But, we need to talk about this stuff, and to those of you who want instead to fight and stalemate, regardless of your politics, I say ... "Expletive Deleted".

  90. While much of this analysis and many of the comments are spot on, I would posit that the reasons are simpler - The Republicans are basically against anything the President proposes leading to this apparent contradiction. Their entire policy statement can be summarized as anti-Obama (or bizarro-Obama)....

  91. In fact the fundamental conservative meme is 'differen t rules for different people'. Of course when they are in power it is 'unitary exectuive' and 'the decider'. What ever Obama does, even if copied from republicans ( health plan) they are against. For anyone who thinks that ever one should [play by the same rules this is discomforting. To those who are sure they are right, 'any means necessary'.

  92. There are two separate issues in play: One being Obama's relationship with the Republicans and the other his policies, foreign and domestic. His dealings with the Republicans were immediately defined by his patronizing lecturing that quickly soured them on him, and eventually, him on them. They have been like feuding neighbors ever since. His policies are a mixed bag. Foreign policy has been confused. Despite the Orwellian decrees from the White House that Obama has ended the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan by executive fiat, both wars are still humming merrily along, with thousands of US ground troops still in the line of fire. The schizoid policy of tolerating then helping to topple Gaddafi and Mubarak, and trying to topple Assad, have proven to be serious errors, and the Middle East is engulfed in far more bloody chaos as a result now than it was when Obama took office. Domestically he stabilized an economy in a tailspin. The results have been neither prosperity nor recession, but something weirdly in between. It's a new normal with lots of low wage part time jobs and millions who have stopped looking for work and dropped out of the labor force. If this was a report card, he'd get a C- for foreign policy and a B or B+ for his domestic policies. The Republicans may be giving him an F on both, but he long ago stopped caring about they think or do.

  93. Do you think that the Republicans in Congress were ever interested in working with President Obama? Look at how they voted and obstructed from day 1. Do you truly think we or the Middle East would be better off with Gaddafi in power (remember a Pan Am jetliner blown up over Scotland? remember a certain effort to assassinate President GHW Bush)? Do you know of any extended periods in which the Middle East was a model of tranquility and order? Do you think the early years of our own political system were a model of tranquility and order?

  94. My problem with President Obama is that he stopped caring about what WE think. Once he had a majority in the Congress and he believed he would keep it for four years or longer. He was proven wrong. Now he cares only for the people who did not vote and for future voters. We, the 1/3 who voted, consistently get the middle finger.

  95. Article One Section 8 of the Constitution explicitly delegates the power to make laws of naturalization to Congress, not the President. Obama does not have the authority to preempt the legislative process by unilaterally granting the benefits of citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants. The president’s executive action nullifies one of the core enumerated powers of the legislative branch: it cannot be a constitutional act.

    If the president succeeds in forcing through his immigration decree he will be responsible for undermining the Constitution at a critical juncture in American history. The demographics of the nation are changing. This provides us great opportunity, but it also increases the risks posed by demagoguery and ethnic politics; these risks can be mitigated, but if we do not respect the rule of law and the Constitution, our chances are poor.

    Unfortunately, the Obama Administration is willing to hold the Constitution hostage in order to exacerbate and politicize ethnic polarization. Under such circumstances the rise of an imperial presidency will only lead to dysfunction and strife.

  96. Were these your sentiments when Reagan granted amnesty to illegal aliens? Or is this part of the "bad history" Republicans are trying to legislate away?

  97. Heheheh, remember the great Reagan? He did it.

  98. JoAnn, I believe the amnesty to which you refer was passed as an act of Congress, not a unilateral action by President Reagan

  99. President Obama's big mistake: believing that Republican members of Congress actually loved America. This may sound terrible but Congress doesn't love the president, and Congress certainly doesn't love the American people.

  100. Where is it written that the congress must "love" the president?!? Or vice versa, for that matter?

  101. Sorry you missed the sarcasm. Or maybe you aren't aware of Rudy Giuliani's assessment that the president doesn't "love" America, you, or me? Giuliani's word, not mine. But I suspect you agreed with Giuliani when he attacked the president for not showing any love.

  102. Obama does not have the constitutional power to legalize 5 million illegal aliens. Neither does he have the power to negotiate a one sided nuclear treaty with Iran that will allow them to build a bomb. And he does not have the power to prevent Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu from addressing Congress. Executive orders emanating from the Oval Office are limited by the Constitution. Our imperial president who believes he knows what is in the best interests of all Americans is about to have a rude awakening.

  103. Whether President Obama has the authority to temporarily postpone dealing with some illegal immigrants (when we don't have the resources for processing all 12 million at once) is not very clear, especially when Congress does not provide the resources to deal with 12 million at once nor provide any other priority system. Presidents cannot adopt treaties on their own, but they have been forming executive agreements with other world leaders for many years. From what I have read and seen, President Obama's use of executive authority is no more aggressive than most of our other recent presidents.

  104. The President is a reckless supporter of social justice to the point of dogmatically sticking to his ideals, not realism or passed legislation. A President with an agenda is a poor president because one can not do what is objectively best for the country.

  105. Your criticism is a little unclear. All of our presidents have had agendas, and in many cases, determining what is best for the country is partly a matter of opinion. What does "realism" mean? Don't do much? Presidents have been acting beyond what is delineating by passed legislation since George Washington. Studyy your history.

  106. Objectively? If there is a plurality of opinion, how can you determine what is best objectively? What could you possibly mean? Isn't it the job of the president to try to determine what is subjectively best for the country? How is the Keystone XL pipeline, as an example, objectively what is best for this country, rather than say Canada or China? I'd like you to explain what you're talking about, because honestly I have a great deal of trouble understanding it.

  107. I simply wish Obama took his gloves off and started swinging the very day of his first inauguration. The shredding of any Democratic president is the blood sport of the GOP. Look what they did to Clinton!

    However, look at the stature of Bill Clinton now. He enjoys an enormously popular post-presidency, and travels anywhere. His successor lives at a ranch and does nothing at all. Could it be that if he sets foot in Europe, he will be ushered to the Hague?

    If there is anything Barack Obama needs to apologize for is not having remembered how vicious Republican attacks were, thereby not smashing their teeth on the first day when they so genuinely deserved it.

  108. And if the President were to do a 180-degree turnaround on every single issue, accommodating every Republican complaint, Republicans would simply change their complaints by a corresponding 180 degrees. There have been plenty of valid grounds on which to criticize President Obama. But where Republicans are concerned, it has never been about the specifics of any particular issue -- it has been about the specifics of the man in the White House.

  109. "Mr. Obama proposed that he not be allowed to send large-scale ground forces and that the authorization expire in three years, although he left room to get around that if need be."

    I think that what Mr. Obama is proposing is that Congress actually have to have a recorded vote, rather then the constant obstructive whining about policy and strategy while the press let's the complainers get away with never proposing a realistic policy or strategy on anything...just whining.
    Waging war is a good place for those in Congress to finally have to face the accountability of voting and having to re-vote on something as it progresses.

  110. I think it was Winston Churchill who said that Democracy was the worst form of government devised by man, except for everything else.

    'Course, that assumes a functioning democracy where the opposition doesn't exist simply to further its OWN best interest (i.e., reelection). But that, instead, it, too,ultimately has the best interest of the country at heart.

    Well, in this world of 24/7 media madness where ratings rule, appeals to the least appealing aspects of human nature (mostly fear and tribalism) may end up proving that Democracy is no better than the rest. Or, in other words, no better than the worst aspects of ourselves.

  111. It looks like you are putting words in Churchill's mouth. That's a pretty pretentious step.

  112. There's no pretentiousness here. J. Cornelio got the gist of what Churchill said in a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11 1947, which was "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

  113. Love and be tough for America US Presidents' styles; Dwight Eisenhower would be called a darn coward, if one could rewind his presidency today. Does anyone in media know about Formosa Straights Resolution; it was similar to Obama's call for Congressional approval for Syrian hostilities?

    What an observer might derive from military events occurring during presidents' terms since Eisenhower; their love of country and machismo resulted in deaths of many American soldiers, but to what end?

    Even peaceful President Carter, who helped Afghanistan insurgency defeat Soviets occupation, he didn't have any idea USA would one day be in a thirteen year fight against those whom we helped defeat the 'commies.'

    And has anyone ever, really, looked at results of USA's involvements, since WWII to consider; how much different those nations would now be without our involvements?

  114. This article reminds me how conservatives throw accusations at Mr. Obama and yet they can't knock him down. It's getting old. Despite their bluster, they appear like a rather impotent lot. During much of his presidency, these attacks have been less on the merits of what he's done than on the legitimacy of what he's done, starting with the challenge about his place of birth. Were we to have debates about the merits, conservatives would be expected to offer some better ideas. That would be a revelation.

  115. The Republicans will do whatever is expedient...whatever will get them and keep them in office. They will kiss the Kochs, abandon their previously held positions, violate their own values, castigate the president, and do what ever it takes to be morbidly mediocre legislators. What a legacy.

  116. One thing we all can agree on after the bickering fades. The US government is seriously dysfunctional and poses a great threat to our long term welfare. There's no way out.

  117. The Republican Congress for a number of years has been fully responsible for the dysfunction in government in their chronic efforts to demean the president.

  118. And of the republicans don't fund Homeland Security, what does fighting abroad matter?

  119. For years the Republican Congress has been sabotaging President Obama with Karl Rove's agenda and propaganda financed by the Koch brothers.
    The Republicans are interested in destroying, not governing.

  120. Congress in passing an Authorization of the Use of Military Force is not expanding the President's powers. They are assuming their own power to make such authorizations consistent with their authority to declare war. Once war is declared or hostilities authorized, however, it makes no sense for a legislative body to direct operational military decisions, such as whether to use ground forces or air forces. Such decisions are the rightly the purview of the Commander in Chief. We have reached the absurd point in our political correctness wherein the use of air forces to drop bombs, often inflicting horrific collateral damage, is somehow morally superior and Constitutionally more appropriate than the use of large-scale ground forces.

    On the other hand, while a Commander-in-Chief should have unfettered discretion to use all available means within the laws of warfare to defeat an enemy, a President should not have unfettered discretion to enforce only those laws with which he agrees, such as our immigration laws. President Obama's approach to defining the limits of his own powers is driven, not by the Constitution, but by the outcome he and his ideological allies seek. The left-wing of the Democratic Party believes that the use of American armed forces is inherently evil, so it must be limited by whatever means available. And the Democrats believe that the current immigration laws are misguided, so the President should find a justification for not enforcing the law.

  121. When are Republicans going to actually do the nation's business instead of wasting time and the salaries and expenses we pay them to run their offices? Their only agenda is spite. They are doing nothing but passing meaningless bills that go nowhere and would be destructive to the nation if passed. In my lifetime I have never seen such a ship of fools than the GOP Congressional delegation. Only 1/3 of voters bothered to vote in the mid-term election. If the other 2/3 would vote, we could turn the country around, but they don't and so we have to live with this wretched bunch of obstructionist do-nothings.

  122. The 1/3 of people who did vote are the ones who are presumably paying the most attention and the most concerned with our nation's future. The only 2/3 obviously don't have a strong preference for either party or they would have voted.

    So the people who are paying attention expressed that they like do-nothing more than the Democratic-only do something actions.

    The people have spoken even if you don't like the answer.

  123. The parliamentary system does not pit the legislature and executive against each other. Implementation of law works much better when the legislature and executive are not working at cross-purposes.

  124. Barack Obama is completely tone deaf when it comes to foreign policy. America is stuck with President "See No Evil/Hear No Evil." He refuses to utter the words 'Islamic extremism" when it comes to the danger posed by ISIS. Obama refused to march in Paris in solidarity with other world leaders after those horrific attacks against Charlie Hebdo and the kosher deli. He gave a bizarre lecture blaming what Christian knights did during the Crusades for the curent crisis in the Middle East during the National Prayer Breakfast. He's determined to make a shoddy deal with Iran to cement his legacy as the President who finally made the Grand Bargain when it comes to Iranian nukes. Our relationship with Israel is in tatters (please try to hold the applause for later). It wouldn't bother me at all if Obama spent the next 2 years on the golf course,

  125. Sharon5101
    Obviously you're eager to repeat the huge geopolitical and economic triumphs that resulted from our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the crashing of the world economy. And it all happened at such a small cost. 40,000 Americans pushing up the daisies or maimed for life: 3-4 trillion bucks; 9 million jobs lost; hundreds of thousands of Iraqi/Afghan deaths. It was cheap at half the price. I can understand your disappointment.

  126. John - Iraq and Afghanistan have nothing to do with Obama's current foreign policy failures. You bet I'm disappointed with Obama because he acts like an irritated college professor with a class full of bored students who just don't understand what its like to bask in the presence of his awesomeness.

  127. The U.S. better get on it’s toes. The giants are no longer oil rich countries. King David will be rewritten in history as Jews have been fighting for a land where only their ancestors lived. Russia including the U.S. and the rest of the European Union will be battling the Arab nation states including the Islamic State as Russia bears down on it’s own in it’s only fight for survival. And South America not mentioned until now that Africa and Mexico’s quest to move north as far into Canada will leave no stone unturned like David and Goliath. As for Asia and Australia just look out for climate change.

    The Balance of Power in the United States has shifted but not in what may seem the presidency. It is a shift in power between the superpowers and we are all in this together. Whatever the outcome there will be those who will survive as such as climate change if properly insulated from competition between energy companies and technologies that some developed countries have attained with the help of the United States. No one wants to say we helped countries that no longer believe in us but finding new friends is like finding that sides are taken up against us at home where we no longer trust ourselves. Like the saying we are our own worst enemy.

  128. The reality is that in the Administrative state that has gradually evolved since 1933, and progressively taken over responsibility for the economic well being of its citizens and all aspects of national security, the vast preponderance of power has passed to the Executive. In most cases it has actually been happily (desperately on occasions) delegated by the legislature to the executive and it could not be otherwise given the magnitude and complexity of the issues that have to be managed strategically and short term tactically in a 21st century nation that is the world's hegemon. The classic Madisonian constitutional arrangement which Republicans and conservatives never end up bleating about doesn't exist. It's obsolete and has been in reality for well over 50 years even if it EVER existed other than maybe relatively briefly in the form these people believe it did. Most political scientists and practical politicians recognize this whatever they may say to pander to their more primitive supporters or gain some short term tactical advantage. It largely accounts for the polarization and gridlock we now have as conservatives (usually but not always) try to obstruct an inexorable process that usually ends up with them shooting themselves in the foot. Exhibits A and B at the moment being the contretemps over funding the DHS and efforts to block the ACA in the courts. The Executive is far from infallible but there is absolutely no doubt about it's complete supremacy.

  129. What bothers the Republicans is that Obama is taking steps to improve the nation internally and its standing in the world. That he's helping the poorest in America and not killing enough "enemies" in the world is just rubbing salt in the wound.

  130. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are trying to put the monkey on the other party's back in case the intervention against ISIS goes wrong. It's politics, not principle.

  131. What bothers many people is that the majority of the actions Obama has enacted in his administration will have broad reaching effects on the majority of people's lives, down through future generations. Actions of this magnitude should be thoughtful, presented truthfully, and the American people should be given a fair hearing. Obama would be welcomed in the history books as a great president if he had enacted these measures with the consent of the people. In fact, all of the measures he has enacted to date were unpopular with the majority of American people when they were first enacted, and have become more unpopular with time. His original actions were enabled by a democrat congress and senate, who passed massive laws without a single bipartisan vote. He was deliberately untruthful (he lied) in his speeches on these programs. Obama continues to thumb his nose at the majority of Americans, who have now elected a GOP congress and senate to counter him. He continues to force his unpopular policies through regulations and executive orders. His words about of working with the opposition to forge reasonable compromise are simply for show, and anyone who believes him on this, or on anything else for that matter is either a Machiavellian anarchist, or an idiot.