Monday, January 27, 2014

Obama Drama, The Elephant in the Room, Act 2

The historian , essentially wants more documents than he can really use, the dramatist only wants more liberties than he can really take.

Henry James (1843-1926), The Aspern Papers

Tomorrow night President Obama sets the stage for the second act of his second term when he gives his second State of the Union Address. 

He hasn’t given his address an official name. But  “The Elephant in the Room, “  the GOP elephant,  might be appropriate.   President Obama will claim the GOP blocks his way forward. He plans to brush aside the elephant  thorough multiple  unilateral executive actions.  He will, he says, “skirt” Congress on the economy, environment, and health care.    He will “go it alone” by using “my pen and my phone”. 

The address, we are told,  will feature the big three C’s – restoration of Confidence in government ,  Control of the Senate,  and Confrontation with Congress.  

His agenda, says the New York Times,  will be “modest.”  Given his sinking approval poll numbers on the economy (40.0%). foreign affairs (42.2%), overall job approval (43.2%),  direction of the country (29.0%), and the health care law (38.3%). the President has a lot to be modest about.  His ace in the hole is the low approval rating of Congress (12.8%).

Regaining the confidence and trust of the people  will be daunting.   It will require believing  an economic recovery is at hand (74% of Americans believe the U.S is still in a recession),  fixing the back-end of,  more young people and the uninsured signing up on the health exchanges,  and delivering on the promises of ObamaCare (lower premiums, more benefits, keeping your doctor and health plan).

Maintaining control of the Senate will take much of the same.

Confronting Congress may be easier said than done because the Constitution, with its checks and balances,  imposes limits on what the Chief Executive can do.   Still,  limitation rules are murky, and President Obama will seek loopholes and push his powers to the limit.  He says, if necessary,  he  will “maximize my authority”,  “not wait for Congress, “govern without  Congressional support”,  “actually get something done”, and “surpass expectations.”

But his get tough strategy runs the risks of lawsuits against the President,  talk of impeachment,   a Constitutional crisis, and Supreme Court action.

Obama’s rhetoric  may be bluster.  It does not set a tone the American people want.  They want compromise, not confrontation.   They want the Donkey and the Elephant to meet, not collide,  in the middle of the national stage.  They want less drama and less trauma.  They want a bilateral not a unilateral agenda.

Tweet:  President Obama has sent word out  he plans to govern  through executive orders without Congress support if necessary to advance his agenda.

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