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Obama: A Liberal Cheney

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Did you see the opening skit of Saturday Night Live last night? It makes fun of Obama from the right. It’s a satire of an old “Schoolhouse Rock” routine, but this time showing Obama shoving the Bill down the Capitol steps — this, in making fun of his executive order on immigration.

In his column today, Ross Douthat analyzes how Obama went from being a candidate critical of the Cheneyite model of the presidency, and what he considered to be Bush’s abuses of executive power, to becoming just like what he criticized. Excerpts:

The scope of Obama’s moves can be debated, but that basic imperial reality is clear. Even as he has maintained much of the Bush-era national security architecture, this president has been more willing to launch military operations without congressional approval; more willing to trade in assassination and deal death even to American citizens; and more aggressive in his war on leakers, whistle-blowers and journalists.

At the same time, he has been much more aggressive than Bush in his use of executive power to pursue major domestic policy goals — on education, climate change, health care and now most sweepingly on immigration.

Douthat has been a vocal and forceful opponent of Obama’s immigration move, but I found his contention that Congressional Republicans’ unwilligness or inability to govern in normal ways is an important factor in Obama’s imperialization:

This is the point that liberals raise, and plausibly, in President Obama’s defense: It isn’t just that he’s been dealing with an opposition party that’s swung to the right; it’s that this opposition doesn’t know its own mind, collectively or sometimes even individually, and so has trouble bargaining or legislating effectively.

This reality has made it harder to cut major bipartisan deals; it’s made it harder to solve problems that crop up within existing law; it’s made it harder for the president to count votes on foreign policy. All of which creates more incentives for presidential unilateralism: In some cases, it seems required to keep the wheels turning; in others, it can be justified as the only way to get the Big Things done.

Read the whole thing.  I would add too that most Republicans had no complaints when George W. Bush behaved this way. What you tolerate, you encourage. When the next Republican president takes office, and begins throwing his weight around in the same way, liberals who cheer Obama’s immigration move will have no room to complain.

Like Douthat, I think what Obama did was outrageous, not necessarily on policy (I don’t know enough about immigration policy to say), but as a political matter. No president, Republican or Democrat, should impose such a consequential and far-reaching policy in defiance of Congress. But this one did. Cheney would be proud.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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