Thursday, April 19, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Obama, Congress and executive orders

From all the Old Yeller mouth-foaming in the U.S. House of Representatives one might have concluded the nation was being led by a fiendish Ernst Stavro Blofeld stroking his cat while plotting to turn the land over to al-Qaida, the Medellin cartel and the most evil criminal enterprise of them all (cue The Internationale) — the United Nations.

In a debate that was a mix of a Jimmy Swaggart revival and a John Birch Society rally, with a healthy dose of scripted tea party talking points, the House voted along party lines to sue President Barack Obama because … well, just because.

Amid all the fife-and-drum weeping and wailing, Obama was accused of being a lawless tyrannical dictator stripping Americans of their freedoms in his pursuit of raw, imperial power. Ooooh, this sounds serious.

So pressing was the clear and present danger to the very core of American values that just as soon as the vote to sue Obama was finished, the House looked forward to vacation for the next five weeks. Now there's a Minuteman moment for you.

This is as if the Founding Fathers had published the Declaration of Independence in defiance of the oppression imposed by King George III and then headed off to ride Busch Gardens' SheiKra.

Still, we should take even small moments of congressional action where we find them. This is a Congress that can't find the time to increase the minimum wage, or reform immigration, or extend unemployment insurance. This is a Congress that couldn't find its collective tuchus with the help of Tonto. But it did carve out a moment in its three-day-a-week grueling schedule to vote on a measure that would be laughed out of court by Judge Judy.

Looking as if he were about to start sobbing more tears than a Miss America finalist, Speaker John Boehner, R-Cry Me A River — Of Money, channeled his inner Federalist Papers, noting: "No member of this body needs to be reminded about what the Constitution states about a president's obligation to faithfully execute the laws of this nation.''

"Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to change?" Boehner decried. "Are you willing to let anyone tear apart what our founders have built?"

To answer Boehner's question, as matter of fact, yes, Congress has been allowing presidents to ignore laws for most of the nation's history.

Boehner and the rest have accused Obama of being the Tony Soprano of the West Wing because of his use of executive orders and legislative signing statements to evade the will of Congress. By the way, a signing statement is quietly added to a bill that essentially says the president has no intention of following the measure he just signed into law because he believes it is either: a) stupid and/or b) unconstitutional.

The House lawsuit faults Obama for issuing executive orders granting businesses various extensions under the Affordable Care Act. So Obama is being sued by Republicans for not strictly implementing a law the House has voted at least 50 times to abolish. Toto, we're not in reality anymore.

To date, Obama's wild and crazy unconstitutional phony crime spree has totaled 183 felonious executive orders and an amazingly abusive 27 signing statements.

But compared to some of his predecessors, Obama is a presidential jaywalker. For example, Dwight Eisenhower signed 484 executive orders and 152 signing statements, while Ronald Reagan signed 381 executive orders and 228 signing statements and George W. Bush signed 291 executive orders and 161 signing statements. Yet no Republican Congress ever suggested any these men ought to be sued (or impeached?) over the exercise of presidential authority.

Irony abounds. After accusing Obama of being the John Gotti of the Potomac for his use of executive orders and Republicans were unable to agree on even a modest border control measure, Boehner suggested the president use his executive authority to accomplish what Congress failed to address.

Apparently "constitutional crisis" is a relative term. After all, as South Carolina GOP Rep. Tom Rice, observed, the legal action against Obama is about "our freedom." It's a battle for liberty, which can wait until Congress gets back from its five-week vacation.

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