President Obama has fulfilled a second Tom Friedman fantasy — the first being that he is, in fact, President Obama. “I have fantasized . . . that, what if we could just be China for a day,” the New York Times star columnist gushed for his ponderous fellow travelers on Meet the Press. “I mean where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions.”
It was May 2010, not long after Obama and a Congress dominated by Democrats had rammed through Obamacare, the most sweeping government usurpation of private industry and individual liberty in American history. Soon they’d be adding Dodd-Frank’s paralyzing intrusion into the financial sector. Yet, despite the shock and awe of hope and change, here was the Progressive Poobah, grousing that “my democracy” was failing “to work with the same authority, focus and stick-to-itiveness” as a totalitarian Communist dictatorship. After all, unburdened by our remnants of free-market competition, by the gridlock and sausage-making of two-party politics, the Chicoms produce trade and budget surpluses, state-of-the-art airports, and enviro-friendly high-speed rail. All we can manage, “on everything from the economy to environment,” Friedman complained, are “suboptimal solutions” — apparently not to be confused with the optimal Chinese menu of forced abortions, religious repression, secret police, kangaroo courts, and air you could cut with a chopstick.
Friedman is surely smiling today. So, we can assume, are other leftists, such as Peter Orszag, Obama’s former budget-overrun director, and Bev Perdue, the governor of North Carolina. Right after the midterm shellacking that swept Republicans into control of the House — a roadblock that has stymied some, but by no means all, of Obama’s transformational agenda — they said aloud what other Democrats were thinking: America’s problem is too much democracy. This week, the president solved that problem, shoving another page of the suboptimal Constitution through his made-in-China shredder.
In sum, Obama dissolved the separation of powers, the framers’ ingenious bulwark against any government branch’s seizure of supreme power — and thus the Constitution’s bulwark against tyranny. The president claims the power to appoint federal officers without the Senate’s constitutionally mandated advice and consent. He does so by claiming unilateral powers to dictate when the Senate is in session, a power the Constitution assigns to Congress, and to decree that an ongoing session is actually a recess. This sheer ukase, he says, triggers the part of the Constitution we’re keeping because he likes it — viz., the executive power to fill vacancies without any vetting by the people’s representatives.
Mind you, a president is the only government official constitutionally required to swear that he will “preserve, protect and defend” that Constitution. We are talking here not just about Obama’s characteristically breathtaking arrogance. These are profound violations of his oath and of our fundamental law. But rest assured he will get away with them. For that, Republicans can thank themselves and their surrender to statism.
Obama is hot to move forward on two fronts. The first is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB is the monstrous Dodd-Frank’s crown jewel. Congress unconstitutionally delegated to it virtually unreviewable power to “dictate credit allocation in the U.S. economy,” as C. Boyden Gray put it. Not just bank lending — the law invests dictatorial power in a single CFPB director over thousands of American businesses. The CFPB is not just part of Obama’s design to splay the government’s tentacles throughout the private economy; it is also key to his reelection narrative: Leviathan, no longer shyly creeping but heroically swashbuckling through predatory capitalists to rescue the noble “99 percent.”
By law, however, the CFPB cannot operate until its director has been confirmed. Before the midterms, Senate Republicans lacked the votes necessary to stop the CFPB from being enacted, but they now have the numbers needed to block confirmations — or, in this instance, to extract concessions in exchange for confirmations. In our constitutional republic, this is what is known as politics. That is not a dirty word. Indeed, it is the very horse-trading that leftists and their media cheerleaders indignantly demand to be afforded even when they don’t have the numbers to force their opposition’s hand.