The month of June 2012 may be recorded as the month President Barack Obama abandoned the pretense that he believes there should be any meaningful constraints on his presidential powers.
Despite repeatedly insisting that he lacks the power to do so, he grants administrative amnesty to nearly a million illegal immigrants; the impact of the fiat matched only by the casualness with which it’s issued. Who needs Congress when you can just dictate the law to DHS?
If Congress demands information about the serial misrepresentations made by the attorney general in the Fast and Furious investigation, the president invokes executive privilege; the Department of Justice tells Congress to get lost. An allegedly coequal branch of government sulks while Obama golfs.
When the Supreme Court upholds the ability of Arizona law-enforcement officials to check on the legal status of individuals reasonably suspected of being illegal immigrants, Obama blithely instructs the Department of Justice not to cooperate with the state. Why even go through the exercise of submitting the issue to the Court when the president can just do an executive end-run around it?
And when an executive end-run around the Court may be a bit challenging, he can simply get ahead of it. The chief justice of the Supreme Court, despite the ostensible insulation from political coercion derived from lifetime tenure, issues an incoherent opinion upholding the greatest legislative Rube Goldberg contraption in history — this after three months of undisguised public pressure from the president and his supporters.
The president must be feeling his oats. When he doesn’t usurp Congress, he frustrates it. When he doesn’t ignore the Court, he coerces it. Marginalized checks, manifest imbalances. And throughout, the “watchdogs” in the media cheer.
But, apparently, even that’s not enough for this president. As he told Dmitri Medvedev in March, Obama is looking forward to even greater flexibility in a second term. How much more flexibility could he possibly need?