December 9, 2008
Obama's End Run around CongressBy Ned Barnett
Candidate Barack Obama promised "change we can believe in," but he never hinted that this change would all but circumvent Congress to impose on America the most dramatic liberal social transformation since the New Deal. While promising to lead, he did not suggest that he would create a kind of "imperial presidency" that would horrify the Founding Fathers. Based on their own direct experience with a sovereign, they were rightly concerned with any one man having too much power. This is the kind of power that Obama is now reaching for, following the same kind of "stealth strategy" that helped get him elected.
During the Presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama executed a series of extraordinarily successful "stealth strategies," enabling him to secure the support of key core groups without alienating the larger public. For instance, he made a single observation -- on a Saturday, when the media was sure to be looking elsewhere -- advocating on-demand abortion for minors. With this, he seized for himself what everyone assumed was Senator Clinton's "in the bag" NARAL endorsement, and he did so without making on-demand abortion a controversial election issue.
There were others, but perhaps his greatest stealth strategy was his promise to lower taxes for 95 percent of Americans, while quietly assuring his more liberal supporters that he'd let the Bush tax cuts expire -- which, without fanfare, would amount to a huge tax increase for all tax-paying Americans.
However, none of these stealth strategies holds a candle to President-Elect Obama's most brilliant stealth strategy for implementing "change." This involves not just a change in laws, but a change in the way laws are made and passed. This "change" is as simple as it is revolutionary: capitalizing on the economic crisis, Obama has challenged Congress to enact his near-trillion-dollar package of social changes -- disguised as a comprehensive stimulus/jobs bill -- and to have that legislation waiting to be signed immediately after his January 20th inaugural.
In the name of stopping the economy's free-fall, through a traditionally-liberal massive infusion of jobs, President-Elect Obama is also adroitly side-stepping Congress's time-honored system of passing legislation. By the simple ruse of imposing a tight schedule for Congress, Obama will -- in effect -- put virtually all of the government's power into his own hands. This is an end-run around Congress's deliberative process -- one that makes FDR's vaunted and unprecedented "100 days" strategy look like a leisurely process. This is also an end-run around the American people, ensuring that citizen-opponents have no voice, and no role, in shaping this legislation.
The first clue of this stealth strategy came on November 24th, when Fox News' Martha McCallum reported that Obama's new stimulus package would not be just a financial bail-out. Obama would also use this jobs/stimulus package to put in a "down payment" on all of his planned domestic social initiatives, including infrastructure, education, energy and health care. She reported that Obama would place tens of billions of dollars as down-payments for each of these new programs in his omnibus bail-out bill -- and that he would sign this bill into law as soon as he returns to the White House after his inauguration.
Fox was ahead of the game -- confirmation of this stealth strategy had to wait for the President-elect's comments on Saturday, December 6th. Politico reported it:
Along with death and taxes, there is one sure thing about Washington. Once a program has been funded, it becomes part of the government agenda. It will be expanded and re-funded without further debate -- at least about the program itself -- which is one reason why Congress usually goes slowly in enacting legislation that will change the face of America. The implications are startling -- Obama intends to launch most of his agenda on his first day in office, without debate, by ensuring that these initiatives all got funded in the names of jobs and economic stimulus.
On the second of three press conferences during Thanksgiving week, President-Elect Obama hinted at one component of this stealth strategy, saying: "a smart job of investing in health care modernization" could help America in both the short term and the longer term.
However, it was only the President-Elect's comment on December 6th that finally revealed this strategy. Obama said he wants Congress to fund all of his liberal domestic social agenda by passing legislation between January 3rd, when they meet to form the 111th Congress, and January 20th, when he is sworn into office as America's 44th President. In this hectic two week period, Congress must also swear in new members, organize committees, accept the report of the Electoral College and find the restroom. There will be precious little time to do anything beyond copying Obama's campaign wish list into an omnibus jobs/stimulus bill -- then voting it into law by acclimation.
Little to no dissent will be heard -- after all, it's a crisis, and there is no time for an orderly deliberative process. This plan -- using that crisis to pass a package of laws most Americans would object to - is President-Elect Obama's most brilliant stealth strategy.
As reported in Politico:
Normally, a major legislative change takes a year or two to put together. Passage of any sweeping change always has required heavy-duty committee work, along with plenty of time for advocates and opponents to marshal their resources, make their pitches, and have their "day in court" before it passed. This deliberative process is why the push for HillaryCare took two years, and why it ultimately failed. This process is also why Bush's Tax cuts took until 2003 to enact and 2004 to fully implement. Every Presidential change agent - Roosevelt, Johnson, Reagan - has had to play by these rules.
But the change President-Elect Obama proposes is not just a change in policies, but a change in enacting those policies. As Obama said on Saturday:
This end-run around the deliberative process is revolutionary -- it is, perhaps, the closest America will ever come to a legal and constitutional Presidential coup d'etat.
By lumping all of his major new-initiative programs into an omnibus stimulus/jobs bill which has virtually no chance of not passing, these sweeping new programs will immediately become part of the American system of governance. These dramatic new far-left legislative initiatives won't need further hearings -- ensuring that there will never be any chance for Americans to speak out, for or against these changes.
The entire checks-and-balances process that has guided our law-making process for more than two centuries -- a process that often protected us from the unbridled "tyranny of the majority" - is being thrown out the window, bringing to America a true "imperial presidency," one that would horrify the Founding Fathers. They knew exactly what an imperial ruler was capable of doing - and America may soon learn the lesson they knew only too well.
Ned Barnett is a strategic political consultant specializing in media, as well as a public relations professional and CEO of Barnett Marketing Communications in Las Vegas. He is currently working with Nevada Republicans to rebuild the party around its conservative roots.