Obama, the shrinking president

Walter Russell Mead, writing in the New York Daily News, has some thoughts on how the personae of President Obama is shrinking before our eyes and by next year, he may risk being "sidelined and marginalized for the remaining two years of his term."

Obama is not, however, prepared to pick up his toys and go home. Stymied in Congress, where a coalition of Republicans and red state Democrats have effectively blocked his major initiatives in both the House and the Senate, the President is determined to use his executive powers to carve out a legacy whether Congress likes it or not. The new EPA regulations to cut CO2 levels from power generators and his decision to sidestep Congress on the release of five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo in exchange for Sergeant Bergdahl show a White House anything but resigned to the prospect of presidential decline.

In both foreign and domestic affairs, Obama has plenty of executive authority to use. Moreover, the signature accomplishment of his first term, the ACA health care law, is potentially the most significant piece of domestic legislation since the 1960s and was written to give the executive branch the power to redesign much of the American health system as the President’s appointees in the federal bureaucracy set about implementing the law. The Dodd-Frank Act, intended to stabilize Wall Street and prevent another 2008 style financial crisis, gave the executive branch broad authority to re-regulate the financial sector.

Why, then, does a feisty President with more power than any of his peacetime predecessors, one who is determined to use those powers to the max, look so much a victim of events he can’t control?

It isn’t for lack of ambition; Obama aspires to be a transformational leader at home and abroad. The ACA attempts to redesign an industry that accounts for 17.2 % of GDP. The EPA’s new regulations cover 66% of the country’s energy production. Overseas, he’s picked goals like getting a global climate treaty, destroying Al-Qaeda, democratizing the Arab world, eliminating nuclear weapons and achieving détente with Iran.

These are big goals; achieving them would give Obama a significant place in the history books. But there’s a catch; large and complex projects are hard to carry out, and the President seems to consistently underestimate the difficulties in turning compelling visions into practical programs. As a result, he now finds himself haunted by goals and expectations he set for himself, caught in a gap between promise and performance that has proved unexpectedly hard to close.

It's called overreach, Walter, and both the president and Democrats in Congress - who are largely responsible for writing confusing, contradictory legislation - are to blame. In each and every instance mentioned, the president and his congressional allies have utterly failed to anticipate consequences of their actions. This has resulted in mass confusion among the people and uncertainty among businesses.

Obama's executive orders have been a symptom of this overreach. Congress can't get it right when writing legislation so the president feels it necessary to "fix" what Congress broke. In truth, he's only making the problems worse.

When all the executive orders pushing back Obamacare mandates expire, there will be hell to pay. What the president has done for political reasons this year, will come back to haunt him when the true nature of this monstrosity becomes apparent.

Obama isn't shrinking as much as he is melting - like the wicked witch having water tossed on her. The process should be complete after the November elections.