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A Pen, A Phone, and a Dangerous Tone

In Articles on February 3, 2014 at 4:24 pm
Obama pen and microphone

President Obama’s willingness to bypass Congress in 2014 should be more of our focus than Tuesday’s State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON, DC / PITTSBURGH  (January 30, 2014) 

Don’t get too caught up in the 2014 address from President Obama this week.

Don’t mind too much the pomp-and-circumstance that came with the prime-time event.

The most important – and attention-worthy – things to watch in 2014 will not be the president’s State of the Union Address, the reactions by key congressional members, the spin by activists and pundits, and the poll numbers coming out over the coming days about his speech.

The most vital things demanding your attention are President Obama’s pen and his phone – as well as the tone he is trying to set with his remarks about them.

Granted, President Obama will not be the first president to attempt to circumvent the constitutionally-driven balance between the executive and legislative branches of our federal government. However, despite the comparatively-low number of executive orders issued by President Obama to date, the collective impact of Mr. Obama’s executive maneuvers since 2009 should prompt all Americans to take notice whenever this president threatens to “get things done” by way of sidestepping Congress and the American way of lawmaking.

This executive’s willingness to skirt the normal order of American government to pass initiatives through executive “prerogative” – often times with harmful effects – means that his tone concerning using “his pen and his phone” should be more disconcerting than any tone taken Tuesday night during the State of the Union Address.

President Obama’s “the pen is mightier than Congress and the Constitution” retort to the White House failures of 2013 may sound bold for the sake of the American people. However, just a glance at some of the moves of executive “prerogative” since 2009 provides insight into what 2014 may have in store should President Obama look to follow through on this:

diverting millions of taxpayer dollars to provide abortion-related services overseas in January 2009, only to cut funding for the DC Voucher Program for disadvantaged Americans in his only backyard just months later;

crafting a non-binding, 11th-hour executive order in 2010 to convince the Bart Stupak Bunch to come on-board to pass the Affordable Care Act in a fully-partisan fashion, the last of several intra-Democratic Party deals forged to prompt legislative cooperation;

advancing an immigration policy that circumvented American immigration laws on the books, which worked to embolden wavering Latino voters to support the president as his re-election weakened during a tough 2012 campaign; and

re-writing his own landmark (and namesake) legislation outside the rule of law through a series of politically-motivated moves that act as an ongoing self-repeal of Obamacare by the White House, including select delays set past the 2014 elections and permanent exemptions for key constituents of Democratic leaders.

America’s regular complicity in Mr. Obama’s pattern of flirting with the wrong side of presidential temperance and constitutional reverence has more to do with the currently-tarnished Republican brand and the American Idol style of pop politics we encounter nationally than it does any set of tangible successes for the American people. Instead, the president has taken advantage of the Akin-ness of the GOP and the 9% approval woes of Congress in attempts to justify going the path of law-making alone at this point. Yet, so far during his tenure in the White House, these results have been only politically-driven, not universally altruistic. President Obama’s order to reverse the “Mexico City Policy” pleased his Planned Parenthood constituency, all while he later began his years-long attack on school choice for poor African-American students, even as he wishes to proclaim himself as the “education president”. His last-minute order to sway Stupak’s group of Democrats holding out on Obamacare only gave us a woefully-crippled healthcare reform law, its terrible roll-out, and rising premiums for many. His 2012 order helped provide a 70%-30% advantage for the president in the November 2012 election, yet we arrive in 2014 without long-term solutions for immigration despite Democrats’ control of Washington from 2009-2011. The White House’s on-going self-repeal and retreat from previous claims about Obamacare (namely, “…if you like your plan, you can keep your plan…”) only signify that this administration is fixated on pushing political agendas Chicago-style more than it is concerned about fixing problems for everyday Americans that are not card-carrying Democrats or their fervent supporters.

Presidents use the veto, the bully pulpit, and their presidential poise to guide laws into being by massaging the process and wooing political enemies into allies. Politicians threaten to circumvent the process through unilateral decisions that abscond accountability. President Obama’s new-found public tone concerning his “pen and his phone” are only an extension of his presidential actions over the past five years, leaving the tone of the State of the Union Address Tuesday as nothing more than political window dressing. If the perspective of the Oval Office continues to be one that seeks to skip past congressional cooperation and even Obama’s own landmark legislation, it is incumbent upon Americans to set our sights on supporting legislators and activists that will restore constitutional balance and order, not allowing even more power to reside simply in a pen and a phone.

Lenny McAllister is a political commentator featured on various local, national and international outlets including PCNC, CNN, and Sun News Network. He is the host of “The McAllister Minute” which appears weekly on “The Bev Smith Show” and the American Urban Radio Network. The Pittsburgh-based pundit is the former host of of Launching Chicago With Lenny McAllister on WVON The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM. He is a former congressional candidate. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.