Tag Archives: Barack Obama

‘With or without’ Congress …

President Obama’s State of the Union speech contained a phrase I hadn’t heard before, and he repeated it maybe three or four times.

“With or without Congress,” he said.

That means he’s going to use whatever executive authority he has as the head of government to enact laws that have been stalled so far in Congress … such as raising the minimum for federal contract workers to $10.10 per hour.

Is it legal? Yes. However, I am now awaiting someone in either house of Congress to come up with a pretext that the president is overstepping his legal authority. Wait for it. It’ll come.

Indeed, some on the right have accused Obama of lawlessness already. They keep mentioning the “i-word,” meaning impeachment based notably on his use of executive authority.

It’s good to remember that the 44th president has issued fewer executive orders than his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, did at a similar point in his presidency. So, he’s not governing by executive fiat.

I’ll have to defer as well — and others might do the same — to the man’s knowledge of constitutional law, which he taught for a time after graduating from Harvard Law School. Oh yes, he also has a pretty good team of constitutional lawyers working in the White House and at the Justice Department who can advise him when he might be stepping over the line.

Barack Obama said again Tuesday night that he’s willing to work with the entire Congress on ways to move legislation forward. Bring those ideas up, debate them and then vote. Didn’t I hear him say that?

Didn’t he also say he’s willing to consider ways to improve the Affordable Care Act, or improve the health-care delivery system, or help even more Americans obtain health insurance? Didn’t he offer Congress a chance to play a constructive role in that effort?

However, if Congress isn’t willing to act on some of these issues, the president will use his authority — which he possesses within the confines of the Constitution — to act.

The next move now belongs to Congress.

SOTU ends with emotions running high

The end of President Obama’s State of the Union speech all but wiped out what he had said earlier.

It was near the conclusion of his 65-minute speech that the president introduced the nation to Army Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg, a grievously wounded Ranger who was nearly killed during his 10th deployment in Afghanistan.

As the columnist Mark Shields noted on PBS immediately after the speech ended, Remsburg drew the “longest standing ovation I’ve ever heard” at a State of the Union speech.

Indeed, Remsburg’s presence reminds us of the extreme hardship the entire nation has endured while fighting the longest war in its history.

SFC Remsburg was wounded when a roadside bomb exploded. He was comatose for months. He has learned to stand and speak again. Remsburg has fought back against impossible odds.

All the other topics the president raised during his speech seemed to fade into the background during the two-minute ovation.

To be honest, it was a thrilling moment to see Remsburg standing between his father and first lady Michelle Obama. And I am pretty sure I saw some moisture in the first lady’s eyes as she joined the nation in applauding this valiant wounded warrior.

I take heart in knowing I wasn’t the only American who was swallowing hard at that moment.

Is Bill Clinton going to run as well in 2016?

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., may be considering a run for the presidency in 2016, which is partly why he appeared today on “Meet the Press.”

As a potential GOP candidate, therefore, the conversation turned to — who else? — Hillary Rodham Clinton, a possible (if not probable) Democratic candidate for president.

Paul then dropped this little nugget: If the former secretary of state runs, the impeachment of her husband, the former president, could become an issue.


Interesting, yes?

It’s also a bit of a stretch for those of us who want to judge the former first lady, U.S. senator and chief diplomat on her own merits. Paul sees it differently, which is no surprise. He and those in his party are going to seek every possible advantage they can find — even if they make things up — against the Hillary Juggernaut that could await them in 2016.

Paul said Democrats’ assertion that they are the party that cares about women doesn’t hold true, given President Clinton’s dalliance with a young female intern that led to his impeachment and Senate trial.

“Meet the Press” host David Gregory asked: “Is it something that Hillary Clinton should be judged on if she were a candidate in 2016?” Paul’s response: “Yeah – no, I’m not saying that. This is with regard to the Clintons, and sometimes it’s hard to separate one from the other. But I would say that, with regard to his place in history, that it certainly is a discussion.”

OK, he said “no” after he said “yeah,” meaning that it is an issue.

I would beg to differ. Hillary Clinton has made her mark on U.S. history, first as a U.S. senator from New York who distinguished herself in the eight years she served in that body. Then came her unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2008 in which she gave eventual nominee Barack Obama all he could handle. Then she got the call to become secretary of state in the Obama administration, and she distinguished herself in that service.

She’s a player and a big hitter all on her own.

Whatever her husband did to warrant impeachment should have no little if any bearing on a possible second run for the presidency. She’ll have her own record to defend.

However, as NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd noted, her task will be to run as “Hillary” not as a “Clinton.” I’m guessing Hillary is going figure it out.

How should POTUS describe SOTU?

The state of our Union is … getting stronger.

There. I’m seeking to put words into President Obama’s mouth in advance of his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.


It’s not back all the way just yet, but it’s surely getting there.

That’s how the president ought to frame his speech, in my ever-so-humble view. Yes, even out here in Flyover Country things are looking up — no matter how much gloom and doom the Republicans who run everything around here try to make it.

Joblessness is down, employment is up. The deficit is down. Americans are signing on daily with affordable health insurance. Energy production is up, as is development of alternative energy resources. The stock market is up — the recent huge selloff at the end of the week notwithstanding.

The outlook at home is getting better. I hope the president doesn’t seek to continue the blame game regarding what he inherited on Jan. 20, 2009. That’s history. He owns this economy now, but the progress we’ve seen in the past five years is unmistakable and it needs to be hailed.

No, we haven’t reached the state of perfection. It’s always a never-to-be-achieved goal.

Huge challenges remain overseas. We’re still fighting that war against terrorists. I’m guessing that conflict never will end completely. As long as terrorists plot against nations such as ours, we’ll need to remain vigilant and ready to strike. My sense is that we’re remaining on high alert.

Yes, trouble spots remain: Syria, Egypt, North Korea and Iran come to mind. When have those places not given presidents heartburn for the past three or four decades? I’d say, well, never. Is there work to be done? Certainly. We need an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord; we need progress on ending Iran’s potential nuclear weapons development program; we need to find paths to peace all over the globe. It never ends. It won’t end when Barack Obama leaves office, nor will it end when his successor leaves at the end of his — or her — time in the White House.

I was one of those who felt a sense of unease about the future of our country. I’m feeling better about it today than I was, say, a half-dozen years ago.

Does the 44th president deserve all the credit for our recovery? No. He can claim some of it, pass around some kudos to others in government who’ve worked with him, while extending an olive branch to the folks on the other side.

Our Union is regaining its health, Mr. President. Say it like you mean it.

Smoking a disqualifier for presidential candidates

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is nothing if not candid.

He told Jay Leno this week that he likes smoking cigarettes too much to be president of the United States. He won’t quit the nasty habit. So there, he said. He ain’t going to run for president.


I’m glad that smoking is now seen as a deal-breaker for anyone who wants to run for the highest office in the land. Think of it. The president has a Presidential Council on Fitness; he names a director to run the organization. Smoking is a key component in the message the office delivers, which is to say that children shouldn’t smoke, because the habit can kill you.

The current president used to smoke but has quit — he says. No one has yet confirmed it independently, at least I’m not aware of any confirmation. Even so, no one ever would see Barack Obama lighting up.

It didn’t used to be this way. President Franklin Roosevelt famously smoked cigarettes with that cigarette holder cocked in that famously “jaunty” angle. President John Kennedy was known to light up a stogie in the Oval Office while pondering the issues of the day. President Richard Nixon didn’t smoke, but first lady Pat Nixon did — although no one ever saw her in public; same thing was said of Jackie Kennedy, come to think of it.

President Bill Clinton? Hmmm. How do we handle this one? I guess he smoked cigars, but as we learned to our national disgrace, he did other things with them that didn’t require them to be lit.

Speaker Boehner declaration takes one national politician out of the hunt for the presidency in 2016. Other issues may derail potential candidates. I’ll give the speaker credit, though, for his forthrightness on a disgusting habit that in this day and time has no place in the Oval Office.

Let’s be self-aware, Dr. Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer was a psychiatrist before he became a political pundit.

As such, he surely had some training in medical school about self-awareness, and how to counsel patients who perhaps lack that important emotional quality.

I was struck, therefore, by Dr. Krauthammer’s own lack of self-awareness as he lambasted President Obama for what he called the president’s “repulsive” lack of respect for those on the other side of any given political debate.


Krauthammer told Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly that the president thinks he’s always right and that his foes are always wrong and that he shows his arrogance regularly when he puts down his adversaries for their so-called “lack of patriotism.”

Isn’t the good doctor listening to the other side? Has he not heard Republicans step way beyond the bounds of decency when they criticize things such as, say, the Affordable Care Act. For that matter, he ought to listen to himself when he levels such criticism at Barack Obama or those allied with the president. All that talk about arrogance and self-assuredness can be directed right back at the individual who makes such a claim in the first place.

I’ve lost count of the number of ACA foes who have proclaimed it to be the “worst legislation” in U.S. history, or those who contend it is the moral equivalent of a terrorist attack on the U.S. health care system. Gosh, I would rate any of the many laws enacted that sanctioned slavery to be quite a bit worse than the ACA.

Does the doctor forget about all the times former Republican U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich proclaimed Democrats to be the “enemy of ‘normal Americans'”? How about the ridiculous assertions that many tea party Republicans have made regarding Obama’s citizenship, allegiance to the country or whether he’s “American” enough to hold the office to which he’s been elected twice?

The other side — Dr. Krauthammer’s side — has plenty of examples of precisely the kind of repulsiveness he lays at Barack Obama’s feet.

Political foes can become friends

These kinds of stories give me hope that all may not be lost in U.S. politics.

Former first lady Barbara Bush says she “loves Bill Clinton.” She might not agree with him politically, but she is truly fond of the 42nd president of the United States, who in 1992 defeated the 41st president — Barbara’s husband, George.


Democrat President Harry Truman detested his successor, Republican Dwight Eisenhower. They reportedly grew closer as the nation mourned the assassination of Ike’s successor, John F. Kennedy.

GOP President Gerald Ford and Democrat Jimmy Carter waged a fierce campaign in 1976. Carter won, but the new president and his immediate predecessor forged a warm friendship that lasted until Ford’s death.

Carter never developed that kind of relationship with Ronald Reagan, who beat him in 1980, nor did Reagan form a bond with Walter Mondale, whom he clobbered four years later in a landslide re-election.

George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton’s friendship seems to be real. Mrs. Bush talks about her husband becoming the father Clinton never had. She says President Clinton visits the Bushes annually. “We don’t talk politics,” Mrs. Bush says.

You hear about these kind of inter-party friendships from time to time. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, had a warm friendship with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. Talk about coming from differing ideologies, parties, lifestyles, cultures … you name it. Yet they were big-time pals.

One of President Barack Obama’s closest friends in the Senate today is Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. You can list all the differences there, too, and wonder how these men — and their wives — have become so close.

Too little of this kind of camaraderie exists today, with partisans on either side viewing the other guy as the enemy, rather than just a political adversary.

Take a lesson, folks? Given the nastiness of the campaign her husband waged against Bill Clinton, there’s reason to believe you can make nice with your foes.

One word of advice, however: Don’t ask the 41st president his feelings about H. Ross Perot, the third man in that 1992 campaign. His feelings for the Texas billionaire aren’t nearly so magnanimous.

Palin cheapens MLK memory with blast at Obama

It strikes me that some commemorations deserve dignity and decorum.

Honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ought to be one of those occasions … isn’t that right former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin?

The former half-term governor and 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, took a swipe today at President Obama ostensibly while honoring the memory of the slain civil-rights icon.


“Mr. President, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all who commit to ending any racial divide, no more playing the race card,” she said in a Facebook post.

She didn’t offer a specific example of how the president was “playing the race card.” Some have suggested that Obama’s remarks in a New Yorker magazine interview provided the grist for Palin’s attack.

Obama told The New Yorker that some Americans just don’t like him merely because he’s black. Umm, I think he’s correct on that one. Denying as much is to ignore the reality that race still does matter in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans.

My larger point, though, is that Dr. King’s memory deserves to be honored only on its merits — and not used as a cheap political weapon by someone who doesn’t deserve the national political attention she continues to get.

What if feds had done nothing in ’09?

Many of my friends on the right — and the far right — have taken great pains to blast the smithereens out of President Obama’s economic policies.

Namely, their target has been the increase in the national debt, which now stands at $17 trillion. What has run up the debt? It’s been that federal stimulus package the Obama administration pushed forward while the nation’s economy was in free fall.

You remember those days, right? The economy was shedding 700,000 jobs a month; banks were failing; the real estate market was collapsing; the stock market was flushing itself down the toilet.

Barack Obama’s response was a costly one. The Federal Reserve Board reduced interest rates to near zero, making it easier for borrowers to pay back loans, while making it tough on lenders who are in the business of making money on what they loan.

My pals on the right and their Republican pals in Congress keep harping on the difficulties the Obama administration has endured trying to restore the economy.

I keep circling back to this question, which Sen. John McCain in 2008 and former Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012 both ignored as they ran for president against Barack Obama: What would have happened had the feds done nothing, had the government not instituted its stimulus package to shore up an economy that was on the verge of collapse?

I’ll add this follow-up: Why do they dismiss the clear evidence that the economy is in recovery at this moment? Is it back completely? Probably not.

* The job losses have stopped and have been replaced by job gains. Yes, the December job growth was disappointing. But we’ve gained back all the jobs lost during the final years of the Bush administration and the first year of the Obama administration.

* The annual budget deficit, which once topped $1.1 trillion has been cut in half — and is declining. Will we balance the budget by the time Obama leaves office? Probably not but it’s trending in the right direction.

* The jobless rate is at 6.7 percent, down from nearly 10 percent. Has it declined because every unemployed American has found work? No. Many of them have quit looking for jobs but the signs are indicating that opportunities are opening up on the job market.

* The stock market is setting records, which ought to please Wall Street investors — not to mention those of us with retirement accounts that depend on a healthy market.

I’m not naïve. I know there are myriad problems out there. The world is a restive place. Conflicts are erupting all over the planet. The United States is involved actively in a war that it is trying to wind down; we’ve already ended our involvement in another war. We’re killing terrorists almost daily, but the dead ones are being replaced almost immediately by recruits dedicated to waging war against the Great Satan. This war on terror won’t end anytime soon, folks.

Economically, though, I am feeling better about my future than I was, oh, about six years ago.

What’s more, I hate to think how I’d view our future if the government had kept its hands off the economic rudder.

Obama has learned: You need to keep tabs on folks

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said it well this morning on “Meet the Press” while commenting on President Obama’s National Security Agency reforms.

He said Obama ran for president as someone “inclined to support civil liberties,” but has learned that “after five years” he has to depend on surveillance techniques to keep Americans safe.


The chairs of the Senate and House intelligence committees understand that as well in backing Obama’s reforms while acknowledging the president has developed a keen appreciation for spying on potential bad guys.

This came from the Republican House chairman, Mike Rogers: “The most important victory was the president standing up and saying, ‘Hey, the program did not have abuses. This wasn’t sinister. It wasn’t a rogue agency. It was legal and proper.’”

And this came from the Democratic Senate chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein: “A lot of the privacy people perhaps don’t understand that we still occupy the role of the Great Satan. New bombs are being devised. New terrorists are emerging, new groups, actually, a new level of viciousness. We need to be prepared. I think we need to do it in a way that respects people’s privacy rights.”

The president has recommended putting NSA efforts to listen to phone conversations under more intensive judicial review.

I’ve noted already that NSA activities don’t get me too worked up. I’ve got not a single thing to hide from those guys. Besides, Obama has said the NSA is listening only to those who it believes are up to no good.

That works for me.

As the former speaker — no shrinking violet when it comes to criticizing the president — has said, Barack Obama has learned to appreciate the need to keep eyes and ears on those who would do us harm.