This week, the Wall Street Journal published a poll that, some have said, marked the end of the Obama administration.
According to this poll:
- 54% of respondents think that Obama “cannot lead and get the job done”
- 63% believe the nation is “Off on the wrong track”
- 53% disapprove of the job Obama is doing as president
- 54% disapprove of how Obama is handling the economy
Given these numbers, it is impossible to be optimistic that – if it were possible for him to run again – Obama could win a third term, even should he want one, which he may not. However, I would argue that his presidency illustrates that it is better for the country that he, or any president, be allowed to run for third terms, or for as many terms as he or she would like.
I would no more support Obama’s third presidential campaign than I supported his first and second. This is not an Obama endorsement. But, personally, I am not a fan of the twenty-second Amendment. In fact, I am offended by it. I think it is un-American. If by some miracle there was a president in office that I believed was a cross between Calvin Coolidge and Sarah Palin, and he or she wanted to continue serving, he or she should be allowed to run, and I should be allowed to support her or him. Why should I be forced to vote for some candidate I think is inferior?
But the greater problem with presidential term-limits, besides the limitations it places upon me as a citizen, is that a second term president is not accountable to the voters.
Presidents can, for example, reward indicted fugitives with pardons, if that fugitive has donated a sufficient amount to the President’s party, on the last day of his office, as President Clinton did when he pardoned Marc Rich.
In his second term, a president can also reveal the lies of his first term. Obama did just that with his famous “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period.” remark. Obama knew fully that this was not so, but also knew that if he could pretend that it was so until he got re-elected, there would be little anyone could do about it.
More recently, the Obama administration shared its contempt for the American voter by pretending subpoenaed emails from Lois Lerner and several others were accidentally destroyed, a technical impossibility for a number of reasons. Not a smidgen of corruption there, folks.
Also, we were similarly thrilled to learn that the “ringmaster of the Benghazi attacks” was captured after two years, until we realized that this ringmaster could have been captured at any time over the past two years, judging by the number of interviews he had given to American journalists. That’s a bit frustrating, but again, what can we do about it?
Presidents can also behave imperially in a second term as, again, there is no consequence to this behavior. In the first State of the Union speech after being re-elected, Obama spoke frankly, “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will . . . I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take.”
Although other presidents have used executive orders, no one has used them to affect the sort of societal change Obama wants — at least not since FDR. While most executive orders historically have dealt with relatively minor issues (except those that focused on matters of war powers and national security), in the Obama administration they have been, to paraphrase Biden, BFDs.
On immigration, for example, Obama threatens that if Congress does not act in a such a way that meets his approval by July 31st, 2014, he will use an executive order to act on his own, which may mean halting all deportations, effectively making citizens the 11 to 20 million aliens living in the United States illegally.
Days ago, Obama issued an executive order capping student loan payments to 10% of the debtor’s monthly income, potentially lowering the amount a debtor has to repay by hundreds a month, but not lowering the total amount he or she must repay (in fact, increasing it, if one factors in interest), and adding billions to an already $18.2 trillion dollar national debt.
Obama’s imperialism is not limited to executive orders, however. He also uses his executive power to direct the Department of Justice not to enforce or selectively enforce certain laws, particularly laws related to immigration and civil rights, and to direct the EPA to further regulate “greenhouse gas emissions,” which the Chamber of Commerce argues will cost the taxpayer $50 billion a year, as well as hundreds of thousands of jobs. It isn’t clear if the Chamber’s projections are absolutely correct, but it is clear that the EPA rules will be so expensive, cost so many jobs, and accomplish little — except to dramatically increase federal powers — that I doubt Obama would have pushed for them if he had to face the voters again in 2016.
And what greater act of imperialism, of disdain for the desires of the American people, could there be than to exchange an American deserter and possible traitor for five Taliban leaders, all of whom considered high risk by the CIA and at least one believed responsible for thousands of deaths? Does anyone doubt that this will likely endanger more Americans in the future?
It is my contention that if Obama was at all concerned with the prospect of re-election, he would be forced to be less disdainful of the will of the American people. Perhaps not to the degree we would hope, but certainly less so than he is today.
Without the prospect of being able to restrain the President by waging a campaign against him, some of the President’s critics are pondering if he can be impeached. He could be, and in my opinion deserves to be, but as a practical matter, it is senseless. By the time the impeachment process resolved itself, Obama will already be out of office, living in a mansion with the carbon footprint of a small city — all paid for with the fortune he will be earning from books and speeches railing against the 1% and global warming.
Obama may be tempered somewhat by his desire to be succeeded by someone like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, or Elizabeth Warren. But it remains to be seen if this is much of a priority for him.
Marie Stroughter raised the issue with Dr. Tom Coburn, a term-limit advocate and Oklahoma senator, when he was a guest on the AACONS radio show, in 2013. She asked him, basically, if voters should be concerned whether a politician in his or her final term still felt accountable to them. He answered, “Well, who am I really accountable to? I’m not ever running for election again, so I have four years. I’ll never face the voters of Oklahoma again. What I accountable to is the oath that I took to withhold the constitution.”
In his book, The Debt Bomb, Coburn adds, “Careerism — the philosophy of governing to win the next election above all else — is the root of almost all that ails Washington. Both parties today are putting their short-term political interests ahead of the country. Both present their positions as tough and principled to their respective partisans, but what we often see is posturing and false purity.”
Therefore, according to the doctor, if a politician did not want to turn pro, so to speak, he or she would focus less on the next election, and more on the national good.
I cannot agree. When the voters lose their ability to tell a politician, “I will vote for you” or “I will not for vote for you,” or that there will be consequences to your career as a politician for the actions you take in representing us, what, then do the voters have? This is the “increased flexibility” President Obama promised President Medvedev he would have once he won his last campaign and entered into his final term in office.