Obama’s SOTU Message? “I’m Going Nuclear”

Obama has been quoted as saying that he intends to “bypass Congress.” As Tad Cronn summarized,

In case you missed it, Obama this week declared to his Cabinet that if Congress doesn’t do what he wants it to do, he will simply use executive orders to create and enforce any law he chooses.

We have yet to see where this is going, precisely. So it will be important to listen closely to tonight’s State Of The Union message because there is reason to believe that this might be something like Palpatine unveiling himself.

Perhaps it won’t be that dramatic. But the Wall Street Journal reports that Obama will be explaining and promising how he will take “unilateral” action.

Mr. Obama will emphasize his intention to use unilateral presidential authority—bypassing Congress when necessary—to an extent not seen in his previous State of the Union speeches, White House officials said.


Mr. Obama will stress that he intends to take unilateral action on a host of other issues: infrastructure development, job training, climate change and education. Administration officials hinted broadly at the assertive new direction Sunday.

“We need to show the American people that we can get something done,” Dan Pfeiffer, a senior White House adviser, told CNN as part of a round of interviews previewing the speech.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Obama has no plan to do anything overtly illegal or unconstitutional beyond what is already taken for granted in the United States. Then what is it that Obama will “show the American people”? The way he speaks of his own authority, and the way others speak of him, implies that the Constitution mandates the government take action of some kind every year. According to this fictional version of the Constitution, Congress gets an opportunity to take action first. If they fail to take action, then the authority to make laws falls upon the President by default. He can unilaterally enact new laws—or if not really “laws” due to some Constitutional quibble, then he can issue “orders” or “make policies.”

As we all know, hopefully, that is not actually what the Constitution says.

But what is going on that the President keeps talking that way? Everyone seems to assume that the President has vast powers, through his executive orders and agencies, that are there to take action whenever Congress won’t “do the right thing.”  But then why have Congress at all? When Congress refuses to act it is because they represent people around the country who don’t want them to act. Why should a minority get to overrule the majority? To have a second term President who is increasingly unpopular force government action on the country against the will of the democratically-elected legislature is not Republican government.

It seems to me that the media is training people to think of Congress as a nuisance and to see the President as the one-person-legislator who can save the country.