I’ll leave it to objective historians to determine whether the Democrats, during the Obama years, were any more repressive and heavy-handed than prior Republican administrations. Instead, this article focuses on five regrettable instances in which the Democrats shot themselves in their self-righteous left foot.
The nuclear option (The Senate Filibuster)
On November 21, 2013, the Democratic-controlled Senate led by then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) passed the “nuclear option” on a 52-48 vote. With all Republicans and a few Democrats voting against the sweeping change, a simple majority of the Senate amended the long-standing genial rule necessitating a supermajority vote to end a filibuster. President Obama championed the uncompromising action.
In a prophetic warning, then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) pleaded: “I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you’ll regret this. And you may regret it sooner than you think.” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), a one-year rookie, cast her newbie vote in favor of the double-edged rule change.
To be or not be a treaty (Thwarting the Founding Fathers)
Surprisingly, President Obama never signed the divisive Iran nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to the U.S State Department under Obama, the “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (as the “agreement” is euphemistically entitled) required no signature. His Secretary of State John Kerry, formerly a U.S. Senator (D-Mass), postured the JCPOA was not even a “legally, binding agreement” and, as such, the “non-agreement” didn’t require Article II Senate ratification.
The immoral moral of that fish story seems to be that if U.S. Senate’s approval of an international agreement is beyond your lame duck reach, then call the treaty-duck by another name.
ObamaCare: the un-affable healthcare act
Forget the pros and cons of ObamaCare. This isn’t about the merits, but the process. The convoluted ObamaCare law was a colossal change in the federal regulatory structure of healthcare beyond anything since the Social Security Amendments of 1965 created Medicaid and Medicare. ObamaCare was achieved by devious parliamentary procedures, disputed estimates, disdain for the U.S. Constitution, and disregard of States’ rights.
To say it was crammed down the throat of an incensed Republican minority would be charitable.
No ransom for hostages – at least publicly.
On June 24, 2015, from the revered Roosevelt Room in the White House, President Obama reiterated the sagacious U.S. hostage policy: “I am reaffirming that the United States government will not make concessions, such as paying ransom, to terrorist groups holding American hostages. … [P]aying ransom to terrorists risks endangering more Americans and funding the very terrorism that we’re trying to stop.”
The disturbing news broke in alarming pieces – between August 3 and September 7, 2016 – that the Obama Administration had transferred the equivalent of $1.7 billion USD in hard foreign currency to Iran. The cash was stacked on pallets and delivered in unmarked cargo planes. Of those flights – on January 17 & 22 and February 5 – the first is particularly significant as the U.S. released the funds only minutes after confirming the U.S. hostages had departed from Iran. After the news of the cash payments subsequently leaked, the Obama Administration straight-faced contended the timing of the first payment of a legal settlement and the release of U.S. hostages was a mere coincidence.
If Democrats desired a moral platform to demand transparency and honesty from a President, they should have required it from Obama.
The President who would be king
On several occasions, President Obama conceded (or lamented) he was not a king. “I am President. I am not king. I can’t do these things just by myself. We have a system of government that requires the Congress to work with the Executive Branch to make it happen.”
As his second term waned, Obama’s principled position deteriorated, and he launched an unprecedented and unconstitutional crusade of royal usurpation by regulation, executive order, and guidance letters.
Examples litter the country and court system, with immigration policy being a prominent example. The American Center for Law and Justice declared the President’s 2014 executive action on immigration “an unconstitutional power grab of historic proportions.” Echoing the words of a younger Obama, they observed the needed immigration reform “must be done lawfully and with the participation of Congress.” The judicial branch enjoined the President’s usurpation of legislative power in what would have granted 5 million illegal aliens a legal status not authorized by Congress.
President Obama set a deleterious precedent for future Presidents frustrated with those enervating separation of powers provisions in the U.S. Constitution.
Conclusion, hope & prayer
There are Republicans who will argue, given the transgressions of the Obama Administration, that the Democrats should reap what they sowed. But turnabout is hardly fair play and, instead, fosters a unproductive vicious cycle. My hope is President Trump will respect the U.S. Constitution, the separation of powers, and the limits of his temporary Presidential office. And then, when the keys to the White House pass to another political party, I pray they do the same.
One of the ugliest biases in this country lies in believing your political party has a monopoly on righteousness, and then rationalizing how the end justifies the means.
» Ben Williams the author, is a Jackson attorney. Email him at MBWJ@aol.com. Ford Williams, the artist, is a 2016 graduate of Jackson Academy. Ford will attend the Savannah College of Art & Design in the fall of 2016.
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