Thursday, April 5, 2012

Redefining the presidency: bullying counts, facts don't

President Obama may have gone too far with his own rhetoric this week when he took on the Supreme Court. In what seemed like a challenge to the High Court for just the possibility that it might strike down ObamaCare as being unconstitutional, the President intoned, “Ultimately I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” He added, “I am confident that this will be upheld because it should be upheld.”

In response, a three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals told the Department of Justice that it has until today to explain whether the Obama administration actually believes the Court has the right to strike down a federal law. In a stipulation that sort of reminds you of high school English class, one judge insisted the paper must be "three pages, single space."

The high school feel of this kind of fits considering that Obama's claim that the Supreme Court has never overturned a federal law is as inaccurate as how an unprepared high school student might answer the same question on a basic history test. The correct answer is that the Supreme Court has overturned more than 150 federal laws. In fact that's the Court's job - to determine the constitutionality of legislation that comes up for such review.

Obama's assertion that ObamaCare was passed by a strong majority is also wrong. It passed the House with a 219-212 vote, including 34 Democrats who voted against it. That's hardly a sweeping victory.

The President then tried to imply the Supreme Court would be guilty of judicial activism should it overturn ObamaCare when he said, "And I‘d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law."

Obama's reference to "unelected officials" is interesting since he himself has appointed many unelected people to positions of power in his own administration - whether it be panels to determine if the elderly's treatment under Medicare is cost-effective, or the number of czars he has hand-picked. It's almost shocking that this president would even refer to any unelected official in a way that casts doubt on their authority considering he has given tremendous authority to just that type of person. Then again, nothing about this man is shocking except for the fact there are still people who support him.

But reminding the Supreme Court justices that they are unelected and, therefore, somehow not worthy of sound decision making, is disrespectful of the High Court. It also confuses judicial activism with the Court's rightful task of judicial review. A self-proclaimed homosexual federal judge overturning more than five million votes to uphold traditional marriage in California - after the state Supreme Court ruled to uphold it - smacks more of judicial activism based on personal views than it demonstrates judicial review. The U.S. Supreme Court's considering ObamaCare's constitutionality is exactly what it should be doing: judicial review - and it is certainly not unprecedented.

But rather than admit he made a factual mistake with his "unprecedented" comment and moving on, Obama is hoping we'll believe White House press secretary Jay Carney's claim that we all just misunderstood what Obama meant by that. According to Carney, Obama was merely referring to the precedent set for cases on the commerce clause, not Supreme Court cases in general. Please. Even the overturn of commerce clause cases is not unprecedented.

Obama meant exactly what he said. He just didn't count on the backlash and so now must back pedal. Why else would he say what he said other than to try to exert pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to see things his way?

Judging by the challenges he has thrown down in so many areas - like states' rights (e.g., suing Arizona for trying to obey federal immigration law), oil and coal companies (e.g., when he promised his cap & trade initiatives would, by design, bankrupt the coal industry), the Catholic church (e.g., the HHS mandate on contraception coverage), the Defense of Marriage Act (e.g., claiming the DoJ would no longer defend it), women and babies (has defunded the Texas Women's Health Program because it blocks abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood; supports letting babies who survive abortions to be denied life-saving treatment), etc., - it's probably not a big surprise that Obama is now turning his ire on the Supreme Court. It's just one more step toward his attempt to re-frame the presidency as nothing more than a personal bully pulpit.

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  1. It's totally precedented:

    While the overall point is true, there are other statements that are less factual or more ambiguous.

    The number of "czars" Obama has is precedented; depending on how you count it (it's a pretty loose term), Bush had 33-35, and Obama has 32-38: and

    IPAP also does not determine if elderly qualify for healthcare, nor does MedPAC:

    Other than those two points, nice post!

  2. The panel appointed for ObamaCare doesn't determine if the elderly are qualified for Medicare coverage per se, but they are charged with determining if a treatment covered under Medicare is "cost-effective" and so yes, they have the power to simply say something is not cost-effective and can deny the elderly person that way. As for czars yes Bush had a lot too but Obama's use of czars combined with executive orders combined with his threats, gives his whole Administration an air of a dictatorship which I find very unsettling. By the way, no offense, but wikipedia is an editable, and therefore, not the most reliable source of info in general, so we still need to verify some of the things on it, but you are right about the stats in this case. Just for future reference, be mindful of that site:-) Have a great day.

  3. Hi FactChecker - Thanks very much for your comments. You're right that President Bush also appointed many czars - I was thinking along the lines that it seems unprecedented the total number of unelected people that Obama has appointed across the board, not just czars, but yes, I can see how that was misworded. Thanks for bringing it to my awareness - accuracy is very important (I amended the post accordingly). Thank you Ms. Greer for your comments as well. I covered the Medicare issue a little more in-depth in my most recent column last weekend where I do state the Panel doesn't have the authority to ration care, but that cost-cutting can lead to rationing as a result - that was the intended reference. Anyway, thank you again for your comments and honest feedback - I appreciate it. Best wishes to both of you - thanks for reading my blog!

  4. Thanks for the responses! I understand Wiki isn't the most reliable source, although it was one of the few I could find that displayed Obama's number of czars being more than Bush's. I'm not able to find anything that more specifically looks at the number presidentially-appointed people (mostly because it's fairly common), but if anyone has anything about that, I'd most definitely like to see it!

    Another point about IPAP - it can only reduce payments to providers starting in 2020 (and is one of the things that I don't like in the PPACA). It also can't actually do anything unless Congress itself fails to take action to reduce Medicare spending (which, given, is a possibility). On top of that, they have a limit on how much they can reduce (something like 1.5%, if memory serves correctly). I guess I'm not worried about IPAP (yet); I'm more concerned with the more significant items like the individual mandate, but we'll see how that provision fares in June.

    On a personal level, I'm not sure what to do about healthcare spending in America. Since most of it is related to chronic conditions that are largely associated with cultural issues (like obesity), I can't think of anything any form of government can do to help. The PPACA, if it works as planned, could potentially decrease spending, but it doesn't address the cultural problems that are causing the increase in healthcare costs.