Loose Canons

Steamroller SOTU

Republicans again are setting themselves up.

By 1.27.14

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If you’re feeling a bit sick to your stomach, it’s probably not due to global warming or the flu. Tomorrow night Congress will hold its annual pep rally for President Obama’s agenda called the State of the Union address. It will be long, tedious, and over-filled with applause lines designed to get Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Chris Matthews to stand up and cheer. But it’s one of those rare Obama speeches that we need to listen to, not just hear. Because we are about to be steamrolled.

This year’s event will be worse than usual, almost certainly not featuring fun counterpoints such as Cong. Joe Wilson’s “you lie” shout or Justice Alito mouthing “not true” at Obama when he makes his rhetorical points. The only things we can be certain of won’t amuse, just abuse.

White House senior political adviser Dan Pfeiffer has set the stage for the speech in a three-page memo he reportedly wrote on why 2013 was such a disaster for Obama. Pfeiffer’s memo — which we’ll get to in a minute — tells us what we’ll hear tomorrow night, perhaps even some of the exact words. The other half of the speech will sound lot like the very long and very strange article about Obama by David Remnick in the New Yorker magazinelast week.

How much of Remnick’s piece is his sophomoric adulation of Obama and how much is Obama’s self-adulation is difficult to tell, but several things leap from its pages.

First is the recitation of Obama’s “accomplishments,” including “…the economic rescue, the forty-four months of job growth, a reduction in carbon emissions, a spike in clean-energy technology…” But those exist only in Obama’s and Remnick’s minds. The “economic rescue” didn’t fix what was ailing with the economy. The economy — in terms of growth, jobs, and prosperity — is in far worse shape than it was five years ago. There haven’t been forty-four months of job growth: there’s been more than forty-four months of people leaving the work force and deflating the unemployment figures artificially. There are about 92 million potentially-working Americans without jobs, the lowest rate of job market participation in 35 years.

The reduction of carbon emissions is caused by the same thing that has reduced illegal immigration. Carbon emissions are down, but only because our economy is so flat. The things that cause carbon emissions are jobs — such driving cars and trucks, working in manufacturing plants and electric power production plants — which aren’t available nearly as much as they would be in a thriving economy.

There has been a spike in clean-energy technology but only because the government is interfering in the market — with subsidies such as those for the purchase of electric cars including the indescribably bad Chevy Volt — to make it appear that there is a demand for these technologies when there isn’t. (And did anyone mention the $10.5 billion the government lost on bailing out the Volt’s maker, GM?) It’s a grand work of fiction, but it’s fiction nevertheless.

It’s nothing short of delusional for Obama to be praising himself for things he hasn’t done and things he has done that have distorted and depressed the American economy. But there’s worse in Remnick’s piece. Which brings us to the SOTU.

Remnick tells us that a “spirit of national reconciliation” was “an elemental component of [Obama’s] self-conception.” There’s not a “national reconciliation” bone in Obama’s body. His major accomplishment has been to polarize the country more than it has been in memory. But tomorrow night Obama will admit to his sorrow that Republicans haven’t joined him in unifying the nation (by caving in more to his agenda).

Another issue we’ll hear about tomorrow night is income inequality, which — thanks to Pfeiffer — we’ll only hear about in terms of Obama’s desire to give more people “opportunity,” which has a very limited and precise meaning: more government programs, money poured out to create a false sense of opportunity that continues only as long as government subsidizes it.

Pfeiffer’s memo recites Obama’s belief that the Republicans won’t win the next several presidential elections unless they attract non-white voters, especially Hispanics and Asians. The House Republican leadership has apparently reached the same conclusion and elected to cave in on illegal immigration. Speaker Boehner, Paul Ryan, and the rest of Boehner’s team are going to unveil a compromise on immigration in the Republican retreat meeting next weekend, which they aim to turn into a bill that passes the House by summer. Boehner’s position isn’t the end point. Conservatives are reportedly preparing the strongest opposition to anything Boehner’s done since he became speaker. It’s conceivable — and much to be hoped for — that Boehner will be booted from the speakership over this.

If Boehner overcomes conservative opposition and gets a bill passed, a House-Senate conference will produce an amnesty bill that Obama will gladly sign. There is no doubt of the outcome. That would be a clean win for Obama and guarantee the next few presidents won’t be Republicans by probably assuring the illegals are quickly made citizens and will be faithful Democrat voters for the next generation. If conservatives stop Boehner, Obama will be able to blame Republicans for the outcome. This sets up Obama’s SOTU pitch perfectly. He will tell the Republicans to either compromise with him on immigration — that is, surrender on the issue of amnesty — or face the consequences, which he will say means political extinction.

Most importantly, Obama will promise to act by executive order on immigration — and the other main items on his agenda — if Republicans block any of them. This is the most important thing we’ll hear tomorrow night.

Obama apparently admires Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro so much that he wants to follow his example and rule by decree. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has said that illegal aliens have “earned” the right to become citizens. That opens the floodgates to illegals as it has never been opened before. Look for more executive orders making it harder to deport illegals no matter where they’ve come from or when.

Pfeiffer’s memo — and the SOTU — are going to match pretty much down the line. The most important line — which Obama may recite word for word — is “I’m the president of the United States, not the prime minister.” Presidents have executive authority denied prime ministers under the parliamentary system. Obama believes — and may be right — that Republicans are so beaten down that they have no power left to stop him from issuing executive orders even when legislation is required under the Constitution.

Bet that foreign policy will be left to fiction and footnotes. Obama will praise himself and John Kerry for working so hard to bring peace to Israel, the Palestinians, and Syria where they have failed seriatim. He’ll get applause for his aspirations, not accomplishments, with China, North Korea, and the Iranian nuclear program. He wants to be graded on his intentions, not his accomplishments, because he has many of the former and none of the latter, but Obama takes his fictions seriously.

Obama will praise his “Presidential Civil Liberties Oversight Board” report and call upon Congress to implement his “fixes” to the NSA’s data collection programs. His — and his PCLOB’s — recommendations would harm our ability to gather intelligence by imposing valueless judicial and bureaucratic hurdles before action. He will praise the incomprehensible declaration by the Republican National Committee that the metadata program is unconstitutional and should be ended. The Republican Establishment apparently knows and cares as little about intelligence gathering as Obama does.

Obama’s agenda hasn’t changed much. He’ll brag about the successes of Obamacare (which exist in his mind and nowhere else). He still wants more gun control, more action to reduce global warming (never mind the fact that it if it existed at all, it ended fifteen years ago), and more short-lived peace in the Middle East created by us and our allies surrendering our national security interests to our adversaries.

Obama will return to his campaign theme of “we can’t wait,” throwing in the “I’m president, not prime minister” line for emphasis. John Podesta, another senior White House aide apparently brought in to bail Obama out from the failures of 2013, has said the SOTU is like a contract with America. It will, in his stated view, discipline the White House and serve as an operating manual for the year ahead.

That operating manual should be the sole focus of next weekend’s Republican retreats, to the exclusion of Boehner’s immigration plan. House Republicans can either do their constitutional job of de-authorizing and de-funding the programs Obama wants, or they can be crushed by the steamroller he’s driving. While Boehner is speaker, the latter result will be reached consistently.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. You can follow him on Twitter @jedbabbin.