A legacy of executive abuse

David Harsanyi writes for the Federalist website that President Obama will leave a dubious legacy when he departs the White House early next year.

When I got back from my winter vacation, America was still being run by a two-term president who believes it’s his job to impose his notions of morality, safety, and decency on everyone, often trying to work around the limits the system places on him. This week Barack Obama is going to institute new restrictions on Americans unilaterally — expanding background checks, closing supposed “loopholes,” and tightening the process for law-abiding gun owners — because Congress “won’t act” and also because he believes it’s the right thing to do. Neither of them are compelling reasons to legislate from the White House.

Perhaps no post-World War II president (and maybe none before) has justified his executive overreach by openly contending he was working around the law-making branch of government because it has refused to do what he desired. Whether a court finds his actions constitutional or not, it’s an argument that stands, at the very least, against the spirit American governance. Today, many liberals call this “leadership.”

The most likely result of his new gun push will be that hundreds of thousands of Americans who understandably fear the mission creep of government will end up buying a whole bunch of guns (Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co. stocks rose against the dipping market on Monday). The flow of donations to Second Amendment advocacy groups will almost certainly rise, and gun violence — which has fallen considerably over the past 20 years of gun ownership expansion — will not be addressed.

But more consequentially — and this may be the most destructive legacy of the Obama presidency — is the mainstreaming of the idea that if Congress “fails to act” it’s okay for the president to figure out a way to make law himself. Hillary’s already applauded Obama’s actions because, as she put it, “Congress won’t act; we have to do something.” This idea is repeated perpetually by the Left, in effect arguing that we live in direct democracy run by the president (until a Republican is in office, of course). On immigration, on global warming, on Iran, on whatever crusade liberals are on, the president has a moral obligation to act if Congress doesn’t do what he wants.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...