An imperial president | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

An imperial president

Posted: January 20, 2013 - 6:03pm

One definition of “imperial” on dictionary.com is, “of the nature or rank of an emperor or supreme ruler.”

At his news conference Monday, a petulant, threatening and confrontational President Obama spoke like an emperor or supreme ruler. All that was missing was a scepter, a crown and a robe trimmed in ermine.

This president exceeds even Bill Clinton in his ability to evade, prevaricate and dissemble. I didn’t think that possible.

Not only did he supply long answers to relatively easy questions, but much of what he said bore no relation to reality.

He spoke of having had the debate over the economy during the 2012 campaign and boasted, “...the American people agreed with me.” By the way, can we now retire the phrase “the American people”? Too many politicians overuse it, including Speaker John Boehner. Forty-seven percent of voters supported Mitt Romney and other Republicans in the last election. Ninety-four million people eligible to vote didn’t vote. Can Obama really claim “the American people” agreed with him? The president won the election, but he has yet to win the debate over smaller vs. larger government, and more vs. less spending.

The question Major Garrett of CBS News posed to the president on raising the debt ceiling in tandem with spending cuts exposed his hypocrisy and that of many congressional Democrats: “You yourself, as a member of the Senate, voted against a debt ceiling increase. And in previous aspects of American history, President Reagan in 1985, President George Herbert Walker Bush in 1990, President Clinton in 1997, all signed deficit-reduction deals that were contingent upon or in the context of raising the debt ceiling. You yourself, four times have done that. Three times, those were related to deficit reduction or budget maneuvers. What Chuck (NBC’s Chuck Todd) and I and, I think, many people are curious about is this new adamant desire on your part not to negotiate when that seems to conflict with the entire history of the modern era of American presidents on the debt ceiling and your own history on the debt ceiling. And doesn’t that suggest that we are going to go into a default situation, because no one is talking to each other about how to resolve this?”

The president dissembled, talking again (he repeated this at least three times by my count) about how Congress had authorized all the spending and how we must now “pay our bills.” But as Garrett noted, the president had a different view of the debt ceiling when he was an Illinois senator and voted against raising it. In 2006, he said, “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure.” Except when he’s the leader, then it’s someone else’s failure.

In 2003, during another debate over raising the debt ceiling, Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT, said, “The federal debt is like the family credit card. Sooner or later you have to pay down the debts that you have already incurred. If you don’t, your credit rating will suffer. The way the government raises the debt limit is also like a family who just keeps calling the bank every time they hit the credit limit and asks the bank over and over again for an increase in their credit limit without regard to anything else. Rather than pay down their debt, they just keep on asking for a higher debt limit.”

Many other Senate Democrats, including Senators Harry Reid, D-NV, and John Kerry, D-MA, shared Baucus’ concerns, but that was during the George W. Bush administration.

The president says he will reduce debt with a “balanced approach,” by which he means offsetting higher taxes on the wealthy with spending cuts, which will never materialize. It won’t work. Whatever tax revenue government manages to save, Congress will always find a way to spend it.

The president has submitted a budget to Congress for each fiscal year he’s been in office, not always on time, in violation of the law, and never without spurring contentious debate in Congress. That’s a staggering repudiation of his leadership.

President Obama will not negotiate about raising the debt ceiling? Not surprising. Imperial leaders don’t negotiate.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tmseditors@tribune.com.