James Oliphant writes today in the National Journal that “Obama’s threat of executive action won’t help the economy” because “Congress still calls the shots on the big issues.” This is so undeniably true that one wonders why there is a need to point this out. The problem is not, and has never been, what President Barack Obama can and will do, but what Congress refuses to do.
But Oliphant, like so many other journalists, focuses his attention on Obama instead, writing that,
The president recently has become fond of saying he has a “pen and a phone.” And while it’s tempting to snarkily suggest that all he needs now is a laptop and a coffee mug to put him on the same level as every intern in America, there is a promise–or a threat–behind those words.
The pen can sign executive orders, he points out, and the phone, rally support “to bring in outside groups from around the country to push Congress to do more” (I think Oliphant should have made this, “do something – anything” but I am a fan of the precise).
All Oliphant really says about Congress is that it “remains deadlocked” but “deadlocked” isn’t really a word that describes what has happened in Congress, where Republicans have not only refused to act but have attempted to nullify the Obama presidency. Nor does Oliphant happen to mention that the reason for this “deadlock” is specifically the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which spends all its time (when it is doing anything at all) attempting to roll back a national law, tested in the Supreme Court, as though it is some bill to be debated.
Yes, the White House faces a challenge. It has faced this challenge since those Republicans took their places in the House in 2010. And yes, Oliphant is correct in saying that “there are real limits to what this president can do, especially on the economy: legislative ones, legal ones, pragmatic ones. It means that the administration has to talk big while walking small or risk being viewed as ineffectual.”
It might be viewed that way – by the ignorant – but why aren’t we talking instead about the perception Americans have of Congress, one that is actually accurate, by the way? The story isn’t that Obama’s actions can only “make a difference at the margins” but why those actions are necessary at all. And this is a common failing of the mainstream media; it does not want to talk about what the Republicans have done wrong since 2010, and it is a lot. Surely there is ink somewhere that can be used to talk about this?
Not on National Journal, apparently, and not by Mr. Oliphant, whose recent titles include “Obama’s NSA Proposals Fall Far Short of Real Change” and “Obama Watches While Republicans Steal his Economic Story” and “If you want Obama to Rein in the NSA, You’re About to be Disappointed.” Keep in mind, the National Journal is aimed at Washington insiders, and maybe this is the reason and maybe it isn’t, but members of Congress aren’t going to want to read about how bad and/or inffectual they are. But I am not trying to pick on the National Journal; you see the same imbalance – shall we call it partiality? – everywhere in the mainstream media, print, web, and television alike.
Olphant concludes that “Yes, the president has a pen – and it’s a nice one. But there remains the question of how much ink there’s really left in it.” But that’s not really the question at all, is it? The question is, and shall remain, why the Republicans are so determined that, if they are not allowed to be in charge of this country, nobody shall be, no matter how much it hurts said country.
Yes, Oliphant is right that this is a question of power, but a more important question is this: since when was it ever the intention of the U.S. Constitution that one branch should be able to not balance another, but to nullify it? To use a refusal to participate in government as a means of re-doing the past election?
The real question then, is, why isn’t the mainstream media reporting on Congress, rather than focusing on a president who, through no fault of his own, is being labeled a Marxist, a terrorist sympathizer, a Muslim, a Nazi, a demon, and “not one of us” because he had the audacity, as a black man, to run for the highest office in a land still full of racists.
There are many questions demanding an answer as we move into 2014. Symptoms (i.e. the potency of Obama’s pen) of a Republican attempt to overturn the very structure of this country as ordained by the U.S. Constitution should be far less of a story than the Republican action/inaction that has created those symptoms.
Simple cause and effect seem to go out the window where President Barack Hussein Obama is concerned, and that is a real shame. Sure, maybe Obama can only treat the symptoms of the disease that is today’s Republicanism, but then shouldn’t we be talking about the disease, and why it is so deadly dangerous and what we can do, as a country, to prevent this disease from striking again?
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.