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.
The War Between the Amendments
The horrific Newtown, Conn., mass shooting has unleashed a frenzy to pass new gun-control legislation. But the war over restricting firearms is not just between liberals and conservatives; it also pits the first two amendments to the U.S. Constitution against each other.
Apparently, in the sequential thinking of James Madison and the Founding Fathers, the right to free expression and the guarantee to own arms were the two most important personal liberties. But now these two cherished rights seem to be at odds with each other and have caused bitter exchanges between interpreters of the Constitution.
Many liberals believe there is no need to own semi-automatic assault rifles, magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, or even semi-automatic handguns. They argue that hunters and sportsmen don’t need such rapid-firing guns to kill their game — and that slower-firing revolvers and pump- or bolt-action rifles are sufficient for home protection.
Implicit to the liberal argument for tighter gun control is the belief that the ability to rapidly fire off lots of bullets either empowers — or indeed encourages — mass murderers to butcher the innocent.
Most conservatives offer rebuttals to all those points. Criminals will always break almost any law they choose. Connecticut, for example, has among the tightest gun-control laws in the nation. A murderer can pop in three 10-bullet clips in succession and still spray his targets almost as effectively as a shooter with a single 30-bullet magazine. Like a knife or bomb, a gun is a tool, and the human who misuses it is the only guilty party. An armed school guard might do more to stop a mass shooting on campus than a law outlawing the shooter’s preferred weapon or magazine.
Homeowners should have the right to own weapons comparable to those of criminals, who often pack illicit semi-automatic handguns. If mass murders are the real concern, should ammonium nitrate be outlawed, given that Timothy McVeigh slaughtered 168 innocents in Oklahoma City with fertilizer? Banning semi-automatic weapons marks a slippery slope — each new restriction will soon lead to yet another rationalization to go after yet another type of gun.
Liberals counter that just as free speech is curtailed (you cannot yell “Fire!” in a crowded auditorium), the constitutional right to bear arms is no more infringed upon by the banning of semi-automatic, large magazine firearms than it is by current prohibitions against heavy machine guns.
Conservatives reply that the chief purpose of the Second Amendment was not necessarily just to ensure personal protection from criminals or the freedom to hunt with firearms, but in fact to guarantee that a well-armed populace might enjoy some parity to an all-powerful, centralized government. To the Founders, the notion that individual citizens had recourse to weapons comparable to those of federal authorities was a strong deterrent to government infringing upon constitutionally protected freedoms — rights that cannot simply be hacked away by presidential executive orders.
That may be why the brief Second Amendment explicitly cites the desirability of a militia. By intent, it was followed by the Third Amendment, which restricts the rights of an abusive government to quarter federal troops in citizens’ homes.
So which amendment should we begin pruning to deal with monsters like those at Newtown and Columbine?
The Connecticut shooter, Adam Lanza, was known to be mentally unstable. He sat for hours transfixed with violent video games — in a popular culture of cheap Hollywood mayhem where bodies implode on the big screen without worry over the effect of such gratuitous carnage on the viewer.
Just as semi-automatic weapons mark a technological sea change from the flintlock muskets of the Founders’ era, computer-simulated video dismemberment is a world away from the spirited political pamphleteering of the 18th century. If we talk of restricting the Second Amendment to protect us against modern technological breakthroughs, why not curtail the First Amendment as well?
How about an executive order to Hollywood to stop its graphic depictions of mass killings, perhaps limiting the nature and rationing the number of shootings that can appear in any one film? Can’t we ban violent video games altogether in the same way we forbid child pornography? Isn’t it past time for an executive order to curtail some of the rights of the mentally unstable — given that the gunmen in mass killings usually have a history of psychic disorders and often use mood-altering drugs?
If conservatives have ensured that there are millions of semi-automatic assault weapons in American society, liberals‘ unprecedented expansions of free expression have led to an alarming number of unhinged Americans on our streets, nursed on sick games like “Grand Theft Auto” and hours of watching odious movies such as “Natural Born Killers.”
Legislating away the evil in men’s heads and hearts can be a tricky — and sometimes unconstitutional — business.