Or flip-flopped or was nuanced or misspoke….whatever. He’s guilty of the same barely Constitutional end run that I hated Bush for committing.
But on Friday, Obama did exactly that which he vowed in that answer he would never do. When signing the budget bill into law, he attached a signing statement objecting to some provisions as an encroachment on executive power but still vowing to obey them (such as restrictions on transferring Guantanamo detainees), but then explicitly stated that he would ignore the provision of this new law that de-funds his so-called “czars” (which are really little more than glorified presidential advisers). Declaring that the Executive has the unfettered “authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch” — i.e., asserting another critical aspect of the “unitary theory of the Executive” — Obama declared that “the executive branch will construe [the de-funding provision] not to abrogate these Presidential prerogatives.” In other words, we’re going to ignore that mandate because we believe it’s unconstitutional: he’s going to use funds for exactly the purpose that Congress, in a bill he signed into law, flatly prohibited.
It would be one thing if these full-scale reversals were on ancillary issues. But these are fundamental. They’re about the powers of that office and the nature of our government. And Obama made these issues the centerpiece of his campaign. These campaign statements are nothing less than vows made to voters about how he would exercise the power he was seeking if they voted for him. To insist during the campaign that Presidents have no power to start wars without Congress or to ignore laws the President believes are unconstitutional — and then do exactly that once he’s been vested with that power — is a form of fraud. And, ironically, it’s exactly this behavior that breeds the cynicism that he has repeatedly identified as the central poison in our political culture. Whatever one thinks about the policies in question on the merits, it should be impossible to defend or justify the radical inconsistency between what he pretended to believe and what he’s doing.