Obama’s Transformation

Political writer Charles C.W. Cooke argues that with the immigration executive order last night, President Obama has become the total opposite of what he said he was.

(Many of us saw the lies while he was candidate Obama.) Anyhow, Cooke writes in the National Review that he has fulfilled the dictum that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

And yet, just one short year after he had told students that he was hamstrung by the rules, the president did precisely what he said he could not, refusing to “enforce and implement” those “very clear” laws and abdicating disgracefully his “appropriate role as president.”

Evidently, the new approach suited the president. Soon thereafter, he began to make extra-legislative changes to Obamacare, without offering any earnest legal justifications whatsoever; he responded to Congress’s refusal to raise the minimum wage by rewriting the Service Contract Act of 1965; and, as a matter of routine, he took to threatening, cajoling, and mocking Congress, and to informing the country’s lawmakers that by declining to consent to his will they were refusing to do “their jobs.” In Obama’s post-2011 world, it seems, legislators are not free agents but parliamentary subordinates possessed of two choices: either they do what he wants, or they watch him do what he wants. Refusing assent seems to be regarded as an entirely illegitimate option. This, it should be perfectly obvious, is the attitude not of the statesman, but of the mugger. “Give me your wallet,” the ruffian says, “or I will take it by force.” That progressives who once championed the man for his calm and his virtue have taken to twisting themselves into knots in his defense should tell us all we need to know about their broader sincerity — and his.

Today, the transformation of Barack Obama from wide-eyed idealist to bitter imperator will finally be completed. Amid the glitz and the artifice of Las Vegas, the last vestiges of the one we were waiting for will be swept ignominiously away, leaving only power, cynicism, and partisanship in their stead. There was a time when our 44th president claimed to stand for transparency, modesty, moderation, tolerance, humility, reason, and calm. Today, just feet from Caesars Palace, he will don the robes of the emperor and spin minor discretion into gargantuan usurpation, all norms and touchstones be damned. However convincing are the promises of the ambitious, Lord Acton always has the last laugh.

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