Pen-damonium under Obama's Executive Orders
Tonight, for the fifth time, President Obama will be performing one of the few constitutional duties he still upholds: giving "to the Congress Information of the State of the Union." But instead of a bully pulpit, this President's attention will be on the bully pen. It's the White House's solution to a pesky legislative branch, an uncooperative bunch that insists on governing through laws and consensus. "We're not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we're providing Americans the kind of help they need," the President bragged. I've got a pen, and I've got a phone."
At least, Victor Davis Hanson half-joked, he isn't governing by a "pen and sword." Even so, Hanson sighs, it's clear that "Obama has all but given up on the third branch of government since he lost control of it in 2010."
After the election, President Obama promised Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in 2012, "I have more flexibility." Two years later, that "flexibility" is manifesting itself in a parade of ideologically-driven executive orders meant to turn the Oval Office into Washington's newest legislative chamber. It's a sad commentary on the Obama administration, whose epic failures have made the President too irrelevant even for Congress. In a half-decade, the reality is starting to sink in that his lasting legacies are a collection of missteps or worse: ObamaCare, debt, unemployment, and scandal (Benghazi, IRS political targeting, NSA snooping, and "Fast and Furious").
A full 63% of Americans have either little to no confidence that President Obama will make the right decisions. Fifty-two percent feel he doesn't understand their problems, and only 23% support him strongly. But instead of working harder to regain the country's trust, this President shows why he doesn't deserve it. When the people don't believe him and Congress won't work with him, what is this White House's response? A presidential tantrum. Forcing his way, instead of forging one through leadership and persuasion.
"The key to successful leadership is influence," Kenneth Blanchard once said, "not authority." This administration is feigning influence by stealing authority. And the result isn't better policy -- it's a cynical public. The President seemed to understand this back in 2010. "You know, I think that over the course of two years we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn't just legislation. That it's a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone. And making an argument that people can understand. And I think that we haven't always been successful at that." After five years, the President knows what leadership isn't. But time is running out for Obama to show he knows what it is.
** In a few hours, I'll be in the House chamber to hear the President's speech first-hand. Stay tuned tomorrow for reaction to his address.
The Marshall Plan... on Marriage
Virginia and Washington, D.C. may be separated by a state border, but there's very little separating them on marriage policy. Unfortunately for the Commonwealth, the President's legacy of lawlessness seems to be bleeding into state politics, where new Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, fresh off a razor-slim victory, seems intent on making a bad first impression. With less than 1,000 votes separating Herring from his Republican opponent, the new attorney general hardly has a mandate. Still, that hasn't stopped Herring from seizing control -- not just of the state's top law enforcement post, but of Virginians' will on marriage.
Days after announcing his refusal to carry out his most basic duty -- upholding the state constitution's marriage amendment -- Herring is facing more than criticism. Thanks to Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall (R), he may also be staring down some weighty repercussions. This week, Del. Marshall, a good friend to FRC, filed a complaint with the Virginia State Bar over Herring's refusal to enforce the will of 57% of the people. "Herring has put all of us in the position of Dred Scott, who had no right to counsel in federal court. An attorney general has a duty to support those laws that are constitutional, and an attorney general has just as strong an obligation and duty to defend laws that he has concluded are unconstitutional..."
Making matters worse, Herring's recklessness may be wreaking havoc on far more than Virginia. New reports suggest that as many as eight state attorneys general are considering similar moves, which would plunge the country into a legal chaos where leaders are bound, not by laws, but liberalism. If there is a silver lining, Virginians looking for a clear contrast to their current administration may have found one in U.S. Senate candidates Ed Gillespie. The former RNC Chair left little doubt where he stands on the issue in his race with sitting Senator Mark Warner (D). "This is the first time I'll be advocating Ed Gillespie's policies, the things that I believe in..."
Like marriage. "My faith teaches me to love people for who they are," he said unapologetically. "I am Catholic. I oppose government sanctioning same-sex marriage and agree with state Sen. Mark Obenshain that the current Democratic state attorney general is wrong in saying he will not move to uphold the state's same-sex marriage ban. Marriage is between one man and one woman. People who don't share my views on marriage -- that doesn't make them anti-Catholic or bigots. And people who share my view, that doesn't make them anti-gay either."
Language Barrier Threatens Indiana Bill
After 10 years of debating, the Indiana legislature finally looked like it was ready to put the issue of marriage where it belongs: in the hands of the people. With just two votes standing in the way of a voter referendum, the Hoosiers were stunned to see their representatives cave -- and quickly. Under Indiana law, the same language must pass two, separately elected legislatures to be put on the ballot.
Yesterday, with FRC Action, AFA, and Indiana Family Institute on hand, the House of Representatives voted 52-43 (with 23 Republicans joining 29 Democrats) to remove the second sentence from the marriage amendment. That not only waters down the amendment, but it would re-set the clock and prevent voters from seeing the issue on the ballot until 2016. If the state House passes the bill tonight (as it's expected to do), the fate of the entire referendum hangs on the Senate. Only it can restore the language that would allow Hoosiers to vote this November on an amendment that would protect the definition of marriage from activist judges. House Speaker Brian Bosma, who initially rescued the bill from certain death in committee, tried to ease people's concerns, saying, "We haven't walked away from this issue at any point... I'm just pleased to see democracy at work in a positive way on behalf of the people ofIndiana."
Like the state, we hope democracy gets to work in the form of a final referendum. As I mentioned yesterday, FRC Action Executive Director Joshua Duggar and FRC's marriage policy expert Peter Sprigg traveled to Indianapolis to emphasize the importance -- not just to Indiana, but to the nation -- of approving the amendment unchanged. Hoosier voters must now exercise their liberty and tell their Senators to do just that.
** Over the weekend, I was invited for a lengthy sit-down with C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program. The interview spanned a variety of topics -- everything from marriage and ObamaCare to social issues' place in the Republican Party. If you missed the segment, I encourage you to take the time to watch it below.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.