Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Commentary by James Shott

Policy problems, legal challenges, failures to make progress on important international issues, being abandoned by Congressional Democrats on an important legislative measure, President Barack Obama’s recent problems mount daily, it seems.

He told the graduating class at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy: “And this brings me to the challenge I want to focus on today – one where our Coast Guardsmen are already on the front lines, and that, perhaps more than any other, will shape your entire careers – and that’s the urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change.” Not the importance of guarding the shoreline and responding to emergencies and other events there. No, the threat he chose to include in his address was climate change, that much-debated theory that is losing credibility even faster than Mr. Obama is accumulating problems.

Last August, Mr. Obama said his administration was still devising a way to fight ISIS, and last week at the G7 conference in Germany he said, “We don't yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis." After ten months with little or no progress on an Iraq policy, one may legitimately wonder whether Mr. Obama is really serious about, or prepared to adequately address this problem. Remember he called ISIS the “JV team.” And more recently the Pentagon claimed that ISIS “is no longer the dominant force in roughly 25 to 30 percent of the populated areas of Iraqi territory where it once had complete freedom of movement.” However, that statement has been shown to be “misleading and incomplete,” according to Raymond Ibrahim, writing in Human Events.

The Affordable Care Act, affectionately known as Obamacare, did succeed in bringing down the rate of uninsured Americans to the lowest levels so far, but continues to show major weaknesses that challenge its positive accomplishment.

Among those weaknesses, as reported in the Washington Free Beacon, are that many Americans still cannot afford health coverage and are delaying medical treatment; that despite Mr. Obama’s promises that “if you like your plan you can keep your plan,” more than five million people in 35 states have lost their health insurance plans; and that Obamacare will add up to $1 trillion in new taxes. Further, the law strengthens government control over healthcare, thus weakening the control of doctors over their practices and of patients over their healthcare, and the law also is reducing choices for patients.

And now a legal challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court may deal a serious blow to the Affordable Care Act. The Court is expected to announce its decision later this month in the King v. Burwell lawsuit, challenging the legality of the government to give tax credits to health insurers in more than thirty states that use the federal health insurance exchange. Should the Court rule for King, Obamacare policies in those states would become unaffordable, and would relieve more than 11 million people of the individual mandate.

Mr. Obama, perhaps having been tipped off by a Court insider that the Justices likely will rule against the administration, has taken to criticizing and chastising the Court for considering a lawsuit against the Obamacare. Some have interpreted his comments as trying to intimidate the Court.

"Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” he said at the G7 meeting. “And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step."

Perhaps the president needs a refresher course in American government. The Judicial Branch, led by the Supreme Court, is a co-equal branch of our government with the Executive and the Legislative Branches; none of them is subservient to either of the other two. This separation of powers is expressly designed to prevent any single branch from becoming dictatorial, which likely is Mr. Obama’s reason for complaint.

Judicial review, which is to rule on the constitutionality of legislative and executive acts, is a legitimate function of the Supreme Court, and judicial activism is lawmaking by the courts, which is not a legitimate function. Judicial activism is a primary tool of the political left, seeking to change the constitutional order of things.

Not content merely to take over the health care system, drag his feet on the Iraq and Iran situations, and intimidate the Supreme Court, Mr. Obama now proposes to inject the federal government into influencing or controlling who lives where in the United States, with a plan to diversify neighborhoods.

To be administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, critics say it will force municipalities to change their zoning policies, while supporters say it is an effort “to create opportunity for all.”

Whichever it is, it is not the job of the President of the United States.

Cross-posted from Observations.

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