Republicans, poised for strong gains in the midterm elections, are offering starkly conflicting messages about President Obama to rally their voters. In one moment, they say the president is feckless and weak. But in the next, they say Mr. Obama is presiding over an “imperial presidency” that is exercising power that verges on dictatorial.Ah, the Conservative Conundrum. President Obama is an indecisive wimp who rules us with an iron fist. There was never a more clear-cut example of whatever the rubes need to hear. Luckily, we are truly living in a new golden age of rubes; I blame the History Channel.
Representative Paul Broun, Republican of Georgia, who has criticized Mr. Obama for “leading from behind” on foreign policy, stood before a gathering of Republican women here recently, his voice loud and deliberate, as he raced through a long list of areas where he said the Obama administration has veered “totally out of control” — the health care law, Internal Revenue Service treatment of conservative groups, and the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, to name a few.Torture? Yeah, that's fine. But we're willing to go to the mat to make sure Americans don't get marginally better health insurance than they otherwise would, and God help Obama if someone in his administration exercises administrative judgment. Then we've got a long-debunked conspiracy theory and a program which the House and Senate could end in a heartbeat, if they really wanted to. Guess whether they really want to.
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The message is one that motivates the conservative base, whose energy is vital in midterm elections when overall turnout is lower. In early March, House Republicans devoted a legislative week to Mr. Obama’s “imperial presidency,” introducing several bills intended to curb what they view as his administrative overreach.Fortunately the House has given up on most of the other duties of government, so they have plenty of time for their various publicity stunts. By June they'll have turned the House floor into an ongoing fundraising telethon. Just text LIBERTEE to these numbers, a big sign will say, to donate $10 to our efforts to stop the painfully weak but somehow omnipotent president from doing things, whatever things those may be.
“This is what we hear about all the time when we’re back in our districts,” said Representative Raúl R. Labrador, Republican of Idaho. “They’re concerned that you have a president who has decided to violate the law, who has decided to not comply with certain laws, that he decides which laws he will execute and which laws he will not execute.”Barack Obama could order a nuclear attack on Russia and most of these same people would be cheering him on, because blowing things up is the highest possible expression of leadership. It's the small-bore stuff that pisses them off, and that's where the Conservative Conundrum comes in. If Obama does not show maximum belligerence to any group that conservatives do not like, it is because he is weak. If he does even the slightest thing that wounds those same conservatives themselves, though—say, by using otherwise unremarkable administrative actions to better support administration priorities, as every president has done and ever shall do—he becomes a near-dictator. Get out the fainting couches, the smelling salts, and every bottle in the liquor cabinet.
I don't think Obama's the one who needs to toughen up here. These people sound like the wiltingest wilting flowers in the world. Barack Obama could send Rep. Paul Broun a box of imported chocolates and Broun would fall over dead from fright.