Complaining won’t help Obama

In a speech indicative of the mounting pressure on his administration, President Barack Obama lambasted Republicans Tuesday on the budget proposal authored by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) during an Associated Press luncheon.

Calling the proposal “thinly-veiled social Darwinism” and accusing Republicans of trying to “impose a radical vision on our country,” Obama’s fiery rhetoric is an ever-present reminder that that the gloves are coming off fast in the race to claim the White House in November.

But this isn’t the only time this week that Obama has taken aim at his colleagues in another branch of government.

At a news conference in the Rose Garden on Monday, Obama challenged the members of the Supreme Court to uphold his healthcare law, stating that overturning the law’s individual mandate would be an act of “judicial activism.”

He also noted that the justices were “unelected” and warned them against taking an unprecedented step by overturning a “law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically-elected Congress.”

With all of this hyper-partisan rhetoric, Obama is not displaying a unifying message or any desire to work toward compromise — granted, neither are Republicans — but as an incumbent during an election year, Obama has the ability to use hot-button issues and at least pretend to encourage compromise, in turn drawing in more independent voters who are tired of the stalemate in Washington.

By Obama taking direct, repeated aim at members of both the legislative and judicial branches, he’s starting to sound like a whining child, obviously upset that the constitutionality of his presidency’s signature achievement now rests in the hands of nine justices. Additionally, he can’t be pleased with the mediocre performance of the solicitor general in defending the law’s constitutionality before the Court.

But Obama’s complaining does nothing to help his bid for re-election. In fact, his seemingly intimidating statements on the Supreme Court show a gross misstep in the role of the executive branch and the pressure it exerts on the members of the Court.

As a constitutional law professor, one would assume that Obama is well-versed in the history of judicial review. Dating back to the early 1800s, the Court has provided the reigns to control an ever-changing and ever-polarizing Congress and White House. On numerous instances, it has ruled against federal and state measures it deemed unconstitutional.

Simply put, the Affordable Care Act allows the government to create, regulate and force participation in commerce through a mandate for healthcare insurance. It is completely within the power and scope of the Supreme Court to review this type of legislation and, as should happen, the ability to strike it down.

Pulling from the political playbook of former U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt, Obama seems to be launching a re-election platform based on opposition to the judicial branch, as well as his conservative counterparts in the legislative branch.

But this new messaging strategy of complaining about opposition to his administration’s invasive policies makes Obama look weak and unable to control his response to legitimate, sound resistance to his healthcare law and spending sprees.

Obama should stop focusing on bashing and intimidating his rivals in Washington and return to talking about solutions to real issues that face Americans.


Austin Gaddis is a junior majoring in communication studies and public relations. His column runs on Thursdays.















  • Jeb

    Although I don’t think Obama is a closet communist determined to destroy our country from the inside… I am not a fan of his. The only things he has done this term that I agree with were repealing DADT, opening up space exploration to private companies, and allowing the US to wage an effective campaign in Libya. Everything else has been pretty bad…

    Record unemployment
    Record debt (more debt created during 3 years of Obama than 8 years of Bush)
    A majority of Americans still oppose Obamacare, his proudest achievement
    Obamacare is on track to be overturned by the Supreme Court
    The world still hates us
    Guantanamo is still open
    Gay marriage is still not legal and he shows no interest in pushing for it or at least providing full rights for civil unions
    Politics is still more polarized than I’ve ever seen it (hope and change and a new tone?)
    Gas is double what it cost when he took office
    Our energy policy is fairly ridiculous
    He never took a shot at real compromise to immigration reform

    I’m not the biggest fan of Republican candidates either and am not opposed to voting Democrat under the right circumstances… but geez… not with this record.

    • robert_foster

      The only thing I’ll say, because it’s a bit of a personal issue with this election cycle, is that blaming Obama for high gas prices is absurd. It may be double what it was when he took office, but if you’ll recall the summer of 2008, gas prices were anywhere from $3.80 to $4.10 a gallon depending on what part of the country you lived in. (

      Moreover, rising gas prices have more to do with geopolitical tension in the Middle East (you know, that whole sanctioning one of the largest providers of crude oil in the world). Energy policy will only get you so far when a leading supplier is angry and on edge with the Western world.

      • shawnmcarter

        I’m sure his hostile policies toward American production have nothing to do with current petroleum prices..its’s purely coincidental.

        • Brad Erthal

          It is. Just like Bush’s virtual giveaways of massive amounts of public land to oil companies so that they could drill just about wherever they pleased coincided with record high oil prices. Our domestic production is small compared to world supply, so U.S. policies on drilling have a very small effect on global oil prices. If we want to lower oil prices, about the only thing we can do is to lower domestic demand.  

          • shawnmcarter

            No. The United States is the third largest oil producer in the world trailing the Russian Federation by 1 million bbl/d and Saudi Arabia by a couple hundred thousand bbl/d. We produce more petroleum than the 4th highest country (Iran) by 5 million bbl/d. The biggest issue is America’s fragmented oil market and dependence on imports of the most expensive light crude resources. Coupled with our inability to get oil from Texas to the Northeast economically (no pipelines and ships would have to be American crewed) which is forcing a number of refineries to close in the North East. On top of that giant increases in demand from economic competitors (Brazil, India, China, and Saudi Arabia) force shippers to increase their price to bring a dwindling demand for oil to the US (forcing up our prices). This is a very complicated market and the government only serves to get in the way. Obama’s stiff arm to Canada has only made a bad situation worse.

      • VictoryLap

        Not true. Here’s a list of the top importers to the US before the embargo. Iran doesn’t crack the top 15. 

        • Jeb

           I believe Robert’s point was that instability in the Middle East drives up the global prices of oil. It doesn’t matter if we import from Iran or not… if speculators believe that the world’s supply is threatened, then the price for everybody will rise. While this is true, Obama was elected on the promise of hope and change… he gave speeches in Cairo promising that things will change with the Middle East and that soon the world will begin to love us again because all of those evil Bush administration policies were about to change. Well, they didn’t and for good reason. Apparently campaigning on hope and change is all warm and fuzzy but actually leading a nation is a little more complex and requires tough decisions that sometimes go against what we would ultimately rather be doing. Anyway, I digress… Robert leaves out a few key elements of the whole energy policy (as you allude to with your link) and assumes that a president has no control over these sorts of things. What about the asinine idea that we should promote Brazilian oil drillers in the Gulf and promise to be their best customer while simultaneously halting all US drilling. Does anybody really think that any other country in the world is better suited to drill for oil? Is there any other country that has as many environmental protections and regulations that they must abide by while drilling? Democrats seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to exploit third world countries by promoting their oil drilling and harming of their environment as long as it isn’t in their back yard. Seems a bit hypocritical if you ask me. Anybody is welcome to convince me otherwise though.

          What about investments in green technology? Solyndra was a very public disaster for the administration but it was not the only major green company to have money shoveled at them one day and folding the next. I get the idea that green technology is still too expensive so the government wants to prop up the industry so that prices may come down but most of this money was passed along through TARP and tax-payers were under the impression that there were genius puppet masters strategically placing the money in the hands of people that would provide the greatest impact to our economy. Instead, much of it was handed to green companies that did very little to boost the economy. It turned into a slush fund for Democrat pet projects. If the government had at least been smart about it, I may not have become such an opponent of the idea.

          Anyway, if you want to get serious about finding a new energy source then here is a pretty simple solution (although it would never happen)… open up the Gulf and other areas for drilling. Enact tough environmental restrictions to ensure the surrounding area is protected but don’t tie it up in litigation for 30 years (good luck dealing with the environmental militants!). Democrats complain that we won’t see the benefits for 3-5 years but they have been saying that for over 30 years. If we had just done it originally, we would be sitting pretty right now. We have enough oil to be independent from the world for several decades. During that time, cut entitlements or spending in other areas of government (even defense since we won’t really care what is happening in the Middle East anymore) and invest heavily (like Manhatten project style heavily) in research and development. Forget propping up green corporations… we aren’t interested in getting the population to buy crappy electric cars. We are looking for an alternative fuel source. Real honest-to-goodness, non-self-promoting scientific research is where the money needs to go. Build state-of-the-art government research labs, recruit the best and brightest minds by paying them serious salaries, and appoint REAL scientists as the administrators. Give them a giant bag of money and tell them to use it however they want. Do NOT allow politicians to be involved in the decision regarding what things are researched. Politicians are already way too involved in the decision making process regarding grant money to the point that science is getting a bad reputation.

          Okay, I think I’ve hijacked this thread sufficiently now.

          • Brad Erthal

            I would point out to you, Jeb, that the administration’s announced intent is to try to help Brazil be more safe while drilling for oil (it’s hard to imagine what else they would be trying to do in this policy arena). When the President announced the policy of cooperating with Brazil, he said,

            We want to help with technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely, and when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers.  At a time when we’ve been reminded how easily instability in other parts of the world can affect the price of oil, the United States could not be happier with the potential for a new, stable source of energy.”

        • Brad Erthal

          It doesn’t matter how much oil the United States imports from Iran, because: (a) oil is a fungible commodity, so it only matters how much Iran produces as a share of global oil production; and (b) the threat from Iran is not just about Iran’s production, because a conflict in the Strait of Hormuz, no matter how certain an American victory is, would potentially shut down oil exports from Saudi Arabia for some time. Broader conflict could lead to production slowdowns in much of the Middle East for myriad reasons. 

          Also, “tension in the Middle East” obviously refers to a broader problem than conflict between the U.S. and the mullahs, because the Middle East is always a powder keg. There is presently armed conflict in Syria, for instance, and other countries are more quiet temporarily, but most countries in the region have at least some threats to stability. 

          • Brad Erthal

            Also, @VictoryLap:disqus , if you don’t know what I mean by “fungible”, and you do not understand that oil prices are set in a speculative futures market, so that they depend on perceptions of future risk rather than to the net production today, then please refrain from commenting on stories about global economics before you’ve educated yourself on the most basic facts about the relevant markets. 

  • Dropping_Facts

    Obama is blatantly trying to deceive Americans with his rhetoric. I honestly dont see how anyone could vote for the guy when he LIES to their face every time he makes a speech. He knows what judicial review is, he was a Constitutional law professor. To say that the Supreme Court throwing out his mandate would be unprecedented is a lie and he knows it. He is appealing to people that are ignorant or his liberal worshipers. 

    • Jeb

      That was a pretty awful PR gaffe but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt for now. As a lawyer that speaks as slowly and as carefully as he does, that was pretty embarrassing to imply something so factually incorrect. If I was one of his former law students, I might ask the school for a refund for that class. The fact is that his legislation did not pass with a “significant majority” (it barely passed, with greater bipartisan opposition than support) and it would not be unprecedented for the Supreme Court to overturn a law. That is their whole reason for being. He knows that. He was just angry that his signature legislation is going down in flames with even liberal justices questioning the very heart of the matter.

      Democrats and Republicans are simply changing their deeply held positions on whether or not the Supreme Court has the authority to do exactly what they are doing, for political expediency. It was just a year or two ago that Republicans were saying how awful it was that the courts were overturning Proposition 8 in CA while Democrats were defending them. The courts are great when they are on your side but if you are trying to get around the Constitution, suddenly they are activists

  • Brad Erthal

    One can think that the Supreme Court has the power of judicial review and still think that it is activist and partisan. Count me as one of those people. Since Bush v. Gore, in which the conservative justices reversed their own rulings to put a member of their own party in office, and explicitly claimed that that ruling should not be considered  a precedent (thus violating the principle of stare decisis in the most fundamental way imaginable), it has been obvious that the court has become extremely partisan. The court is about to overturn precedent in order to strike down a moderate healthcare bill which was reached through compromise between both parties, even if the Republicans were too chicken-shit to vote for it once they had received the compromises for which they had asked. There is a provision for removal of justices. It may be high time we think about using it.