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.