Suddenly Barack Obama seems to be doing everything right.
Gone is the president seemingly so eager to compromise with the unyielding GOP that he often got rolled. Last month, Obama backed the House leadership into a corner when he wouldn’t do all it demanded to extend the Social Security tax cut. In the end, it was House Republicans who blinked and extended the tax cut and longterm unemployment insurance for a short (two-month) period while both houses of Congress try to hammer out a longer-term solution.
This month, when one Republican presidential hopeful compared the race against the president to the battle against the Nazis and others merely blamed him for everything wrong with America, Obama said nothing and bided his time.
And when the fractured Iowa caucus vote got counted? Well, the president showed his newfound muscle again, stealing some of the spotlight the next day by filling the long-vacant director position of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and also moving to fill three vacant slots on the National Labor Relations Board. Today he is expected to announce his plans to streamline the military.
The recess appointments send a strong message to both middle class consumers who deserve protection from predator lenders and to the Democratic base, which wants unions’ rights protected. They were far more than symbolic, The New York Times noted.
Although the … law authorized the consumer agency to regulate the so-called nonbank financial companies, which previously had little supervision, the law was purposely written such that the bureau could not invoke its powers until it had a director.
In other words, without a director, the office had no teeth. That new director, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, already has written on the agency blog that he’s ready to get to work, The Times noted, to “help” lenders, banks and nonbanks, to “operate fairly, transparently, and competitively.”
Republicans, of course, cried foul, saying that the president was abusing the Constitution with these recess appointments. They apparently forgot how often George W. Bush filled positions with precisely the same tactic. But it is actually Republicans who are flouting the law by making it impossible to implement.
As for Obama, he now seems to recognize he can only win re-election by standing with the people, not by trying to break an un-breakable status quo of gridlock in America’s Congress. Put simply, the Republicans only goal is to defeat him, not a good environment for deals.
Whether Obama realized this in time for re-election will depend in part on how bad the economy gets this year after the GOP does all in its power to shut any stimulus valve that’s helping to keep the economy sputtering forward.
But Republicans might want to take heed of the president’s soft-spoken but effective fighting words in making the recess appointments.
“When Congress refuses to act, and as a result, hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them,” he said.
For now, at least, his approval numbers are climbing and have nearly reached that magical number of 50 percent.