Having run on Bush hatred, on occasions President Obama governs on Bush imitation.
One key imitative move has been prosecuting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan under the leadership of Bushie Robert Gates and with an unchanged strategy. For this we are grateful, even if Obama's most ardent supporters are confused.
Now another marked imitation emerges. Bush was notorious at the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue for his "signing statements" which indicated aspects of legislation that he regarded as unconstitutional and, hence, which he refused to enforce as chief executive. Democrats wailed loudly at these, though it is noteworthy that their own iconic chief executive, Presidents Jefferson and Jackson, were famous for refusing to enforce what they regarded as unconstitutional.
Well, now Mr. Obama has made a signing statement of his own, specifically a refusal to be bound by congressional directives on the spending of grants for aid to be spent by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The present President insists that such strictures cannot constrain his constitutional power to conduct foreign policy and negotiate treaties.
Fair enough, we say. We don't care for much of Obama's foreign policy agenda, driven as it is by the orthodoxies of the global left, but we'll affirm that what he's doing is consistent with the way that POTUSes of the past have sparred with their adversaries in Congress over the boundaries of power. Had Reagan issued a similar signing statement regarding strictures on support for the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s, one could have hoped for more clarity and less subterfuge in the conduct of foreign policy and national defense in that crucial battle of the waning Cold War.
The sweet irony is that Democrats are increasingly dissatisfied with the man who has led them out of the political wilderness and into a greater position of power than they have enjoyed in a generation. That says much about the party, and much about the constitutional system of federal government. Congress and the President are natural enemies, even when they go to the same convention.