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WASHINGTON — President Obama’s State of the Union address had plenty of critics, but he may have been his own worst enemy when it came to making his case.
The president tried to portray the country as strong, but his own facts appeared to contradict him.
In Tuesday night’s speech, the president declared, “Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better.”
But then he immediately undercut the picture of “four years of economic growth” by noting the nation’s stagnant wages, lack of upward mobility and persistent unemployment crisis.
Obama suggested the nation is still united by what most call the American Dream and what he described as “the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.”
But then he admitted that dream has not fared well under his stewardship, stating, “Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows.”
After five years of persistent recession, the president used the speech to call for a “year of action,” by which he meant the use of executive actions and orders when he wants to bypass Congress.
The administration is portraying executive actions as way to get things done and hoping the public will see that as better than gridlock in a Congress that’s even less-popular than the president.
In his speech, the president claimed he was willing to work with Congress, but he also reiterated his recent threats to go around the legislative branch.
“America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” he told lawmakers and the nation.
However, what Obama calls action, many call unconstitutional.
“Sadly, the president is continuing to disregard the Constitution like never before,” said Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn. “If a law is politically inconvenient, or he simply disagrees with it, the president believes he can legislate unilaterally without congressional input. This lawlessness is becoming President Obama’s legacy, and not only is it unconstitutional; it reduces faith in his office.”
But Bachmann’s scathing criticism of the president’s use of executive orders was mild compared to the assessment of Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, who saw grounds to begin impeachment proceedings.
“It’s time for (House Speaker John) Boehner to step up and take a roll call and see how many people agree with what the president is doing,” Stockman told WND after the speech. “Breaking the Constitution and pretending we’re not noticing it is going too far, in my book.”
WND asked, is it time to begin looking into impeachment?
“I think its time for leadership in the House to call for it, yes.”
Stockman said he even left early after hearing just part of the president’s remarks.
“I could not bear to watch as he continued to cross the clearly defined boundaries of the constitutional separation of powers.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., was also sharply critical, saying, “This excessive power grab is all part of Obama’s expanding government where power is increasingly in the hands of unelected bureaucrats instead of the American people.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the president “laid out his vision to once again bypass Congress to use executive orders to run the country and to legislate from the Oval Office.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also expressed deep concern over the whether the president has crossed into unconstitutional territory.
“Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the president’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat,” Cruz said.
“Rather, rule of law means that we are a nation ruled by laws, not men.”
All presidents can impose policy with directives, executive orders and by exercising rule-making authority at all federal agencies, but critics say this administration has been using those tools to change law, not just policy.
They point to such major changes to law as the delay of the employer mandate in Obamacare, as well as forcing insurance companies to offer less-expensive plans, which the health-care law prohibits.
“In the more than two centuries of our nation’s history, there is simply no precedent for the White House wantonly ignoring federal law and asking private companies to do the same,” said Cruz.
Critics also cite the president’s decision not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act and his de facto granting of amnesty to many young illegal aliens after the Dream Act failed to pass in Congress, by failing to fully enforce immigration laws.
Nonetheless, the president doubled down on his threat to use executive orders and directives and bypass Congress to obtain his goals.
Obama has blamed the nation’s problems on gridlock in Congress, but Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., suggested just the opposite is true.
“From my constituents’ point of view, and across my state and across the nation, they like gridlock,” he told WND. “They like Washington doing nothing.”
The Kansan said his constituents would be happy if Congress did less, and issued fewer bills and regulations.
“They won’t like what he says at all unless he is going to roll back something, and that’s highly unlikely,” he predicted.
In an interview Tuesday with WND, Huelskamp pointed out that by blaming gridlock for the nation’s problems, the president is actually blaming voters.
The plain-spoken Kansan told WND it is as if the president is telling the American people: “Hey, you know what? I don’t like the people you sent to me, and I’m going to ignore them.”
Now, the president may be turning to executive orders because he sees little other choice.
He has been unable to get major bills passed by Congress and his popularity has plummeted since the disastrous launch of Obamacare.
So, in the speech he announced he will use his executive authority to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for those working on new federal contracts for services.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, blasted the move as a “constitutional violation.”
“We have a minimum wage. Congress has set it. For the president to simply declare, ‘I’m going to change this law that Congress has passed,’ is unconstitutional. He’s outside the bounds of his Article II limitations.”
King said the “threat that the president is going to run the government with an ink pen and executive orders, we’ve never had a president with that level of audacity and that level of contempt for his own oath of office.”
Criticism from Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, struck a lighter tone. He said he wore a Santa Claus tie to the speech because Obama was “promising everyone they can have whatever they want.”
But then he turned serious, noting that, unlike Christmas, the massive debt Obama has accumulated of more than $17 trillion means children will paying for their parents’ expenses for years to come.
Obama’s speech had approximately 6,800 words, but precious few of them were to devoted to what was called the president’s signature achievement before Obamacare became such a debacle.
The president essentially pleaded with Republicans to stop attacking and trying to repeal the disastrous law that caused his popularity to plummet, saying, “I know that the American people aren’t interested in refighting old battles.”
Obama also claimed lawmakers “owe it to the American people to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against” while ignoring the fact Republicans have offered numerous ideas to reform health care. The proposals include a comprehensive plan offered just yesterday by Sens. Richard Burr, R–N.C., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah that employs market forces and would reform medical liability laws.
Huelskamp pointed out the president didn’t really have much he could say about Obamacare, noting, “The No. 1 lie of the year was, ‘If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it.’”
But the congressman said Obama could have actually garnered some good will if he had used the speech to apologize.
“If he would say, ‘Hey, we made some mistakes here and it’s not working out well … we need to roll back and start all over on this,’ I think he’d get a lot of support.”
But Huelskamp said that would have been difficult.
“When you’re an activist, the answer is always the same – another program, another regulation,” he said.
The president came close to acknowledging that al-Qaida is still a serious threat to the United States and people around the world.
Just before the president was reelected in 2012, White House transcripts showed Obama had described al-Qaida as having been “decimated,” “on the path to defeat” or some similar expression, at least 32 times since the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.
In Tuesday’s speech, he admitted, “The fact is, that danger remains … the threat has evolved, as al-Qaida affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world.”
Despite acknowledging the spread of terrorism, the president declared a “time of war draws to a close” because the war in Afghanistan is supposed to officially end this year with the withdrawal of most American troops.
“With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over,” said Obama.
He also appeared to take credit for bringing the troops home from Iraq, despite opposing the surge that won the war.
“When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq, ” Obama said
However, just two days ago, al-Qaida forces retook the key city of Fallujah, just 30 miles from the capital of Baghdad, and many critics blame the terrorists’ resurgence on Obama removing U.S. troops too soon.
Ignoring a petition signed by 31,487 American scientists who say there is no convincing evidence of global warming, Obama declared: “But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.”
In addition to raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers, Obama announced a number of additional initiatives.
The president will use an executive order to create what he calls “myRA,” a “starter” retirement savings account available through employers to help millions of Americans save for retirement. This savings account will be offered through a familiar Roth IRA account and, like savings bonds, would be backed by the U.S. government.
The president will host a summit on “Working Families” to highlight the policies that he hopes will ensure America’s global economic competitiveness and “highlight model laws and policies from cities and states across the country in areas such as discrimination, flexibility and paid leave.”
Obama also announced these initiatives and proposals:
- Launching four new manufacturing institutes in 2014;
- Government-wide review of federal training programs to help Americans get skills in demand for good jobs;
- Partnering with many of America’s leading CEOs to help the long-term unemployed;
- Expanding apprenticeships by mobilizing business, community colleges and labor;
- Increasing fuel efficiency for trucks;
- Partnering with states, cities and tribes to move to energy efficiency and cleaner power;
- Connecting 20 Million Students in 15,000 Schools to the Best Technology to Enrich K-12 Education;
- Redesigning high schools to teach the real-world skills that kids need;
- And ncreasing college opportunity and graduation.
See full coverage of Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union: