Charles M Blow - The US president is growing hostile to being held hostage - both by the very insular nature of the presidency itself, and by the more stultifying intransigence of Congress.
During a walk a few weeks ago from the White House to the Interior Department, the president proclaimed, “The bear is loose.” At a Minneapolis town hall last week, Obama said: “With Secret Service, I always tease them, I’m like a caged bear and sometimes I break loose.”
That, however, is the lighter side of things, the side in which the grizzly is merely grumpy because he’s feeling a bit stir-crazy. But there is the other, more frustrating, and ultimately more consequential side, in which the president is caught in the jaws of a legislative trap, unable to move the country forward because a fraction of it insists on holding him back.
In recent years, major pieces of legislation steered through Congress and signed into law by this president have been few and far between. His major achievements during that time have mostly been confined to military positioning, international negotiations, regulatory adjustments and other executive orders.
But even he is, I’m sure, aware that great presidencies require the cooperation of Congress, and on that measure, his presidency has been clipped. This is not simply about a president, but also about our progress as a nation. Congress can’t simply sit out a presidency and have the country sustain itself.
The nation yearns for action - on employment, on infrastructure, on comprehensive immigration reform, on gun control, on any number of issues - yet all efforts are thwarted by a Congress committed to starving this president of any semblance of progress, committed to the erasure of his inhabitance of the office, as best it can be achieved.
As an excuse for their inexcusable inactions, Republicans insist that they refuse to act because they find this president perfidious - unwilling in his enforcement of existing laws and wilfully insistent on breaking others.
They see him as the former constitutional law professor at war with the Constitution. This is all happening against an international backdrop where many parts of the world in which we have a vested interest appear to be falling apart.
There is a humanitarian crisis mounting on our southern border: A wave of undocumented Central American children have arrived, and we struggle for a way to treat them humanely but also stem the tide.
According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last month, the president’s approval rating on foreign policy fell to the lowest level of his presidency.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday even found that President Obama topped the “worst president” list among those who have held the office since World War II. Worse than George W Bush? Worse than Richard Nixon? Really?
Of course, this result has to be taken with a boulder-size grain of salt. Poll respondents are not presidential historians. They answer how they feel about the president at that moment. But it can’t be dismissed out of hand, either. It is no secret that people are genuinely frustrated and disillusioned and taking out their anger on our political system over all. For instance, Congress now has a record low confidence rating - just 7 percent, according to Gallup.
A fragile period of relative peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors is quickly unraveling following the kidnapping and killing of three teenage Israeli boys. Now, as The New York Times has reported, “the body of an abducted Arab teenager was found in a Jerusalem forest early Wednesday” and “police were investigating the death as a possible Israeli revenge killing” for the killing of the Israeli teenagers.
The social-media savvy, and utterly brutal Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, continues to hold broad sections of both countries, declaring their controlled areas a caliphate, and reportedly carrying out mass executions and even crucifixions in the process.
Violence in Ukraine, pitting that country’s military against pro-Russian forces, has ramped up since the Ukrainian president allowed a 10-day cease-fire to expire. Uncertainty at home is being reinforced and inflamed by uncertainty abroad.
There are no easy answers for how to move forward on domestic policies if Republicans are blocking the doorways, and there are no easy foreign policy choices without getting Americans embroiled in another foreign conflict for which there is nearly no appetite. And yet, the president can see the end of his presidency fast approaching, and can look back with regret about what could have been if only Congress were in the ballgame.
So now the president appears legitimately angry. He is promising to go even further with executive actions if Congress refuses to act, and daring members to follow through on their threats to take legal action against him for doing so.
As the president said Tuesday at an event in Washington: “Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me.” The bear may be trapped, but he’s not browbeaten. He’s growling.–NY Times