Classic Obama. But it’s only beginning to be called classic now that Obama’s first term is almost behind him and we’re heading into the second term. Obama called the Republicans “to the table” so many times last term that the Democrats belittled him as foolish and, worse, weak. So what was a president to do? Executive action, that’s what.
That is precisely what Obama did during his first term, and what he is doing now to curb gun violence, as he comes out as a leader of reform in tackling one of the toughest issues in the United States, given the lobbying strength of the NRA, the Supreme Court’s reinterpretation of the right to bear arms as a constitutionally given individual right, and all those gun lovers not just from red states, but scattered throughout all fifty states.
The only difference now is that Obama is not just relying on executive action, but telling everyone about it. Headlines like today’s in the New York Times even include the term “executive order.” It’s as if we’re all in a civics class learning that, yes, it is the president’s obligation to execute the laws, and execution involves implementation.
There is a lot of room between implementation and execution, and Obama plans on using all of it when it comes to curbing gun violence. The president is “laying out 19 separate actions” that “invok[e] the power of his office.”
Again, in classic Obama fashion, he does not restrict his executive action only to guns. In addition to the Justice Department, Obama is calling upon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the role mental illness plays. He also highlights how helpful the medical-records provision in Obamacare will be in assessing this role. Finally, Obama plans on revisiting international restrictions to reduce gun-running from overseas.
Had Obama invoked this type of presidential action from the very beginning, he might have been pegged a unilateral executive, a president who tries to increase the authority of his office. Having waited and been belittled, however, he can now simply call himself a leader who must lead when Congress can.