US President Barack Obama speaks during the League of Conservation Voters Capitol Dinner at the Ronald Regan Building and International Trade Center on June 25, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

Flipping the script on Boehner’s anti-Obama lawsuit

Ever since House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced his intention to file a frivolous lawsuit against President Obama over his use of executive authority, there’s one person who seems especially excited about it: President Obama.
 
A few days ago in Minnesota, for example, Obama told voters, “I’m not sure which of the things I’ve done they find most offensive, but they’ve decided they’re going to sue me for doing my job. I mean, I might have said in the heat of the moment during one of these debates, ‘I want to raise the minimum wage, so sue me when I do,’ but I didn’t think they were going to take it literally.”
 
It’s unexpected, but the West Wing is arguably more enthusiastic about this lawsuit than Republicans are. NBC’s First Read crew added this morning:
[H]ere is something that shouldn’t be ignored: The White House LOVES the lawsuit. For one thing, it gives meaning to the White House’s various executive actions. Earlier this year during the State of the Union, many of us proclaimed [the president and his team are] simply playing “small ball.” But given this lawsuit, Republicans certainly don’t see them being small.
 
In addition, the lawsuit only emphasizes the contrast that one branch of government is doing SOMETHING while the other branch is doing NOTHING. Bottom line: The White House sees a political opportunity here – an opportunity that Republicans might not have seen coming.
Note that former White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler appeared on “Meet the Press” the other day and also seemed to enjoy chiding House Republicans for their pointless antics.
 
“To come out guns blazing and say, ‘I’m going to sue you,’ but then say, ‘Well, I haven’t really figured out why yet,’ is a little bit odd, to say the least,” Ruemmler said. “And I think it’s pretty suggestive that this is just for show. And it’s opportunistic in an election year.”
 
To my great relief, however, the National Republican Senatorial Committee yesterday published a piece claiming it has specific examples to bolster the party’s anti-Obama complaint.
 
The NRSC, whose website appears to be a sad Buzzfeed knockoff, complete with a few too many gifs, apparently has evidence of the president’s “out-of-control agenda” and Obama adopting “the governing philosophy of [an] Imperial President.” Here’s the whole list, exactly as it appeared on the NRSC site:
1) The time President Obama waived Obamacare for Unions, but not for you.
 
2) The time The Obama Administration spied on journalists and wouldn’t say why.
 
3) The time President Obama decided to attend the Senate Democrats retreat but not campaign with any of them.
 
4) The time President Obama restricted journalists from taking video and photos of him. Instead forcing them to use media provided by the White House.
 
5) The time President Obama delayed the KeystoneXL pipeline for more than 5 years, costing tens of thousands of jobs.
 
6) The time President Obama told you, you could keep your health plan even though he knew you couldn’t.
This is a terrific example of why the “Imperial President” talking point is simply impossible to take seriously. If Republicans were sincere about the belief that Obama had a genuinely “out-of-control agenda,” they’d be able to come up with actual lists. Hell, I don’t even believe the argument and even I could probably come up with bullet points that are better than these.
 
For example, the “Obamacare waiver for unions” line is silly, as is the accusation that the administration spied on journalists. But beyond that, if Obama attended a retreat with Senate Democrats, but didn’t campaign alongside some of them, that’s evidence of out-of-control president? For that matter, Obama delayed a decision on a controversial oil pipeline. This is the stuff of imperial tendencies?
 
Does the NRSC even understand its own talking points?
 
The reality isn’t especially complicated. As Jonathan Bernstein explained yesterday, “Rhetoric aside, no one thinks Obama is acting like a dictator…. [B]y every indicator we have for measuring unusual unilateral action – executive orders, signing statements, pardons and even recess appointments – Obama appears to be on the restrained side. That doesn’t mean the administration can’t be wrong on particular actions, but the larger case that Obama is particularly aggressive is a joke because it ignores 43 other presidencies.”
 
Love Obama or hate him, that’s just reality. No wonder the White House is more excited than Republicans to have this debate.
 

Barack Obama and John Boehner

Flipping the script on Boehner's anti-Obama lawsuit