Official portrait of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 13, 2009.

(Photo by Pete Souza)

Boehner lawsuit threat is latest Obama insult

IN THE LATEST strike at President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner sent a memo to fellow House Republicans threatening to sue the president for using executive orders to sidestep the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

[blocktext align=”right”]Boehner’s reference to “king-like authority” conjures images of George III, the British king whom the colonists rebelled against during the American Revolution. That comparison, which coincidentally comes just days before Independence Day, reads like a call to rebellion.[/blocktext]

“If the current president can selectively enforce, change or create laws as he chooses with impunity, without the involvement of the legislative branch…,” Boehner said in the memo, “[This gives] the president king-like authority at the expense of the American people and their elected legislators.”

For those who aren’t up on their American history, Boehner’s reference to “king-like authority” conjures images of George III, the British king whom the colonists rebelled against during the American Revolution. That comparison, which coincidentally comes just days before Independence Day, reads like a call to rebellion.

And why not rebel? If Obama’s use of executive orders is an unconstitutional abuse of power, he should be called out for it. People should take to the streets. We should all join the Tea Party.

There’s just one problem. Boehner’s accusation is a crock. Obama is not overusing executive orders. In fact, Obama has issued fewer executive orders per year than any president since Franklin Roosevelt, says Gerhard Peters, co-founder of the American Presidency Project. Peters even has the numbers to prove it, as reported by Newsweek.

That’s why Obama is right to call Boehner’s threat to sue a publicity stunt. He’s also right to call Boehner’s bluff.

“Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me,” Obama said Tuesday at an event in Washington, just days after Boehner’s threat went public. “As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.”

And that, I’m afraid, is the crux of the issue. Obama, in the minds of some Republicans, should somehow be forced to be less than a president. He should be forced to capitulate to the will of his detractors. He should be forced to accept the kinds of insults no American president has ever endured.

Boehner lawsuit threat bigger than politics

There are those who would have us believe this is driven by partisan politics. But Obama’s trials at the hands of the Republican opposition are at least partly driven by race. How else to explain that Obama, who shepherded America through one of its worst recessions, killed our greatest enemy, and ended our most damaging war, was recently polled as a worse president than Richard Nixon, the man who resigned in disgrace? How else to explain the other insane attacks we’ve seen leveled against Obama?

We’ve seen Obama endure the tumultuous opposition of a corporate-funded and well-organized Tea Party. We’ve observed in stunned amazement as Obama’s signature healthcare law—an idea first proposed by Republicans—was denigrated as socialism. We’ve cringed as the Fox news network has engaged in a ‘round the clock campaign against him. We’ve winced at the nonsensical spectacle of the Birther movement helmed by multimillionaire Donald Trump.

[blocktext align=”left”]”Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me. As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.” – President Barack Obama [/blocktext]

Obama’s detractors say he’s faced unprecedented opposition due to his policies. They say the fanatical zeal of his enemies has been par for the political course. They say the tools of the Internet age have magnified partisan divisions. I believe all those things are true.

But in just a few days we will celebrate Independence Day, and if we are to be truly free from the literal and figurative shackles of our nation’s past, we must be free to admit that much of the opposition to Obama is due to the color of his skin.

We will never be free if we keep lying to ourselves about the fact that racism remains one of our nation’s most persistent problems. And we will never be able to solve our nation’s problems if we don’t admit they exist.

Obama, as the first American president of African descent, is the lightning rod around which those problems tend to strike, because for different segments of Americans, he represents different things.

For African Americans, Obama is the culmination of our struggle for political power, and the embodiment of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. For those who hold racist views, however, Obama is a symbol of something else.

To them, he represents the erosion of social order and the disappearance of their perceived superiority. His ascension to the most powerful office in the world represents a personal loss, because in their view, Obama has taken something away from them and handed it to someone else.

Boehner lawsuit threat has ugly roots

I believe that’s why the opposition to Obama has been accompanied by rallying cries that include the notion of taking back the country. My question is, ‘Take back the country from whom?’

[blocktext align=”right”]As I watch the ridiculous spectacle of the House Speaker threatening to sue the President over contrived accusations, I see a man who is pandering to a constituency that is keen to put Obama in whatever “place” they believe he should occupy.[/blocktext]

As I watch the ridiculous spectacle of the House Speaker threatening to sue the President over contrived accusations, I see a man who is pandering to a constituency that is keen to put Obama in whatever “place” they believe he should occupy.

But Obama will have to look beyond that. Just as African American history makers have always done, Obama will have to decide which battles to fight now, and which to save for another day, because his presence is about much more than the doors he has already walked through. It’s about the doors he will open along the way. It is about the future of American families, and the aspirations of American children.

If we are to leave our children a nation that is truly indivisible under God, we cannot be a place where liberty and justice belong to one group. We must offer liberty and justice to all.

If we can achieve that, then we will truly achieve independence. If we can do that, we will finally be free. sj favicon 3

Photo: White House photo.

Click here to read Denise Clay’s column: “Independence Day in red white and black.”


solomon thumbnailSolomon Jones is an Essence bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He is the creator and editor of Solomonjones.com. Click here to learn more about Solomon.

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