The Obama administration’s best argument for the Iran nuclear deal is also an argument against its general enthusiasm for multilateralism in preserving the international order. If a deal with Iran were not struck soon, it is indeed quite possible that the coalition imposing sanctions on Iran would unravel. And there is no chance that this coalition will ratchet sanctions up to put more pressure on Iran. The coalition may be fraying even more quickly now, as Russia and China fall into financial distress and become more eager to export goods to Iran. Russia in particular supported Iran in its demand to have restrictions on development of ballistic missiles lifted. No prizes for guessing what nation is likely to make money off deals with Iran in that area.
But this line of analysis is also a demonstration of the inherent weakness of international coalitions as an instrument of foreign policy. Nations may come together to purse a joint program, when their interests coincide. But the world is a turbulent place and interests change. And unlike domestic contracts, long term agreements among nations are difficult to police and enforce.
That is the reason that United States would do well to maintain the force and will to act alone.
THE WHITE HOUSE—Declaring his intent to cure the public of its worshipful disposition toward the executive office, and consonant with the Whiggish constitutional modesty on which he campaigned in 2008, President Obama announced that the much-anticipated location of his Presidential Library and Museum will be nowhere.
“Presidential libraries are monuments less to the egos of individual executives, which is bad enough, than to presidential gigantism,” Mr. Obama explained in a statement, which was issued in writing in order to diminish the grandeur an Oval Office setting would otherwise have lent it. “The presidency is a swollen institution that distorts our constitutional system. I consequently will donate my papers to the University of Chicago School of Law, whose faculty I hope will study the constitutional implications of my and other recent presidencies.”
Modern progressivism’s relatively weak legislative coalition explains much of the behavior of the Obama administration and the new threats it poses to our constitutional order. As I discuss in an article just published in the City Journal, under FDR and even LBJ, the Democratic party had much more enduring power in Congress. Moreover, these administrations were not nearly so hamstrung as is the Obama administration by deficits and high government spending caused in no small measure by previous progressive experiments. Thus, previous progressive administrations could often be more forthright in the proclamation of their goals and rely on their large legislative majorities to enact and revise the central parts of their programs.
But the Obama administration needs to compensate for its relative weakness by misleading the public and exalting executive power even beyond the previous efforts of progressives. For instance, the President’s repeated promise that you can keep your health care insurance and doctor was necessary to enact the Affordable Care Act, because in our more affluent society the great majority are happy with their health care. As I note in the piece:
In his January 21 column for Forbes (“Obama’s SOTU Surprise: A Break for Charity”) Manhattan Institute Vice President Howard Husock speculates that the Obama Administration may at last be coming round to better appreciate the role of philanthropy in American flourishing. The Obama Administration is now proposing to shrink the “trust fund loophole” in favor of nonprofits, meaning that heirs would be subject to capital gains taxes on the original basis of the assets while charities would not.
President Obama’s State of the Union Address makes blogging colleague Greg Weiner’s suggestion to abolish it look pretty good. Of the constitutional clause requiring that he address Congress, Greg observes: “If anything, modern Presidents ought to view its opening phrase—‘from time to time’—as a limit rather than a license.” I am even more \ drawn to Frank Buckley’s devastating critique of contemporary presidential government, The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America.
I would have thought that Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) of all pols would not have conceded victory to Obama when he attacked Obama’s “class warfare” proposals—which is exactly the way Obama wants them viewed. Or that the congressman characterized the speech as not as extreme as he feared it would be.
Richard Reinsch's post “Return to the Barbaric” leads me to think that there is indeed something different about the use of the executive power in the Obama Administration, though FDR set a new model–closing the banks and barring people from access to their savings, on the strength of nothing but the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. FDR also traded destroyers for naval bases, when his Attorney General, Robert Jackson, told him that those destroyers were not his property to sell or trade. But as Reinsch and others have said, cashiering the president of GM, rewriting the law on Obamacare,…
President Obama may have escaped the widespread carping at his West Point speech by bringing even greater embarrassment upon himself with the Bowe Bergdahl deal, and now the implosion of Iraq, but the recent D-Day celebrations impel us to revisit the offensive speech. There is much more here than the widely-noted hackery: e.g., “Those who argue otherwise—who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away—are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.” The captivating orator had become the whining demagogue many had previously perceived; the admired student body president appeared a petulant schoolyard bully.
By bold paramilitary action, Vladimir Putin is seizing full power over eastern Ukraine. At the same time his empty threat of outright invasion is leading the Ukrainian government—supported by Barack Obama as a rope supports a hanging man—to agree to a “federative structure” for the country.