Executive war powers up under Obama

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Moore 9/10 Heidi Moore, “Syria: the great distraction,’ The Guardian (UK) 9/10/2013, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/10/obama-syria-what-about-sequester/print jss

The country will crash into the debt ceiling in mid-October, which would be an economic disaster, especially with a government shutdown looming at the same time. These are deadlines that Congress already learned two years ago not to toy with, but memories appear to be preciously short. The Federal Reserve needs a new chief in three months, someone who will help the country confront its raging unemployment crisis that has left 12 million people without jobs. The president has promised to choose a warm body within the next three weeks, despite the fact that his top pick, Larry Summers, would likely spark an ugly confirmation battle – the "fight of the century," according to some – with a Congress already unwilling to do the President's bidding. Congress was supposed to pass a farm bill this summer, but declined to do so even though the task is already two years late. As a result, the country has no farm bill, leaving agricultural subsidies up in the air, farmers uncertain about what their financial picture looks like, and a potential food crisis on the horizon. The two main housing agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have been in limbo for four years and are desperately in need of reform that should start this fall, but there is scant attention to the problem. These are the problems going unattended by the Obama administration while his aides and cabinet members have been wasting the nation's time making the rounds on television and Capitol Hill stumping for a profoundly unpopular war. The fact that all this chest-beating was for naught, and an easy solution seems on the horizon, belies the single-minded intensity that the Obama White House brought to its insistence on bombing Syria. More than one wag has suggested, with the utmost reason, that if Obama had brought this kind of passion to domestic initiatives, the country would be in better condition right now. As it is, public policy is embarrassingly in shambles at home while the administration throws all of its resources and political capital behind a widely hated plan to get involved in a civil war overseas. The upshot for the president may be that it's easier to wage war with a foreign power than go head-to-head with the US Congress, even as America suffers from neglect. This is the paradox that President Obama is facing this fall, as he appears to turn his back on a number of crucial and urgent domestic initiatives in order to spend all of his meager political capital on striking Syria. Syria does present a significant humanitarian crisis, which has been true for the past two years that the Obama administration has completely ignored the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad. Two years is also roughly the same amount of time that key domestic initiatives have also gone ignored as Obama and Congress engage in petty battles for dominance and leave the country to run itself on a starvation diet imposed by sequestration cuts. Leon Panetta tells the story of how he tried to lobby against sequestration only to be told: Leon, you don't understand. The Congress is resigned to failure. Similarly, those on Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, those working at government agencies, and voters themselves have become all too practiced at ignoring the determined incompetence of those in Washington. Political capital – the ability to horse-trade and win political favors from a receptive audience – is a finite resource in Washington. Pursuing misguided policies takes up time, but it also eats up credibility in asking for the next favor. It's fair to say that congressional Republicans, particularly in the House, have no love for Obama and are likely to oppose anything he supports. That's exactly the reason the White House should stop proposing policies as if it is scattering buckshot and focus with intensity on the domestic tasks it wants to accomplish, one at a time.


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