Two recent Presidential pronouncements reflect the essential Barack Obama. Each also explains why so many view him to be the weakest of American presidents.
Example one pertains to Mr. Obama's public reaction to the gruesome terrorist murders of five Jewish worshippers during morning prayers in a Jerusalem synagogue on Nov. 18th.
Those of you able to watch the president's reaction that afternoon may recall the unemotional monotone during remarks expressing American outrage at the carnage. But it was what followed the initial words of condemnation that revealed the inner Barack Obama — the one that seeks out a moral equivalence whenever America is engaged in the world (particularly where American diplomacy or military assets are at stake), and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no exception.
From this egalitarian predicate, the president held both "sides" jointly liable for the daily outrages that desecrate the Holy land. As such, the president's calls for "mutual restraint" were targeted as much toward the defensive Israelis as the offensive Palestinians.
That this ambivalence with regard to Israeli policy has been exacerbated during the tenure of Bibi Netanyahu is without doubt. In turn, the Israeli prime minister understands this American president has been weak on Israel since his days in the U.S. Senate. Expressions of moral (or any other type of) equivalence by Mr. Obama only further strengthens this notion, particularly among the Israeli right.
It is here the former law professor prefers to intellectualize shades of gray where stronger leaders would see black and white — kind of like a law professor directing students to argue both sides of a case. But the embattled Mr. Netanyahu has no such luxury. His is a daily experience in survival — surrounded by enemies sworn to destroy his country — including the mislabeled "peace loving" Palestinians, a majority of whom vocally and often violently demonize the Jewish state (check out the media scenes of Palestinians celebrating news of the synagogue murders — even making sweets in order for their children to participate in the "good" times).
Example two concerns the facts and circumstances surrounding the president's groundbreaking immigration announcement that suspends the deportation of almost 5 million illegal immigrants. Herewith, five considerations as you digest this latest assault on the Constitution:
•Recall that the Democrats controlled all three branches of government during the first two years of Obama I. Accordingly, the president and Democratic leadership could have passed any iteration of immigration reform they wished — the Republicans were powerless to stop them. Yet, not one bill emerged from either chamber of Congress. Rarely is the president asked why he failed to press his advantage at the time.
•The media (particularly Fox) has run dozens of video clips wherein the president repeatedly voices his opinion that he lacked the power to sign an executive action of this magnitude. The pre-midterm interviews are replete with warnings about how such an action would be "unfair," "illegal," "illogical" and "not how we do things" in our system of government. Such disingenuousness is one reason why the president's credibility has slipped so dramatically over the past two years.
•In a well-timed ploy reminiscent of white-coated physicians descending on the Rose Garden to shower praise on Obamacare, the White House released a list of (count 'em!) 10 prominent lefty law professors supportive of the executive action power play. (A number of the signatories have personal connections with the president.) In light of the president's long and undistinguished Supreme Court losing streak on matters of executive branch overreach, Mr. Obama will assuredly need all the professor-types he can gather.
•The last thing an American president should do is reflect any sense of understanding or empathy toward the Palestinian Authority until such time as it stops its determined effort to invite another intifada. A fragile Israel simply can't afford such indulgences into moral equivalence when so many guns are pointed at its head.
•Democratic apologists claim previous presidents issued similar orders. Yet, as numerous pundits (and law professors) have pointed out, this order is distinguished from previous directives since it does not interpret an existing law, is not done on a country-specific basis, has no connection to a humanitarian crisis in the country of origin and is clearly contrary to congressional intent. Oh, and few if any serious observers believe a "dysfunctional" Congress is an appropriate rationale for such unilateral action.
For those of you inclined toward a different perspective, you might check out Professor Jonathan Turley's widely cited dissenting critique. The self-professed liberal academic is the lead attorney attempting to defeat this latest Administration power grab. Footnote: The Department of Justice provided its legal support for the order with about one hour to spare. There was also a report that DOJ originally opposed the action — presumably before they were reminded who signed their paychecks.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" and "America: Hope for Change" — books about national politics. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.