Commentary: 'That Arrogant Obama' Has the Audacity to Govern

Keith Boykin

Commentary: 'That Arrogant Obama' Has the Audacity to Govern

Republicans are upset that the president is pressing forward on his agenda.

Published November 14, 2014

"Arrogant Obama has learned nothing," complained one writer in a conservative publication last week. Obama's behavior shows "the audacity of arrogance," wrote another.

"He’s got no one with him now," opined perpetual Obama critic and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan. She believes Obama is now the loneliest president since Richard Nixon. Republicans don't like him. Democrats don't like him. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn't like Obama, Noonan argues.

What's got all these Republicans so upset? They're mad that President Obama didn't come out after last week's midterm election and apologize for his past six years in office.

Rather than retreating into malaise, the president held a press conference after the midterms, acknowledged Democratic losses in the elections and pressed forward on the agenda he was elected to accomplish.

Since the election, the president has been acting like he thinks he's the president of something or another. First, he nominated Loretta Lynch, who would become the nation's first African-American woman to serve as attorney general. Next, he called on the F.C.C. to adopt consumer-friendly "net neutrality" rules to keep the Internet open to everyone. Then he signed an historic agreement with China to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change. And now, after years of congressional delay, he's moving forward with plans to protect 5 million undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation.

How dare he?

Republicans are using the results of the 2014 midterm election to try to bully the president and the Democrats into surrendering their beliefs. Unfortunately, the GOP strategy is working in some quarters. Democrats, who still control the Senate until January, have already agreed to allow a vote on the controversial Republican-sponsored bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Democrats think the Keystone vote will help Sen. Mary Landrieu win re-election in her Louisiana runoff contest next month. It won't help her, but it will alienate the party from some of its core constituencies. And to make matters worse, the Democrats get nothing in return for the concession. Fortunately, the White House seems ready to veto the Keystone bill if it reaches the president's desk.

If Obama vetoes the bill, Republicans will complain the president is standing in the way of democracy, energy independence and creating jobs. Don't believe the hype. This president has vetoed fewer bills than any president since James Garfield, who only served six months in office in 1881. Under Obama, the U.S. has become the world's largest oil producer, even surpassing Saudi Arabia. And the Keystone pipeline will only create 35 permanent jobs. That's not a typo. There are no zeroes missing. All this fuss about Keystone is about trading off the environment for barely a few dozen jobs in an economy that's already generating 200,000 jobs a month.

Now here's the real audacity of arrogance. The turnout in the midterm election this year was 36 percent, the lowest voter turnout since 1942 when America was fighting a war against Hitler. In contrast, voter turnout reached 58 percent when Obama won re-election in 2012. Follow this logic. Republicans claim they have a mandate because 22 million people voted for Republican Senate candidates last week. But they argued President Obama had "no mandate" when 65 million people voted for him in 2012.

The American people did not elect Obama to a two-year term. They elected him to serve a full second term in office. Yes, he should work with Republicans when he can, but the constitution gives the president a unique role as chief executive. If Republicans don't like it, they should win a presidential election of their own.  

Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes commentary for each week.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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Written by Keith Boykin


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