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January 6, 2011, 6:49 pm
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The President has morphed into a conservative in liberal democratic garb
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  There are two Obamas

                                                By Reynold N Mason JD

Atlanta, Jan. 6, 2010.       This week Republicans wrested control of the house from the clutches of a cadre of democrats who, just years ago, looked like our collective Moses. Yes, they would deliver us to the Promised Land.  In the new America there would be redistribution of wealth, no tax cuts for the wealthy, the notorious Gitmo prison would be shuttered, Barak Obama would veto any bill that contained earmarks and there would be path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

But campaign promises are so much easier to keep because they are hypothetical and divorced from political reality.  As the President confronts host of nettlesome issues, from the national debt to recess appointments, we have witnessed a political metamorphosis unmatched in the annals of American politics.   Faced with a debt fast rising toward the ceiling, the President must confront a new species of recalcitrant Republican neophytes, who insist that we live within our means as a nation.   This presents a genuine problem for the President.  And last week he dispatched his surrogate and fiscal point man, Austan  Goolsbee, to clear a path for his match toward even higher deficits in the coming years.  The President, needing spending money,  has begun to frame the debate in advance of the expected battle over the national debt, by warning of the dire consequences should congress not raise the debt ceiling, come March of 2011. “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,” he said on March 16, 2006. “Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit.Those were the words uttered by then Senator Obama as he voted against raising the debt ceiling. Truer words are seldom uttered.  In 2007 and in 2008, when the Senate voted to increase the limit by $850 billion and $800 billion respectively, Obama did not bother to vote.  That was then. The very next year, as President Obama, he dispatched Timothy Geitner to warn congress that it was “critically important” that they act in the next two months to increase the debt ceiling. That was September, 2009. 

And now, in anticipation of guerrilla war with Tea party Republicans, he has dispatched Goolsbee,  who told ABC News’ THIS WEEK “I don't see why anybody's talking about playing chicken with the debt ceiling, If we get to the point where you've damaged the full faith and credit of the United States, that would be the first default in history caused purely by insanity”.   What happened to shifting the burden onto the backs of our children? No problem. Like any sophomore with his parents credit card, when times get rough and money is short, you simply swipe the plastic and to pay for emergencies and to pay the bills. But at the end of the month the bill arrives and mom and dad cut off the credit card. That is what Tea Party Republicans aim to do to this President in this congress. And he has launched a preemptive strike.  

I have always believed, although I am no economist, that when one hits tough times one cuts spending to the bone, cut off cable, cancel the playboy subscription and do whatever is necessary by spending as little as possible.  But why worry! The Chinese are willing to lend us a few trillion dollars so we can maintain our military presence in Europe and, fund our burgeoning entitlement programs.  "I think we should resist that. We need to have a showdown, at this point, that we're not going to increase our debt ceiling anymore. We are going to cut things necessary to stay within the current levels, which is over $14 trillion,"  Sounds like Senator Obama in 2006. But   it’s what Senator DeMint told the conservative magazine Human Events in an interview released Monday. "So this needs to be a big showdown." Those words uttered by  the Senator that gave rise to a firestorm of negative response in the mainstream media.  Yet they are not different from the words spoken by Barak Obama in excoriating George Bush for having the audacity to ask for an increase in the debt ceiling back in 2005.

                     Obama on Immigration then and now

 As a candidate, Senator Obama told packed auditoriums, "I think it's time for a President who won't walk away from something as important comprehensive reform when it becomes politically unpopular." Then, he said, "I will make it a top priority in my first year as President - not just because we need to secure our borders and get control of who comes into our country. And not just because we have to crack down on employers abusing undocumented immigrants. But because we have to finally bring those 12 million people out of the shadows."

That was then. This is now. Back then the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep Gutierrez embraced candidate Obama, hopefully, and galvanized Hispanic support behind his campaign. Now Gutierrez says ruefully, “it was hard for me to imagine a time I would have to say no to Barack Obama when he asked me for support. But last week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sat down with the President, and he asked us to vote for the health care reform bill -- a bill that denies immigrants the opportunity to purchase health care with their own money. It was one more in a string of disappointments for the Hispanic community, and today, I no longer find myself able to confidently say "yes" when President Obama asks me for his support.”   During the 2008 campaign, Obama attacked his rival saying, “Senator McCain used to offer change on immigration. He was a champion of comprehensive reform, and I admired him for it. But when he was running for his party’s nomination, he walked away from that commitment and he’s said he wouldn’t even support his own legislation if it came up for a vote.” “If we are going to solve the challenges we face,” said he “you need a President who will pursue genuine solutions day in and day out. And that is my commitment to you.” That’s why comprehensive reform is so important”….. “Something that we can do immediately that is very important is to pass the Dream Act, which allows children who through no fault of their own are here but have essentially grown up as Americans, allow them the opportunity for higher education.” (Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin, Feb 21, 2008)   But when push came to shove, the President abandoned his political allies and took cover in the political thicket, declaiming that congress did not have the stomach to pass comprehensive immigration at this time.  He abandoned DREAM to the ignominy of a “show” vote in the lame duck session, when his once robust majority was in its dying throes. It failed as he knew it would.  But now he could assign the blame to republicans because they opposed it.


                              Recess Appointments, more of the same

When President Bush faced a recalcitrant democratic congress in 2005, he made recess appointments to circumvent congress’ blockade of his nominees.  One of these appointments was John Bolton as Unites States Ambassador to the UN.  At the time Sen. Obama protested Bolton’s appointment to the UN.   “To some degree, he’s damaged goods,” said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I think that means we’ll have less credibility and, ironically, be less equipped to reform the United Nations in the way that it needs to be reformed.” Yet this month President Obama said that he intended to install six appointees,  including James Cole, his controversial pick for the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department while Congress is in recess. The move will allow them to serve without confirmation by the Senate. The White House Press office issued a release which said:

After facing months of Republican obstruction to administration nominees, President Obama announced his intent to recess appoint fifteen nominees to fill critical administration posts that have been left vacant, including key positions on the economic team and on boards that have been left with vacancies for months.  Obstinacy” of Republicans, and the “need to govern”, was justification for a forthcoming decision by the President to proceed unilaterally with his recess appointments. But he certainly had no problem deploying it to advance his argument that bypassing Senate confirmation reduced the credibility of the appointment

                               What about Gitmo

For years, the President has said Guantanamo has undermined national security, serving as a highly effective recruiting poster for Al Qaeda and making it difficult for the United States to get international cooperation on terrorism. Not to mention that it runs directly counter to the nation's moral and legal traditions. If there ever was a change we could believe in, it was candidate Barack Obama's promise to close Guantanamo.  Once he took office, President Obama set a deadline for doing it: Jan. 22, 2010.  Almost a year ago.  But even though President Obama insists he still wants to close Guantanamo,  it is open today and, he reportedly will soon sign an executive order that will allow some detainees to continue to be imprisoned indefinitely.

Now the wealthy have their tax cuts, Obama has his recess appointments, we still have Gitmo and 12 million people, to whom he represented hope and change, have awakened to a nightmare. The messiah is not the messiah. He has morphed into a conservative in liberal democratic garb, a new sheriff is guarding the golden gates and the DREAM is dead.

Author: Reynold Mason
Reynold N. Mason teaches law courses at Zenover Educational Institute In Atlanta, Georgia. He has been a judge on New York City Civil Court and, a Justice on New York State Supreme Court. Mason has been an adjunct professor of law at Medgar Evers College and Monroe College in New York. He has authored several legal opinions published in New York Miscellaneous Reports and New York Official Reports as well as the New York Law Journal. He lives in Atlanta.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
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