They are definitely not cheering for it, but some conservatives and libertarians I ordinarily respect are saying oh, ho hum, it is no big deal if President Barack Obama gets re-elected because -- listen up, worriers -- we have separation of powers. We have divided government. Both houses of Congress are likely to be Republican after November's election, and they will keep this guy in check.
Excuse me, but have these fine folks paid any attention whatsoever to the past century or so of American history, to the gradually, then dramatically growing power of the executive?
Do they know how administrative agencies are now virtual dictators of much of American life and how a particularly controversial guy can be snuck into bossing one around when Congress is out of Washington? Have they heard of the veto, and how there is little way Republicans can stymie tyrannical acts big and small unless they have numbers no single election will ever give them?
Have they noticed the way in which Obama himself has come increasingly to think of Congress as a bother to be casually swatted away?
I don't say this as a Republican lover. Again and again, I get emails that start off, "All you Republicans ..." and I want to shout back, "Not guilty!" To me, the Republicans are the lesser of two evils and on occasion have been the greater. But minus a Republican president, what will happen when the Supreme Court has a couple of vacancies?
Obama may not be able to squeeze leftist deconstructionists onto the court, but after all the banging, jousting and grandstanding are done, we will have new, unmistakably progressive justices in a position to someday help take this country down the road to a more Europeanized, overregulated, liberty-shrinking society.
And treaties? The Senate has to confirm them, but presidents negotiate and have understandings with other countries outside treaties, and we right now have an administration that is making jokes about how Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney thinks we are still in a cold war with Russia.
Give these leaders of ours high grades for a cute riposte, but ask them if they know that in December, Russian leader Vladimir Putin boasted, "We are the largest nuclear power." Find out whether they know he did this in the context of saying that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was manipulating Russian elections and that he would not let her Russian co-conspirators get away with it. What do these enlightened ones make of that?
Obama's way of dealing with Putin and his puppets has been to give them just about whatever they want. Russia is good at taking, but always wants more and seldom gives. The worst of it is the Russian refusal to support sufficiently tough sanctions to keep Iran from developing nuclear bombs.
Shall we drag the Environmental Protection Agency into all of this? Why, yes, let's note that the EPA, with White House blessings, is doing its muscular best to stop an energy boom that could salvage us economically while also lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Keep Obama where he is and you could well keep EPA where it is, with Congress wagging its tongue some, but wagging clout scarcely a whit.
There's more, such as the way Obama disassembled a national school accountability law without Congress's permission and told Congress to take a hike on whether it wanted us militarily involved in Libya. These are among items noted in a March 30 Wall Street Journal piece reminding us how Obama once promised to reduce executive authority. The thing is, he can't make the kind of national omelet he has in mind without breaking a lot of eggs otherwise known as promises.
The short of it is that it makes a ton of difference whether Obama gets a second term or not. He is increasingly authoritarian in a country that increasingly allows that to happen.
Jay Ambrose, former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, lives in Colorado. Email SpeaktoJay@aol.com.