A change of pace in the election year
After letting the GOP candidates batter, butcher and humiliate themselves in a way that made 2011 an effortless year for comedians, President Obama used his executive power this month to recess appoint former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The move is bold and struck a no-nonsense tone for the president as he prepared for the 2012 election. Recess appointments are not altogether strange to the presidency. Since George Washington’s presidency, the recess appointment process has played an important role in American politics. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush made 139 and 171 recess appointments, respectively. The current administration has only made 28.
There is a questionable legality to this move. The Senate was technically not at recess at the time, but the more disturbing issue arises at Obama’s comments in Ohio, “When Congress refuses to act, and as a result hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them,” he said. The problem isn’t in the message of his comments, but in the obvious politic-play embedded in it.
This would not be the first time that Congress’ refusal to do anything has endangered the American economy. One of the most anger-inducing moments has to be the narrowly avoided government shutdown around August that led to Standard & Poors lowering the nation’s credit rating. Over the past several months, Obama has laid out ultimatums to Congress, urging them to do something — anything — in order to get the economy running again. Now he says he’ll try and go around them.
Perhaps it’s a symptom of a new era of cynicism towards American political culture, or it’s just hard to take anyone working on Capitol Hill for their word. Perhaps it’s only pure exasperation.
It seems to me that this is a move of a conniving politician looking for his next big election, not of a generous statesman looking to improve his country. There is an inherent suspiciousness in his announcement. It comes in almost immediately after the new year, an election year, and it serves to further paint the GOP as villains. It’s not that hard, considering that the Republicans are doing everything in their power to lose the election.
A leader should always take every step to achieve prosperity for the people that he or she leads. This isn’t the first time a president went around Congress. If there is a discrepancy in this case, it would be on a technicality, a political gimmick started by House Democrats during the Bush administration.
Why wasn’t such a move made sooner? The Dodd-Frank Act authorizing the establishment of this agency passed last year, but the agency has been denied a chair because the president allowed the squabbling children known as Congress to try and decide something.
Only during the first week of the election year has the president announced to fight for the little man. This was after four years of American politics degrading into a level of insanity like third grade classroom.
It’s a forgivable change of pace, but it’s election season after all.
James Wang is a history freshman and may be reached at [email protected]