Pete Souza

Pete Souza

It’s called a “Freudian slip,” and it’s one of the few pieces of Sigmund’s theory that has survived into the modern day. It happens when you “accidentally” say something that’s true, but that you didn’t mean to say.

“I’m sure I’m not supposed to, but we’re breaking protocol here,” President Barack Obama told reporters during a visit to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. “That’s the good thing about being president. I can do whatever I want.”

>>> Check Out: Obama: “I Can Do Whatever I Want”

Of course the president simply means he’s the ultimate VIP, free to explore parts of the estate that would be off limits to a typical tourist. But his words have a double meaning. As president, his attitude toward Congress has often been “I can do whatever I want.”

It doesn’t take long to find examples.

  • Just yesterday, the President delayed implementation of Obamacare’s employer mandate for certain companies that meet certain conditions the administration suddenly made up. The law, of course, specifically orders those companies to provide coverage beginning this year.
  • Last year, Obama had pushed back the deadline for all employers from 2014 to 2015.
  • When Congress declined (repeatedly) to pass the DREAM Act, the administration cited “prosecutorial discretion” when it instructed federal officials to stop enforcing federal immigration law against a certain group of people.
  • In 2012, the Department of Justice announced that it would stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act or defending it from legal challenge, rather than asking lawmakers to repeal the law.
  • The Department of Education offered waivers to large parts of the No Child Left Behind law, replacing them with Common Core standards that haven’t been passed by Congress.
  • During his State of the Union address, Obama promised to use executive orders to go around Congress when he wants to.

President Obama is unilaterally amending laws so that they line up with his policy preferences. That’s an affront to the rule of law. As a former Constitutional law professor, he knows better. On a more pragmatic level, he ought to consider precedent. There will be another conservative president someday. Obama wouldn’t want that president to think he could rewrite acts of Congress to suit his fancy.