Being Right – Rebuilding Lincoln’s Cabin

Chris Neefus

The protracted homage Barack Obama has been constructing to Lincoln, in some vain effort at comparison, is likely to reach a fever pitch as Presidents’ Day weekend looms. One thing Barack Obama must hate about Lincoln, though, was his aggressive use of executive power, clearly overstepping Article II of the Constitution. In fact, as recently as this fall, Obama and Nancy Pelosi were abjectly mortified at the Bush Administration’s use of executive power on issues like Congressional subpoenas and security policy, safety of the nation be damned.

It’s strange, then, that Obama has made a Bushian, even Lincolnian, grab at additional executive power. He’s moved to take the 2010 U.S. Census out of the control of the Secretary of Commerce and into the White House. Instead of using a full count as United States v. Department of Commerce specifies, the Census Bureau is meant to devise a statistic sampling method with Rahm Emmanuel. In other words, instead of being handled by career scientists, this decennial census will be running on pure charm. The 2010 Census has been a disaster long in the making, with Congressional committees trying to understand why Commerce can’t get street canvassing software to work. Starting from scratch, especially as Emanuel has his hands overfull managing an exceptionally large group of West Wing staffers, could be cataclysmic.

Why all the trouble then? Because, as The New York Times Editorial Board so helpfully pointed out on February 9, “The census is used to allocate federal aid to states and draw electoral districts.” Written before Judd Gregg had withdrawn, The Times chided Obama: “one would think that the White House would be paying more attention.” Well, Emmanuel is now likely preparing himself to redraw Congressional districts with a crayon thanks to new statistical models. While Congressional Democrats told FOX News this was a conservative conspiracy theory, just before press time, David Axelrod refused to offer FOX clarification on Emmanuel’s role, asserting only that he and Emmanuel are “not professionals.” Oh, we know.

On the other side of the Mall, Nancy Pelosi is asserting control over her own turf. In preparation to legislate for “500 million” new destitute constituents, Pelosi has approved a rules package for the 111th Congress that cripples the minority’s ability to make a motion to recommit bills to committee. They can no longer offer those amendments, and instead must ask for specific policy changes on the House floor, which then can immediately reconsider the bill without committee debate. This will allow Democrats to bury pet projects or tax increases into larger bills that are politically difficult to vote against, with no possibility for House Republicans to modify them. The Washington Times’ diligent reporting on this is ostensibly what prompted Pelosi to tell her cohorts at the Washington Press Club Foundation dinner that she wanted to “pee on” the publication.

Pelosi’s first out-and-out battle of the term, though, happened last week, when she and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faced off with two different versions of the economic stimulus bill. One version of events has her approving of changes to clauses regarding health care and allowing Reid to announce the agreement, only to publicly undermine him in an effort to extort slightly more beneficial language.

This seasoned power hoarder may soon be put in her place, though. When interviewed by Liberadio, Jim Cooper (D-TN) admitted that he “got some quiet encouragement from the Obama folks” for his “No vote” on the stimulus, “because they know it’s a messy bill and they wanted a clean bill.” He also lamented how low-level representatives are “treated like mushrooms” as Pelosi dictates legislation with an elite group of colleagues. If she keeps upsetting her caucus and the administration though, she may continue to be undermined by Obama after her Roman holiday.

Either megalomania looks less appalling from the driver’s seat, or Pelosi and Obama are just trying, in their own ways, to do Lincoln proud.