Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. He is a professor of politics and public policy at Georgetown University.
The president's strategy in governing is a very simple one: He wants the public to pay attention to what he says but pay no mind to what he does.
Let's match what the president has said on major issues to what he has done or what he would like to do:
Take "cap-and-trade": The president upon getting elected said that it was in our national interest to pass a cap-and-trade bill that would address global warming and reduce America's dependence on foreign sources of energy and reduce carbon emissions. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, this is what President Obama said to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009:
"Under my plan of cap-and-trade, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."
President Obama was right. His energy taxes, like the cap-and-trade tax, will drive energy costs for American families through the roof. Last year cap-and-trade legislation passed in the House but got stuck in the Senate. Is cap-and-trade then dead? No way. President Obama wants the American people to focus elsewhere while he accomplishes administratively what he could not legislatively by using the Environmental Protection Agency to issue rulings and standards by which to accomplish radical environmental reforms.
Or consider offshore drilling: Candidate Obama was not in favor of offshore drilling and scoffed at the idea saying, "I think it's important for the American people to understand we're not going to drill our way out of this problem." Now, as president, in an effort to appear to conciliatory to conservatives he announced the following, hyping it as a major shift in his thinking:
"Today we're announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration, but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America's natural resources. Under the leadership of Secretary Salazar, we'll employ new technologies that reduce the impact of oil exploration. We'll protect areas that are vital to tourism, the environment, and our national security. And we'll be guided not by political ideology, but by scientific evidence."
Sounds good doesn't it? Does this mean that the president now supports immediate offshore drilling to reduce U.S. dependence of foreign sources of fossil fuels? No way. The president's rhetoric does not match his true intent. There will be no new drilling during his presidency. He couches his "support" in studies, and process. What appears to be a shift in position is nothing more than an oil slick of cagey words to make people believe he is open to new ideas and solutions.
The henchwoman who has been tasked with carrying out what Obama is unable to achieve through legislation is White House Climate Change Czar Carol Browner. Browner is one of a few dozen czars appointed by the president but not subject to Senate confirmation. She in effect tells the EPA director, (who is Senate confirmed) what to do and how to get it done.
If the president can achieve his goals legislatively he is prepared to go that route, but if on the other hand, he is rebuffed by his Democrat-controlled Congress he is prepared to go it alone through administrative actions.
The president's goal is simple. He knows his tenure is finite and more than anything else he wants to implement as much of a radical agenda as is possible--legally or otherwise. We are seeing it on energy, we have seen it on healthcare, on Internet regulation, the debt commission, union card check, and the list goes on. The task is to implement and worry about challenges later.
Republicans in Congress need to thwart bad legislation and step up their oversight on executive branch agencies actions while nongovernmental organizations lawyer up to challenge in the courts the illegal actions taken by agencies at the demands of the White House.
We all need to pay more attention to what is being done rather than what is being said.