One of the hats I wear is that of Washington correspondent for Dispatch International, a European weekly newspaper co-edited by Danish journalist and historian Lars Hedegaard. The name may ring a bell with U.S. readers because last February, a man dressed up as a postman with a fake package tried to assassinate Hedegaard, a noted critic of Islamization and proponent of free speech, at his home in Copenhagen. International headlines followed.
One year later, Hedegaard lives under state protection and there have been no arrests. But that's not what this week's column is about.
A few days ago, Hedegaard wrote me with a new assignment:
"Would you write something about a disturbing phenomenon: the fact that Obama rules by decree and neglects the Constitution. How can this go on? Nixon was a complete amateur compared to this would-be Kim Jong-un. It looks like a coup d'etat. Nobody talks about it in Europe."
So that's what America looks like from 4,000 miles away.
Given the lack of context "over there," my overview had to start with the basics of Barack Obama's presidency: numerous unconfirmed "tsars" (like George W. Bush), sweeping executive orders and massive amounts of regulation. "I've got a pen and I've got a phone" is the way the president recently described his tools of power, noticeably omitting whether he also had a copy of the U.S. Constitution. By the time I'd recapped the so-called unilateral presidency for the European reader, I was newly aghast.
For many Americans, living through the Obama era day-by-day, executive order by executive order, 100 regulations by 100 regulations (there were 80,000 pages of new regulations in 2013 alone), our nation's transformation becomes so much enveloping static. Yes, there are shrieks and screams (over Obamacare's rollout, for instance), but mostly people seem to shut out the background noise of an aggressively collectivizing government doing business. Outrages against the Constitution clank and sputter -- What? The executive branch can't write legislation! -- but they never really backfire on Obama. His poll numbers dip, yes. White noise ensues.
Such ambivalence may stem from the fact that many Americans are not well educated about how our government of three co-equal branches is supposed to function. Confession: Despite private school and an Ivy League education, I didn't really get the picture until later in life.