Jonah Goldberg

The "Year of Action" should actually be seen as a replay of President Clinton's small-ball comeback after the 1994 midterms. Clinton picked micro-initiatives -- school uniforms, the V-chip, etc. -- that poll-tested well but amounted to very little in terms of policy. The clever twist Obama is putting on his micro-agenda is doing it in a way that successfully baits opponents into making the case that he's more powerful and relevant than he really is.

Substantively, however, the imperial presidency continues to metastasize. "The presidency," the Cato Institute's Gene Healy has written, "keeps shrinking, but -- with an executive branch of some 2.1 million civilian employees and counting -- it never gets any smaller." As a branch of government, it has grown under Republicans and Democrats alike. Some curbs were put on the office under Richard Nixon because of Watergate, and because Democrats don't like it when Republican presidents behave like Democratic ones.

"Those who tried to warn us back at the beginning of the New Deal of the dangers of one-man rule that lay ahead on the path we were taking toward strong, centralized government may not have been so wrong," Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston of California remarked in 1973 during Watergate.

That's a lesson Democrats would do well to ponder, because they are rhetorically giving Obama license to do whatever he likes. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) recently declared that the priority for her and her comrades should be to draft executive orders -- not laws -- for Obama to sign. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) suggested on "Fox News Sunday" that the president could rewrite Obamacare at whim because the Constitution gives him the power to act during a national security threat. And of course, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blew up the filibuster rules for appointees.

They shouldn't be surprised if the next Republican president takes advantage of that license.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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