"I've got a pen," said President Obama early this week.
"I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions ... that move the ball forward."
"When I can act on my own without Congress, I'm going to do so," the president added Wednesday at North Carolina State.
Thus did Obama signal that he will bypass Congress and use his executive powers to advance his agenda of national transformation.
This dismissal of Congress has gone almost unprotested. In an earlier age it might have evoked talk of impeachment. But not now.
For though Congress may be the first branch of government in the Constitution, with the longest list of enumerated powers in Article 1, its eclipse has been extraordinary.
Congressional powers have eroded or been surrendered. The esteem in which Congress is now held calls to mind Emily Dickinson: "It dropped so low in my regard/I heard it hit the ground."
Congress boasts a 13 percent approval, a surge from its all-time low of 9 percent last fall before the budget deal.
While ex-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed disappointment in Obama and Hillary Clinton in his book "Duty," and was dismissive of Joe Biden, his view of Congress dripped with venom:
"Uncivil, incompetent in fulfilling basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, often putting self (and reelection) before country -- this was my view of the majority of the United States Congress."
At Congressional hearings, Gates says he was "exceptionally offended by the constant, adversarial, inquisition-like treatment," and lines of inquiry that were "rude, insulting, belittling, bullying, and all too often personal."
Admirers of Obama, Hillary and Biden have all come forward to defend them. Where are the defenders of Congress from this searing indictment by Gates? Almost nowhere.
What happened to Congress? Not so long ago, school children were taught more about Sens. Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster than many of the presidents of that pre-Civil War era.
High among the causes of Congress' decline has surely been the loss or surrender of its constitutional powers -- to presidents, the Supreme Court and a federal bureaucracy Congress itself created.
Consider this. Under Article 1, Congress is entrusted with the power to "regulate commerce with foreign nations."
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