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Hard a-Port

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

One hundred years, and 100 pounds ago I was the coxswain on the freshman crew at Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio 45750.

During that year I learned that "starboard" means right facing forward, and "port" means left facing forward.


President Barack Obama's inaugural address on Monday was a clear signal that he intends to steer the ship of state hard a-port.

During the speech I Tweeted that it was "? Gettysburg, ? FDR, and ? State of the Union."

The speech didn't have the traditional reach across the aisle to the other political party suggesting Republicans and Democrats are smart enough, dedicated enough, and patriotic enough to find common ground and make America a better place.

Nah. The President all but said to the GOP: "Get out of my way. I'm sailing right over you."

Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I don't think so.

We know that President Obama is not enamored of, much less awed by, Members of the House or Senate of either party. He fully expects Democrats on the Hill to do his bidding even though it was his bidding that made Nancy Pelosi Minority Leader after the disastrous (for House Democrats) 2010 mid-term elections.

He used up much of his, and all of the House Dems', political capital on what we now call Obamacare. And we haven't heard the last of that. As more and more elements come into force the unintended consequences will cascade.

A case can be made that Mr. Obama squandered his first term. In the first two years he had Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and, if he knew as much then as he does now, he would have set many of the Liberal agenda items he named on Monday into motion during those two years rather than trying to out-FDR FDR in those first 24 months.

With a huge Republican majority against him in the House and an economy barely creaking along, he decided to go to war against the Congress - note he rarely differentiated between Republicans and Democrats in Congress as he railed against them - and spent the second two years of his first term running hard for a second term.

The President won re-election but had almost no coattails as Pelosi could pick up only single digit net seats (nine) in spite of having given up 65 seats two years earlier.

I know Democrats in the U.S. Senate increased their majority, but that had more to do with dreadful Republican candidates in at least three states more than an outpouring of national affection for the leadership of Harry Reid (D-NV).

The 23 Executive Orders the President signed during Gun Control Day may be looked back upon as the good old days of Presidential Restraint.

He will keep pushing the envelope of Presidential prerogatives, bypassing that pesky Congress altogether.

As the Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib put it, his inaugural address signaled "that a pent-up Obama agenda had begun to tumble out."

We know where any climate change legislation is going - nowhere. He might have better luck with immigration reform and gay marriage may well become the law of the land through State action, Supreme Court decision, or both.

The big issues normally get taken care of through the tectonics of American politics. It takes time, but the shifts happen.

It is the tens of thousands of smaller items - items not important enough for Republicans to man the barricades - that the President will be looking for to alter, maybe forever, the direction in which America moves.

Housing, labor law, States' rights, energy, education, entitlements, securities trading … the list goes on and on.

If I were advising Obama, here's what I'd say:

You have four years. That's a long time now that we have a better idea how this machinery works.

Let's keep the big, public fights going on revenue, entitlement cuts, and foreign policy. Republicans love fighting over those things.

Have the Chief of Staff sent out a secret memo ordering every Department and Agency to come up with a list of initiatives that their legal folks believe can be accomplished by Executive Order - chipping away at the edges.

If you sign, say, ten executive orders a day and we don't make a big deal out of them, the Congress will have to ferret them out of the Federal Register and they'll never catch up with us.

By the time you hand over the tiller in 2017 we will be sailing in a direction no one could have possibly imagined.

Hard a-Port, Mr. President.


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