Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
On a day when political reporters and Republicans feverishly convulsed in an orgy of Iowa-caucus post-mortems, President Barack Obama made a clear campaign statement of his own on Wednesday. While visiting Ohio, sure to be a crucial battleground state in November, he announced the recess appointment of Ohio native son Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.
Republicans immediately denounced the move as ” an extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab” that “would have a devastating effect on the checks and balances that are enshrined in our constitution.” The GOP’s ideal solution is to nullify the CFPB from existence, and Obama is refusing to accommodate them. So liberals are cheering. The Corddray appointment is a smart move. No matter how pissed off the GOP gets, it is difficult to imagine that the current state of political gridlock could get any worse. Meanwhile, with one swift decision, Obama has encouraged his own base, continued to double down on his recent populist emphasis, and signaled that while Republicans bicker their way through a primary fight, the president is going to govern as he sees fit. He’s also standing by one of the signature pieces of legislation passed in his term, the Dodd-Frank bank reform bill. That’s all good.
Republicans are particularly annoyed because Obama has decided to ignore GOP maneuvers designed to pretend that the Senate had never technically gone into “recess” long enough to allow a recess appointment. The administration effectively said “neener, neener”: we don’t care what you say, we’re making our appointment anyway. Partisans will decide for themselves which party has made more of a mockery of constitutional checks and balances, but there’s probably even good legal justification for Obama’s move.
But if you’re wondering just how wild and reckless Obama is acting, a review of the facts is eye-opening: Cordray marks only Obama’s 29th recess appointment, which puts him far, far behind every president since Ronald Reagan. George W. made 171 such appointments, Clinton made 139, George H. W. made 77, and Reagan made a whopping 243. In the face of an opposition party more determined to block the agenda of a sitting president than any we can recall in living memory, Obama has been by far the most restrained chief executive in response.
That’s hardly an unprecedented power grab. A more accurate description might be “dereliction of duty.”
Because while the appointment of Cordray, a solid consumer advocate who will likely be a good leader for the CFPB for the one or two years that his term extends, is a move to applaud, the very fact that it’s a no-brainer makes it all the more regrettable that it took the pressures of a campaign in Obama’s fourth year of office to force the president to start displaying a backbone. The public clearly likes an aggressive Obama; his presidential job approval numbers have been ticking up ever since he abandoned the pretence of (unworkable) bipartisan compromise. Long before this point, Obama should have been making recess appointments to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and he should have been raising non-stop hell over GOP obstruction to his judicial nominations. He should have been far more aggressive in calling repeated GOP government-shutdown bluffs, and far more willing to use his veto powers.
One is even tempted to say that if Obama had really wanted to pick a fight he should have named Elizabeth Warren director of the CFPB in a recess appointment a year or more ago. But we’re having a lot of fun watching the feisty Oklahoman go for a Senate seat in Massachusetts so we’ll give him a pass on that one.
And all things considered, it’s encouraging to see liberals who have long been grumbling at Obama heartened by the latest move. We’re not even a week into 2012, and the administration is acting feisty. Please, sir, can we have some more?
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)