The Flexible Flip-Flopper

Dan Holler

President Obama’s hot mic moment defined his trip to South Korea and may very well define his reelection bid. The reason his uncensored remark resonates is that it supports a pre-existing narrative that President Obama’s promises are not to be trusted.

Before he backed off the campaign trail, no one made this argument more frequently than Newt Gingrich. After his second place finish in Florida, he said, “If he [President Obama] can have a record this bad, unemployment this bad, deficits this bad, policies this bad, gasoline prices this high, and still get re-elected, you can’t imagine how radical he’ll be in his second term.”

Rhetorical flourish aside — though Gingrich excels in that department — the President’s moment of candor with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev only serves to reconfirm the worst fears of proponents of a strong American defense.

In 2010, President Obama promised Republican Senators he would increase funding for the modernization of our nuclear arsenal in exchange for the ratification of the New START Treaty, which was skewed heavily in favor of the Russians. Earlier this year, the duplicitous and disingenuous nature of the New START negotiations were revealed when lawmakers realized President Obama was “walking away” from that commitment.

A president that fails to keep his word to lawmakers while making “secret plans” over the future of missile defense is political malpractice; and, when those plans are made with a country hostile to missile defense, it is downright dangerous. Congressman Michael Turner (R-OH) brought the point home last week, saying, “We all are concerned what this secret deal will be as we face a rising threat from North Korea.”

After mocking his devastating comments, President Obama tried to clarify them and alleviate lingering concerns he would run wild if given a second term. He said, “the only way I get this stuff done is if I’m consulting with the Pentagon, if I’m consulting with Congress, if I’ve got bipartisan support…”

The implication is that President Obama cannot do anything without the support of Congress. That, my friends, is absolutely false.

Look no further than last week’s announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would begin regulating carbon emissions from new power plants. President Obama is using regulation to do something Congress would not give him the authority to do. (EPA regulations on refineries are also contributing to higher gas prices.)

Without consulting Congress and without bipartisan support, President Obama has made it all but impossible for America — the Saudi Arabia of coal — to lower energy costs by building new coal-fired power plants. Remember, on the campaign trail, then-Senator Obama said under his energy plan, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

Congress disagreed with that plan, but he did it anyway. Coal remains one of the cheapest source of electricity in the United States, and it now faces an uncertain future. If the Clean Air Act is applied as the law states, these new restrictions would apply to existing power plants and even churches, hospitals and schools. According to The Heritage Foundation, these regulations would cause electricity prices to soar, destroying 800,000 jobs and cause some industries to see job losses in excess of 50 percent.

In yet another attempt to alleviate public angst, EPA chief Lisa Jackson promised, “We have no plans to address existing plants and in the future if we were to propose a standard, it would be informed by an extensive public process with all the stakeholders involved.”

No plans? The Obama administration changes its plans all the time. Individual mandate? No to Yes. Close Guantanamo? Yes to No. Raise taxes during a bad economy? No to Yes. End the Export-Import Bank? Yes to No.

But more to the point, we know that additional regulations are coming. A prominent environmentalist observed, “the Clean Air Act requires EPA to follow up with requirements for those sources too. The proposal acknowledges this responsibility.” Indeed, the environmentalist went on to state that they “look forward” to working with the EPA to develop “standards for existing sources.”

In other words, regulations on churches and schools are coming. That is why, when pressed by Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) on whether additional regulations are forthcoming, an EPA official deflected the question…repeatedly.

Presidents have vast leeway on foreign policy and on domestic policy, as we have seen. From missile defense and energy prices to the implementation of Obamacare, there is a lot President Obama can do without the nasty constraints imposed by accountability and democracy. Regardless of party, it should concern us all that President Obama has shown himself to be a flexible flip-flopper.

Dan Holler is the Communications Director for Heritage Action for America. Previously, he held numerous positions at The Heritage Foundation, most recently he was the Senate Relations Deputy. A Maryland native, he is a graduate of Washington College.

Read more: