"One of the most important jobs of, I believe, the Supreme Court is to guard against the encroachment of the Executive Branch on the power of the other Branches." - then-Senator Obama, 2008 Presidential candidate forum
Before he became President, Senator Barack Obama was very clear that he felt the power of the President should be limited. He had no problem stating that President G.W. Bush was abusing the power of the Executive Branch, and that he would not act in the same manner. Then he was elected.
In the first term of the Obama Administration, President Obama issued 145 Executive Orders. This is on par with the 168 Orders issued by President G.W. Bush in his first term. But some of the Executive Orders of President Obama have raised eyebrows. Like waiving of work requirements for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families - which the G.A.O. found to be a legal but unprecedented action. Or the waiver allowing illegal aliens to remain in the U.S. against immigration law.
Redefining immigration law in June of 2012, was seen by some as a plea to garner votes for the 2012 election. Especially since the Obama Administration had done nothing about illegal immigration since the DREAM Act failed to pass Congress in 2009 - with a supermajority of Democrats controlling Congress.
Also somewhere during the 1st term, President Obama sought and received a Department of Justice validation on killing American citizens, without trial or court order, overseas under the most broad and ill-defined terms possible. This validation was kept secret, even from Congress.
But with the start of the 2nd term of the Obama Administration, and no need to be bound by re-election, a different Obama is emerging. This is a President that is more than willing to enact legislation from the Executive Branch. The first hint was from VP Biden, as he announced that Executive Orders would be put in place to create gun restrictions, a full week before his review of options to reduce gun violence in the wake of Newtown shootings was completed. The result was 23 Executive Orders effectively establishing law restricting the 2nd Amendment without a single vote or debate in Congress.
Then the President signed 19 Executive Orders concerning cyber-attacks and cyber-defense. The Obama Administration cited cyber attacks as a means of war in May 2012 via Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
"Well, there’s no question that if a cyber attack, you know, crippled our power grid in this country, took down our financial systems, took down our government systems, that that would constitute an act of war."
Thus, a potential cyber attack against the U.S. could potentially result in a counter-attack, or even pre-emptive attack, on a nation and result in war - without a single word to Congress or court review.
In addition to this action, just hours later in the State of the Union Address, the President announced what can be seen as a well-worded threat to Congress
"...But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy..."
Then there was the message to higher education. A message that colleges must change their costs or else.
"Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure that they do. So tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid."
There was also the comment about fatherhood, though what it entails is without any definition.
"And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and do more to encourage fatherhood -- because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one. And we want to encourage that."
Taking this all in context we get an image of a President that has already determined what he feels is the best course of action for the nation. Without debate, he is acting to mold the nation, to redistribute justice according to his priorities, and then asking for permission and legal backing after the fact.
Which is not surprising as this is exactly how President Obama placed America de facto at war with Libya - in violation of the War Powers Act. There was a uproar at the time, but the defeat of the Gadaffi regime was quick enough that before it could be addressed the issue was over. Many still felt it was an overreach of Executive Power. The kind of overreach Senator Obama accused the Bush Administration of committing.
But without the constraint of re-election, the actions of President Obama seem to be in direct conflict with the concerns he voiced as a Senator. The kind of President that Senator Obama objected to was one that started wars and ignored the power of Congress. He railed against a President that eliminated the voice of the public, and acted in a manner outside that which he was elected to perform.
How many Americans would have elected President Obama if they knew he would bully private institutions, create wars he thought were advantageous, disregard in-force laws, and usurp Congress? How exactly will he "encourage" fatherhood? Who would have been fine with his redefinition of the 2nd Amendment, or his unique Sate of the Union re-definition what is a citizen -
"But as Americans, we all share the same proud title -- we are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe."
We will never know if this Obama could have won an election, but we are learning that this Obama wants a different America than currently exists. He isn't afraid to change things to his preferences either. Perhaps we will finally understand the "fundemental transformation" that Senator Obama promised on the campaign trail.