- - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Barack Obama’s unpopular presidency has become irrelevant, incapable of strengthening a weak economy, ignored by Congress, pushed around by Russia, and in retreat in the face of a mounting terrorist threats to U.S. security.

This week, the Supreme Court leveled another blow to Obamacare, based on freedom of religion. It struck down a provision that forced business employers to offer free contraceptives to their workers in their company health care plans, even if that violated an employer’s religious beliefs.

That followed a decision two years ago when the high court gutted Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid. Since then, 24 states have opted out of that part of the law.

Last week, in another stunning rebuke, the nine justice unanimously ruled that President Obama exceeded his constitutional authority when he wrongly declared the U.S. Senate to be in recess (when it was holding pro forma sessions) so he could make several appointments to the National Labor Relations Board without senatorial approval.

This occurred at a time when the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that the Obama economy shrank by nearly 3 percent in the first three months of this year. It was the worst quarterly economic growth report since 2009.

Still think the economy is improving? The Federal Reserve last month lowered its economic growth forecast for the rest of 2014 to a mediocre 2.1 percent, down from its previous estimate of 3 percent.

A new Gallup Poll this week found that public confidence in Mr. Obama’s presidency has plunged eight points to a low of 29 percent. That “is now the lowest it has been” since he was sworn into office in 2009, Gallup said.

With 2 years left in his presidency, and with Republicans on the brink of recapturing the Senate, and thus all of Congress, he has no chance of getting any of his agenda passed before he leaves office.

Lately, Mr. Obama has been battered abroad, too, with the rise of terrorist armies across the Middle East and North Africa that are now close to taking control of Iraq and parts of Syria.

With his top national security advisers deeply split over what to do, he sent in “a small number” of military forces to Iraq in mid-June. Then, worried that this wasn’t enough to protect embassy personnel in Baghdad, he sent an additional 200 troops on Monday.

This looks like Mr. Obama, whose first act was to ban the previous administration’s “war on terrorism” policy phrase, is hopelessly confused about how to deal with the rise of international terrorism as the U.S. rapidly withdraws from the region.

The reconstituted al Qaeda force known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is not only a threat throughout the Middle East, but to America as well.

U.S. intelligence officials say ISIS’ eventual goal is to strike the U.S. homeland and that they will have the wealth and means to do so if they can seize Iraq’s rich oil fields. They’re close to doing so now.

Steadfast and focused are not the words that one would use to describe Mr. Obama’s approach to foreign policy. After years of ignoring Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal assault on his people, Mr. Obama led an international outcry over Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

His fateful decision was to buy into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s delaying plan to begin a long negotiating game with Mr. Assad to eliminate his chemical arsenal. Then he seemingly abandoned the issue.

Much of the chemical weapons were in the process of being destroyed, but much still remains under Mr. Assad’s control. Meantime, he escalated an offensive against large civilian populations by dropping barrel bombs on urban centers, killing more Syrians than he did with his chemical weapons, while the U.S. administration looked the other way.

More recently, there are widespread reports that Mr. Assad has been using another chemical weapon on his people. International weapons inspectors say chlorine gas is being used in a “systematic manner” in Syria now.

Have you heard a presidential outcry about any of this? Or a drumbeat of criticism from Secretary of State John F. Kerry, taking the Syrian president to task after his pledge to abandon the use of chemical weapons? Hardly. The administration has moved on — back to the domestic front, where Mr. Obama has essentially been AWOL, ignoring one scandal after another.

The Department of Veterans Affairs scandal revealed that ill veterans across the country had to wait for weeks or months before getting the medical treatment and care they needed. Many died waiting.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, has been investigating the abuses and “screaming from the top of the mountains” for the past three years, but without any serious attention from the White House. Expect additional hearings from Mr. Miller’s committee as we approach midterm elections in the fall.

Then there’s the Internal Revenue Service’s sordid scandal, in which officials targeted conservative nonprofit advocacy groups for delays in approving their applications for tax-exempt status.

More recently, it has turned into a cover-up story. It turns out that years of internal emails have disappeared. Think there is some skullduggery and stonewalling here? You bet.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has pounced on this like a panther. Expect new revelations to come from his investigation.

More recently, Mr. Obama is still thumbing his nose at Congress, saying he will take still more constitutionally dubious executive actions on his own.

He has unilaterally changed the timing and rules in his health care law, taking other “executive actions” when it suited him. House Speaker John A. Boehner says that must stop, and he announced last week that he will file a lawsuit to declare such orders unconstitutional.

After Monday’s split ruling by the high court, it looks like at least five of the justices can hardly wait to get Mr. Boehner’s list of constitutional complaints.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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