- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2014

President Obama on Wednesday tried to reassure Americans that, despite his rash of executive actions and the likelihood that more controversial moves are on the way, he doesn’t have a blanket “green light” to do anything he pleases.

In a wide-ranging press conference marking the close of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, Mr. Obama deflected specific questions on whether he’ll use executive authority to halt deportations of some illegal immigrants or punish U.S. companies that move their headquarters overseas to get tax breaks.

But he made no apologies for doing as much as he can on his own, blasting House Republicans for standing in the way of what he wants to do on tax reform, immigration, infrastructure investment and a host of other issues.

The president tried to balance that defiant stance with assurances that his is not becoming an imperial presidency, a charge leveled at this White House by some conservatives and other critics.

“I’m bound by the Constitution. I’m bound by separation of powers. There are some things we can’t do,” Mr. Obama said. “I don’t have a green light. What I am consistently going to do is, wherever I have the legal authorities to make progress on behalf of middle-class Americans … I’m going to seize those opportunities.”

During the press conference, the president also praised the recent 72-hour cease-fire agreement between the Israelis and the terrorist group Hamas.

But moving forward, the president said it’s vital that the world differentiates between Hamas and ordinary Palestinians living through violence in Gaza.

“I have no sympathy for Hamas,” Mr. Obama said. “I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling in Gaza.”

On Russia, Mr. Obama stood by the latest round of sanctions aimed at key sectors of the Russian economy, steps designed to punish Moscow for its meddling in Ukraine. The president said it’s clear the Russian economy has “ground to a halt” and will only sink deeper if Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t change course.

Throughout the three-day summit in Washington, Mr. Obama and African leaders have dealt with constant questions about the Ebola outbreak, which has claimed more than 700 lives in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Two American missionaries infected with the virus have now returned home and appear to be on the road to recovery thanks to ZMapp, an experimental medication not yet approved for mass distribution.

Asked whether the U.S. government would fast-track shipments of the drug to Africa, Mr. Obama deferred and said it’s simply too soon to say whether the treatment truly is effective.

“We’ve got to let the science guide us, and I don’t think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful,” he said.

While much attention over the past three days has focused on the Ebola outbreak, challenges facing Africa and other international crises, much of Washington has remained focused on Mr. Obama and his use of executive power. A growing number of Republican lawmakers now are murmuring about impeachment.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, already has launched a lawsuit against the president on the grounds of executive overreach.

But the president, despite saying his power has hard limits, blamed his use of executive actions on Mr. Boehner and his colleagues in the GOP.

“In the face of that kind of dysfunction [in Congress], what I can do is scour our authorities to try to make progress. We’re going to make sure every time we take one of these steps [that] we are working within the confines of my executive power,” the president said. “But I promise you the American people don’t want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs waiting for Congress to get something done.”

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