On Friday’s broadcast of PBS’s “NewsHour” New York Times columnist David Brooks and Creators Syndicate columnist Mark Shields took on the House Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against the Obama administration, which alleges oversteps in executive authority by the Obama White House.
Both acknowledged Boehner’s gripe with the Obama administration had merit, but were skeptical of the lawsuit’s chances. However, they both also took on the alternative offered by former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), which was to impeach President Barack Obama.
Both dismissed that course of action as well, with Brooks calling it “cloud cuckoo land.”
Partial transcript as follows:
WOODRUFF: So the Highway Trust Fund, one of many disagreements between Republicans and Democrats right now. And I guess the biggest one, though, David, is the speaker, John Boehner, saying he’s going to sue the president of the United States because the president’s overstepped his line as president. Is there merit in this suit? Is it a good idea? What do you think?
BROOKS: There’s some merit, but I, of course, have sympathy for both sides. So, basically, you normally pass a big piece of legislation like the ACA, the health care bill, and then you go back and fix it and the Congress and everybody cooperates to fix it. But because we’re so dysfunctional, we can’t do that.
And so the president is left saying, well, we have got to really change the law to drop some things in the employer mandate to make it work, or at least delay it. And so he goes ahead and does that, for probably some defensible reasons, some political reasons, but it is a pretty bold step for the president to do it just off the top of his head.
It does really delay and probably wipe out a pretty significant part of the law. So when Boehner says I’m suing because the president just can’t change the law without congressional approval, technically, he’s right. The president should not be allowed to do some of that stuff. But it does grow out of the general dysfunction, where you don’t have two parties working together to make an already passed law function.
WOODRUFF: Is that what the president is doing? Is he changing the law?
SHIELDS: Yes, he is, did change the Affordable Care Act. Just one point on the highway fund that Quinn reported on. This is the perfect proof of what’s happened in Washington. This was always a consensus. The highway — highway — national highway system grew out of Dwight Eisenhower as a young Army captain in 1919 leaving the first convoy across the United States.
It took him six 62 days. And when he became president, he said, I’m going to build this system, and a marvelous system, the biggest public works project in the history of the world. And it’s always been a consensus and agreement.
And to not be able to on this one — on the — on executive power, Judy, Democrats were very sensitive to it when George Bush pushed the envelope and assumed more executive power. And then Democrats seem to be less noisy and cantankerous when their own president does it.
Republicans who were mute when George Bush was expanding the definition of executive power by power grabs now are sensitive constitutionalists. This is going nowhere. What it is…
WOODRUFF: The lawsuit.
SHIELDS: The lawsuit. It’s a base sweetener for the election of 2014. It’s John Boehner being able to say — and I’m not arguing on the merits — but being able to say, look, we’re going after him. We’re bringing it to court. And, all of a sudden, John Boehner looks semi-moderate because John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, former Governor Palin, is leading an impeachment charge, supported by such esteemed groups as Sean Hannity and The Drudge Report. So, the lawsuit, if anything, looks quite civil and grown-up.
WOODRUFF: So, is that what this is? It’s the speaker throwing a bone or a — whether it’s a bone that’s going to develop or not?
BROOKS: Well, the impeachment is obviously cloud cuckoo land. But there’s a natural tussle between the legislature and the White House, and presidents, especially when everything is dysfunctional, want to expand their power. The president has been quite unshy about that. And the legislature’s job is to push back.
And so you’re going to — it’s a gray area. The president is charged with executing the laws. Congress passed it. The president’s got it make it work, whatever party. And so how much do you allow him to change the law to make it function?
And so that’s sort of a gray area. I think the president and on some occasions has gone quite aggressively to changing laws to make them work. But how do you draw that line? We will see. I agree with Mark, though. The lawsuit is not going anywhere. But I do think it’s a substantive matter that’s built into our Constitution.
SHIELDS: It’s like the NSA, I mean. The National Security Agency, if the Republicans were in power, Democrats would have been up in arms and leading protests against this overreaching police state. But because it’s a Democratic administration, they have been less critical.
BROOKS: The Senate filibuster rules. There’s one eternal truth in Washington. On matters of process, every single elected official is a complete hypocrite.
On matters of method and process, it depends on whether they’re majority, in the minority. They flip their position 180 degrees without blinking an eye. And it’s sort of baffling, but thank God they didn’t write the Constitution. We actually had some people who cared about process.
WOODRUFF: Does it work though for Boehner to do this? You said it’s to appease or to stir up the base. Does it help?
SHIELDS: I think it probably does help. I have had four requests for contributions already to support the lawsuit. And I hope there will be more to come.
BROOKS: I didn’t know you were on the Boehner donor list.
SHIELDS: I have always been very active on the Boehner donor — recipient list, not necessarily — it’s a one-way correspondence, but I love to read them.
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