Politico says that a panel of conservative judges may deny Obama the expanded executive powers established by the Bush Administration.
Progressives have been appalled that Obama is defending the Bush policies (even in word, if not in deed). These are the same executive powers that Obama decried as a Senator, and campaigned against in the general election.
One of two things is happening:
Obama is no dummy. He’s a constitutional scholar, and has deep respect for the institution of the Presidency. He realizes that the Presidency expands its power once in several generations; that normally the courts and Congress are continually chipping away at the Executive, not enlarging it. It’s his duty to the office to hold his ground, not just for himself but for future Presidents and the presidency itself. The last thing America needs is an impotent figurehead as Executive, with the Congress and Courts constantly sparring for power with no tiebreaker. So even if he never intends to use those powers, it’s his obligation to defend his right to.
Or the second thing, which I consider less likely, but more brilliant:
He’s aware that there are indeed biased, activist judges in the Judiciary, and that they are more likely to limit the executive powers of a [young, black] Democratic president than they were of Bush.
So this is a deke.
He’s inviting the Judiciary to do his job for him. Rather than ceding the ground that Bush took, he’s making the courts take it away from him, which establishes the precedent that the ground can never be retaken by future Presidents. And he’s letting the conservative circular firing squad put their firm endorsement on it.
He’ll make conservatives implement his policies to the point where they’ll claim it as their victory. And they might not even notice.
Again, I think the odds are long that he’s that Machiavellian. But if he is, and it succeeds, it will be the most masterful Presidential move in decades.