The 2014 midterm elections were ornamental.
Faces changed, but policies will remain the same.
The Red Team Republicans decisively defeated the Blue Team Democrats.
The Republican majority in the House of Representatives was strengthened.
Democratic control of the Senate shifted to Republicans.
The congressional glitterati who predominate in the media and attract lobbyists like honey attracts bees are Republican.
But these changes matter only to the upper crust of professional politicians and their vassals whose wealth derives from speculating on public measures and maneuvering for special-interest legislation or regulations to compromise fair and open competition. Their impact on the nation’s trajectory is as trifling as the winner of the World Series.
Republican candidates triumphed more by opposing President Obama’s stupefying ineptitude than by articulating a new way forward or a new understanding of America’s luster.
Moreover, congressional powers have shriveled since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the burgeoning of the American Empire. And not a single Republican candidate was elected with an agenda of regaining congressional prerogatives from the White House.
Accordingly, the 114th Congress in 2015 but will be an “is nothing” Congress, if not a “do nothing” Congress.
President Obama will decide everything important regarding war and peace, surveillance, immigration, the environment, spending, taxes, and trade. He will veto congressional initiatives hostile to his domestic or foreign agendas, and Congress will be unable to marshal two-thirds majorities for overrides.
The Republican Congress will squander time and resources seeking to embarrass the president, but otherwise play it safe in hopes of recapturing the White House in 2016. That was the game plan of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2006. She immediately took impeachment off the table and muted criticism of President Bush’s wars to make them an election issue in 2008. The rest is history.
What is forgotten is that while Mrs. Pelosi won the battle for the presidency in 2008 though Mr. Obama, she lost the war. Mr. Obama immediately became an echo chamber if not a megaphone for the Bush-Cheney policies of perpetual, purposeless global war, indiscriminate spying on Americans, secret government, Wall Street bailouts, indefinite detentions without accusation or trial, and bloated defense spending. Under Mrs. Pelosi’s tutelage, the 2008 elections became a game of musical chairs.
House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can be expected to follow the Pelosi script.
Exemplary is Mr. Boehner’s appointment of Trey Gowdy (South Carolina Republican) to head a select committee to investigate attacks in Benghazi on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s watch that took four American lives, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
The select committee will continue into the 114th Congress, and will focus on alleged deceit by Mrs. Clinton and her minions or colleagues in characterizing the Benghazi culprits and in summoning the U.S. military to the rescue. But these issues are trivial for the nation — like an investigation of a plane crash.
What Mr. Gowdy and other Republicans should be investigating is the Libya war itself, which yielded Benghazi and more pernicious consequences.
Mr. Obama initiated the war without congressional authorization in violation of Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution. If left unrebuked by Congress, the precedent will empower the president to wage war at will in imitation of European monarchs.
Mr. Obama’s war overthrew Muammar Gaddafi and eventuated in his murder after he had renounced weapons of mass destruction. The war thus signaled to Iranian and North Korea leaders that they risked destruction and death if they abandoned their nuclear programs and ambitions.
The war also spewed weapons stolen from Gaddafi’s vast arsenal into the hands of enemies of the United States and Israel.
It reduced Libya to lawlessness featuring hundreds of warring militias, safe havens for Islamic extremists, no functioning government, and an inability to stop youths from racing to Syria to join the Islamic State.
But instead of using Libya as an object lesson against presidential wars for professed humanitarian ends, Republicans in Congress will fixate on impairing Mrs. Clinton’s presidential ambitions through preoccupation with Benghazi trivia.
Both parties crave occupation of the White House over promoting the national interest. If that party narcissism is not cured, we will not escape self-ruination.
For more information on Bruce Fein, visit brucefeinlaw.