President Obama’s no-Congress strategy

President Obama is pictured. | AP Photo

The president is done caring about congressional Republicans calling him a dictator. | AP Photo


President Barack Obama is planning to bypass congressional Republicans with a surge of executive actions and orders on issues like voting rights, health care, job creation, the economy, climate change and immigration.

And this time, he really, really, really means it. Really.

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Obama’s started to sell his pitch to congressional Democrats, meeting with caucus groups at the White House and going to the Hill on Wednesday morning to speak with House and Senate Democrats.

(PHOTOS: Obama’s second term)

“I have to figure out what I can do outside of Congress through executive actions,” Obama told the Congressional Black Caucus earlier this month, according to Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.).

“He’s very ready to use his executive powers whenever possible,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) who heard Obama discuss the new approach at a meeting of the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus to the White House last week.

With the clock running on Obama’s time in office — he’s even started marking the number of days left in public speeches — the president is done caring about congressional Republicans calling him a dictator. Or calling him at all.

Obama can’t ignore Republicans forever. There’s no way for the president to avoid negotiations to get continuing resolutions to avoid a government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling — and depending how things go, rebuff GOP efforts to defund Obamacare and possibly a compromise on immigration reform. Chief of staff Denis McDonough’s functioning as an almost one-man legislative affairs office can’t do it all.

(Also on POLITICO: W.H. seeks to redefine grand bargain)

And he’s used the executive authority tactic before, including last summer’s controversial move to cut deportations for younger illegal immigrants and the mental health focus he announced as part of his gun control agenda after the Newtown massacre.

But administration officials and advisers say what’s ahead will be more extensive and frequent than previous efforts, and the White House is on the hunt for anything that can move without congressional approval, including encouraging efforts like Attorney General Eric Holder’s lawsuits to find new avenues of enforcement in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act last month.

He’s even started soliciting suggestions for where to move next. Bass and other CBC members asked him to change the Medicaid process in territories to base allocations on income level, to repeal the Bush minimum wage federal contractor policies and to address child welfare. The CAPAC members also offered suggestions like changing the federal government’s process of recognizing native Hawaiians.

Obama told them he was open to all of them, and said his staff is working on others in the model of the new emission standards he announced as part of his climate agenda last month.

Eventually, executive actions and orders will be unveiled as part of the economic agenda Obama began hinting at in his speeches last week, addressing things like mortgage refinancing and restructuring — which is about as extensive as the White House expects things to get, even as they talk of welcoming negotiations with Republicans over the debt ceiling. And get ready, he’s told people, for a whole lot more recess appointments if Republicans start blocking his nominees again.

Executive actions are a familiar move for second-term presidents, and one that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush came to know well: rules and regulations can have deep and wide impact, and they come without all the messiness of Capitol Hill.

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Derek Black, the Reluctant Racist, and His Exit From White Nationalism

His father founded the white-supremacy forum Stormfront. His mother was once married to David Duke. Derek Black was born to lead the white-power movement—until he defected.

Derek Black’s head isn’t shaved. He’s doesn’t have swastika tattoo. He’s never been arrested for a violent crime. Yet this 24-year-old from West Palm Beach, Florida, was once the future of white hate.

Derek Black is the son of American white nationalist, former KKK Grand Wizard and founder of “Stormfront” Don Black. (Andrew Hetherington/Redux)
Black was born into the white-power aristocracy and spent his life building a reputation as a rising star in the white-nationalist scene. His father founded, the Internet’s oldest and largest white-supremacy forum, and his mother was once married to former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. Black used his prominent standing within the hate movement to amass a following of his own.

At age 12, Black was featured in the HBO documentary for creating a kid’s guide to white pride on his father’s website. While still in his teens, Black hosted a Stormfront radio program, lectured at white-pride conferences, and dabbled in local politics, running for a seat on the Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee on a platform of banning immigration for non-Europeans. He won a primary election but was later disqualified for not signing a party loyalty oath forbidding activities—such as white nationalism—that would make Republicans look bad. At 21, he hosted a local AM radio show that paradoxically catered to a predominantly Haitian audience, featuring guests like Gordon Baum, head of the racist Council of Conservative Citizens, and Jared Taylor, editor of the “race realist” magazine American Renaissance.

But last week, Black threw it all away. In a letter to the movement’s biggest enemy, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a Montgomery, Alabama–based anti-racism group, he shocked his former allies by detailing his disillusionment with white supremacy. He wanted out.

“I’m baffled. I’m disappointed in many ways,” said Derek’s father, Don Black. Almost immediately after reading Derek’s letter to the SPLC, the elder Black wrote on his Stormfront blog that he no longer wanted to speak to his son. He told The Daily Beast that he changed his mind a few days later. “I regret that I’ve lost a comrade in arms … It’s gut-wrenching for me because Derek and I have traveled around the country since he was 9 years old. But he’s still my son and I love him. In some ways I’m actually relieved that he’s taken himself out of the war zone, so to speak.”

How, then, did Derek Black go from being one of the most prominent young figures in white nationalism to rejecting everything he once believed in?

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