It would be silly to overreact to President Obama’s recent statement at a gathering of the Council of La Raza. Nevertheless, the incident is disturbing. As reported by the National Journal, here is what the president said:

Earlier in the day, the president let his frustration over the stalled debt talks seep into an address on Latino issues, confessing that he’d like to “bypass Congress and change the laws on my own.”

He told the National Council of La Raza, “Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you.”

No, I don’t think that the president is going to try to bypass our system of government and do things his own way. He quickly added that he had taken an oath to uphold our laws. To bypass our laws would be usurpation. Not gonna happen. 

What is so troubling is that a president would admit that he is “tempted” to break our laws and do things his way, knowing that he is speaking before a crowd that would be sympathetic to such lawlessness. The reaction of La Raza was predictable:

His ”bypass Congress” comment drew applause and chants of “Yes, You Can,” a slight variation on his 2008 campaign slogan.

No, he can’t. We are a nation of laws and a former law professor-even if he was only an adjunct professor-knows that he can’t do things his way. But for a president to admit this temptation is troubling.

A chief executive who finds it “tempting” to abrogate the laws of the nation, even if he is just talking (and talking is what he does), is the real loser. The Wall Street Journal explains what has happened to the president’s standing:

Obama has turned into President Rodney Dangerfield: He doesn’t get no respect. (For readers too young to remember Dangerfield, that’s not litotes. He used the double negative as an intensifier.) “So we’re left with a stalemate,” he said last night. “At least that’s what Michelle tells me.”

OK, we made up that punch line. But it’s true that lately Obama hasn’t been getting much respect from his friends, either. “I think it would do this country a good deal of service if people started thinking about candidates out there to begin contrasting a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama believes he’s doing,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent self-styled socialist from Vermont said last week. John Nicholas of The Nation, a hard-left magazine, cites a CNN poll that finds this feeling increasingly common among Obama’s base.