Liberal columnist Kirsten Powers explains for USA Today readers why President Obama’s approach to his public policy initiatives goes beyond the constitutional limits of his office.

Once upon a time, Barack Obama’s harsh and deserved criticism of President George W. Bush’s executive overreach was a popular campaign applause line at Democratic rallies. Now, he is facing down a threatened lawsuit from House Speaker John Boehner challenging the president’s abuse of executive power.

Obama has dismissed the suit as a “stunt,” which is partly true.

The convenient election year timing isn’t a coincidence. But that a public legal battle might benefit Republicans doesn’t mean the GOP suit is devoid of merit.

When asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about Boehner’s claim that the president had exceeded his executive authority, Obama retorted, “I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing.” He went on to explain that his administrative actions regarding immigration were OK because the GOP wouldn’t work with him and “the majority of the American people want immigration reform done.”

Notice that the former constitutional law professor did not make a substantive legal case in defense of his executive power grabs. He merely stated that what he did was popular, ergo his extra-constitutional actions are fine. A more reassuring answer would include explaining how his actions are consistent with the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has seemed less than impressed with Obama’s constitutional claims. …

… Obama says he has executive power to invade Libya without congressional approval. Obama acts as judge, jury and executioner in assassinating American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, and declares it constitutional. Considering his track record before the Supreme Court, all these claims should be viewed with extreme suspicion.

Liberals who obsessed over President Bush’s abuses of executive power are suspiciously silent now, or worse, defend the same behavior they found abhorrent in a Republican.