Christian Sahner uses the following poem as “An Ode for Syria Today” in his excellent new book Among The Ruins: Syria Past and Present, which I can’t recommend highly enough if you want to understand Syria.
“Love Among the Ruins” by Robert Browning (1855)
Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles,
Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
Tinkle homeward thro’ the twilight, stray or stop
As they crop -
Was the site once of a city great and gay,
(So they say)
Of our country’s very capital, its prince
Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far
Peace or war.
Now the country does not even boast a tree,
As you see,
To distinguish slopes of verdure, certain rills
From the hills
Intersect and give a name to, (else they run
Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires
Up like fires
O’er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall
Made of marble, men might march on nor be prest
Twelve abreast. [...]
In one year they sent a million fighters forth
South and North,
And they built their gods a brazen pillar high
As the sky
Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force -
Gold, of course.
O heart! o blood that freezes, blood that burns!
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!
Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest!
Love is best.
First of all, that speech was awful. It was a typical “You’ve disappointed me, America” Obama speech and not an especially articulate one. I know liberal pundits and the Obama cultists (but I repeat myself) were falling all over themselves last night, but let’s be honest: It was like a 6th grade essay contest entry that got 8th place. Second of all, I can’t believe the “fruit pickers” and “bed makers” line made it through a final edit. If a GOP president had said that…hooo boy. Reince better use that in some ads.
Here the AP does a somewhat brutal (for the AP) fact check of Obama’s comments last night. Conn Carroll has a great point-by-point rebuttal of the official White House Amnesty Talking Points. This is a must read if you’re confused about what Obama’s actually doing (unsurprisingly, it’s pretty nonsensical). As I’ve stated before, I’m more upset about Obama upending a centuries-old process than I am about the policies he’s enacting, though they are problematic, too (especially the potential border surge that may now come). But forget about Obama for a moment. The real problem lies in some serious issues we have with our citizenry.
A. Few people at this point seem to have even a basic grasp of civics and how our system of government works. Even Lefty bloggers who I normally disagree with, but who I don’t think are stupid (i.e. Andrew Sullivan) suddenly seem confused about this. These people seem to actually believe it when they say, “Oh, well Congress won’t pass a law, so the President must act.” No. That’s not how it works. If Congress won’t pass a law, the President must do precisely NOTHING. He does not just get to make up the new rules and demand that Congress fall in line. As Charles C.W. Cooke put it several months ago:
If next year a Republican Senate turns the tables and renders President Obama the “obstructionist,” do we expect to hear Mitch McConnell explaining that he has been forced by Obama’s “unique” intransigence to pass laws without the president’s signature? Will we see a McConnell Senate seeking to form GOP-friendly proto-treaties with other nations? Will the House of Representatives start to issue the pardons that the president won’t on the grounds that they are “too important” to wait for? Might John Boehner begin to command the armed forces and to fly around on Air Force One, justifying his appropriation on the grounds that Obama is uniquely absent on the world stage and that the consequences of his absence are too deleterious to allow? Will the legislative branch announce that it “can’t wait,” and cut the corporate tax rate on its own? Of course not. Clearly, these would all represent intolerable hijackings of the executive branch’s role. One wonders, then, why we are we expected to indulge the practice the other way round. Are appeals to expedience less problematic when the president, and not the legislature, is the one indulging in the seizure? Congress has considered the Dream Act 24 times in the last twelve years. Each time — regrettably, in my view — it has declined to pass it. In what possible universe does this suggest that the president should go it alone?
Justifying his infringements, the president typically submits that Congress has in some way abandoned its role, and that he is obliged by expedience to step in. This asseveration rests unsteadily upon the false presumption that Congress’s role is to agree with the executive branch, rather than to make law. It is not. Even if we were to agree wholeheartedly with Barack Obama that Congress’s judgment is poor, it would remain the case that there is no provision in the Constitution that makes the legislature’s absolute role conditional upon its good sense. On the contrary: If the president can’t get Congress to agree to what he legally needs them to agree to, he doesn’t get to do what he wants to do. This is so whether Congress is packed with angels or with clowns. It is so whether Congress adores the president or loathes him, whether it is active and engaged, and whether it is idle and lackadaisical. And — crucially — it is so whether Congress is popular or it is unpopular. Public opinion matters in the American system come election time, mass plebiscites serving as the basis by which our representatives are chosen and our sentiments established into law. But it has no bearing on the day-to-day legal operation of the government, nor upon the integrity of the rules that govern that operation. If one of the elected branches proves recalcitrant, steadfastly ignoring what the voters want, the remedy is electoral, not legal. The integrity of the constitutional order, suffice it to say, is not contingent upon the transient public mood. That way lies chaos.
By demonizing one’s opponents and making legal excuses in result, it is easy to make the men in the cheap seats applaud and holler. But before long, somebody else will be taking the oath, and wondering, as he promise the best of his ability, just what he might put over on the rest.
I’ve been trying to understand why people are having such trouble with this. Some parts of the Constitution are somewhat vague and open to interpretation, but Articles I and II are quite clear on which branch has the legislative powers and which branch is supposed to faithfully execute the laws. I’ve also seen the pathetic “Look at the number of Executive Orders other Presidents did” excuse reappear several times this week. This is meaningless. It’s not the number that matters, it’s the substance. Naming a government building or declaring some random day “National Something Day” is not the same as giving work permits to millions of law breakers (a part of his plan he conveniently left out of the speech last night). Anyway, we need to restore civics/government/constitution classes to our schools, pronto. Or bring back Schoolhouse Rock at least. Good grief.
B. We are really losing our “personal responsibility” values. I briefly listened to a talk radio show this morning in which the host was a conservative and the caller was a very angry progressive. He was in a fury that someone he knows could possibly be deported and separated from her children because Republicans won’t just grant amnesty. When asked what her circumstances were, the man explained that she had knowingly overstayed her visa because she thought she was going to get married but then it didn’t work out. OK. Well…too bad. That may sound harsh, but actions have consequences. We used to know this as a country. If you make the choice to break the law and put your children in a situation like that, that’s not my problem. It’s not the Republicans’ problem, it’s not America’s problem. It’s YOUR problem. And this is how we’ve gotten into the mess we’re in in the first place. There are rarely serious consequences for breaking our immigration laws (that’s why we have millions of people illegally here). People know if they can just get here, they’ll probably get to stay.
C. We need to be a little less squishy and nice if we really care about the country and our fellow American citizens. A country has to act in the interests of itself/its people. We have stagnant wages and lots of jobless people right now. We don’t need a giant outside influx of low-skill labor. Our immigration priority should be making it easier for highly skilled workers from all sorts of different countries to come here. We either need to get serious about clamping down on the borders and then figure out what to do with the people who are already here, or, if we’re going to continue with a practically open borders policy, then we need to deport people, and not just the criminals. The only way to deter people from coming illegally is to get it through their heads that they will be punished for breaking the law. If you were brought here as a little kid, through no fault of your own, and this is the only country you’ve ever known, then you can stay. But your parents knowingly broke the law, and once you’re 18, they can be sent back, as far as I’m concerned. You can’t have open borders and a giant welfare/entitlement state. It’s unsustainable. You have to pick one. I would like it if everyone who wanted to be an American could be an American. This is a wonderful country and it’s obvious why so many people want to come here. But it’s not realistic. Billions of people can’t live here. We as a country need to – and have every right to – choose who gets to become a fellow citizen. We need to stop letting the La Raza loons win. You don’t get to break our laws and then scream in our faces about what we owe you. We owe you nothing. Fuck off.
A few other points:
- Despite the angle the Left tries to take on this against conservatives, none of this has anything to do with skin color. I’m so tired of that dumb line (mostly brought to you by the La Raza SJW types). I want people here who love America and what it stands for, whether they’re black, white, brown, purple, yellow, green, whatever. I’ll trade 100 hard working Mexicans who love America for 100 white losers sitting in their mom’s basements, writing “I hate America” screeds for Salon and collecting disability checks because they’re “stressed,” any day of the week. And I don’t know a single conservative who doesn’t feel the same way. The special resistance to the southern border crossings is because A. They’re breaking the law from the first step in which, to me, isn’t something you do if you respect a country and its people. B. As I noted above, it does not help wages or the job prospects for our own working poor to import more low skilled workers. C. A number of these people are just coming for a better job, so they can send money back home, not necessarily because they really want to become Americans and assimilate into the culture. D. It’s extremely unfair to the people who spent the money, filled out the paperwork, went through the process to come here legally. They were basically told last night that they were suckers.
Republicans may have a new opportunity with legal immigrants, considering how many of them – both random ones I saw on Twitter and personal friends of mine – were NOT happy last night for obvious reasons. USCIS usually processes about one million green cards a year. Obama just added 5 million work permits to that. There are going to be a lot of angry people who have played by the rules, waiting extra long for their green cards/other documents now because of people who haven’t played by the rules. Legal immigrants had visas and green cards delayed when Obama enacted DACA. Now their process is going to be made longer yet again.
- Jay Nordlinger has a good, brief post on how, for the Left, it really is all about what they can get away with. Here’s part of it, but go read the rest.
In 2003, I was at a dinner party on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. All liberals, plus me. The Texas sodomy decision had just come down from the Supreme Court. My hostess asked me what I thought. I said that I agreed with Justice Thomas — who wrote essentially this: “The Texas law is dumb. If I were a member of the state legislature, I would vote to repeal it. But I find nothing in the Constitution that forbids a state to make such a law.” My hostess looked at me as though I had come from Mars. She did not look at me with hostility. She looked at me with incomprehension. If you’ve got the power, you use it, for good ends. If you’ve got the black robe and the gavel — why, ram home what is right!
When I was in college, and figuring things out, I noticed that the Left had a disdain for process. They would use it, if the process was to their advantage. But they would jettison it the second the process was inconvenient. What mattered was the result, period.
A friend of mine wrote me this morning saying that he feared Republicans would not “put the genie back in the bottle.” Obama has now broken free from our political process. Republicans will feel unhindered, when they have executive power. I don’t believe it. First, I don’t think Republicans in general want to abuse their power (though some do, for sure). They have a constitutional conscience, or a semblance of one. But second, the “culture” won’t let them. The media, the professors, the entertainment industry — they won’t allow anti-constitutionalism for conservative or right-wing ends. They will allow it only for “progressive” ends. If a conservative result threatens, they will be gung-ho for the process….For Barack Obama and those who share his politics, democracy is what you can get away with.
- Here’s Sam Rosado on how the Democrats created Obama’s amnesty.
- David Harsanyi: “Obama Puts The Republic Out Of Its Misery”
“This is how democracy works,” Barack Obama lectured the country before giving everyone the specifics of his expansive one-man executive overreach on immigration. If you enjoy platitudinous straw men but are turned off by open debate and constitutional order, this speech was for you. Modern Democrats aren’t the first political party to abuse power – far from it. Obama isn’t the first president to abuse executive power – not by a longshot. But he has to be the first president in American history to overtly and consistently argue that he’s empowered to legislate if Congress doesn’t pass the laws he favors. It’s an argument that’s been mainstreamed by partisans and cheered on by those in media desperate to find a morsel of triumph in this presidency.
Congress has no obligation to pass a bill. Ever. Who knows? Maybe immigration ranks 50th on the GOP’s to-do list. Maybe the GOP is dysfunctional and incapable of pulling together comprehensive legislation. Maybe the Republicans are nothing more than irrational nativists. And maybe all of that threatens the GOP’s future. That’s why we have elections for presidents to ignore.
If Congress passed a bill, Obama would veto it, anyway. So what Obama meant to say was, “I have one answer: Pass a bill I like.” No bill will pass, especially after this cynical ploy to prod clumsy GOPers into reactions that might benefit him politically. The president’s entire argument is predicated on the idea that a “broken” immigration system gives him dispensation from engaging in the process. Authoritarians, great and minor, always claim more powers to fix some unprecedented emergency. He’s not the first around these parts to do it. The thing is, our education system is also broken. Our foreign policy is broken. Our welfare system is broken, too.
I basically support most of Obama’s fixes– conceptually, at least. But what amazed me about the speech wasn’t just the hubris, or even how he shoehorned every cliché about immigration known to mankind into half an hour speech. It was that even after making it clear he answers to no one, Obama still couldn’t be honest about his intentions.
It’s difficult to believe any honest person believes that using prosecutorial discretion to exempt five million people from law (probably in perpetuity) is the sort of job the Founders had in mind for the president. It’s true that The Annenberg Public Policy Center found that only 36 percent of Americans could actually name the three branches of government, anyway. And now we’ll be adding a few millions of immigrants who believe that “democracy” is the same as a presidential edict. But of the 36 percent that understand checks and balances, most probably aren’t particularly idealistic about procedure. We’re idealistic about issues. To a progressive Democrat, permitting immigrants to come “out of the shadows” trumps constitutional stability. A shame. Because process is basically the only constant in American politics. It’s the one thing Americans should be inflexible about.
All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States – unless the president says it’s super important. Then anything goes.
And a great piece by Robert Tracinski:
We have a president who has just declared his indifference to the Constitution and to the consent of the governed. You know that moment in every dystopian science fiction movie when the conniving villain—Chancellor Palpatine or the like—has been trying to subvert the system and finally takes that one extra step over the line from scheming politician to dictator? I’m beginning to think we just had that moment. The point of last night’s speech is that the law is now irrelevant, Congress is irrelevant, voters are irrelevant, and the president can do whatever he wants. What makes this feel like a turning point is not so much what President Palpatine—excuse me, President Obama—actually did, but rather the acquiescence of the press. This can be seen in the flurry of articles debating the merits of Obama’s reform of the immigration system, as if that were the issue, as if there were absolutely nothing irregular about the way those changes have been decreed.
What has Obama actually done for these “undocumented” immigrants? He has granted them permission to stay and work in America—at his sole pleasure. That’s the crucial point. Because he is acting in defiance of existing law, illegal immigrants who seek refuge under Obama’s plan will actually gain zero legal protection. Their immunity from deportation rests entirely on the will of the executive, not on the law of the land. So it ends whenever the chief executive says it does.
Those who are foolish enough to register under this program will not “get right with the law.” They will get right with the current administration, for this particular moment. But if the political winds shift—or in two years when a new president is sworn in—all bets are off. Who would volunteer to identify themselves to the government under those terms? What Obama is doing is creating a class of people—possibly millions of them—who are dependent solely on the favor of the emperor. As Eduardo Alvarez put it on Twitter: “A hostage class is born.” This is the real essence of Obama’s play for the Hispanic vote: they have to keep him or one of his gang in the White House, or cousin Felipe gets trundled back across the border.
This fits the broader pattern of Obama’s administration. By a combination of design and incompetence, he has built a system in which every part of his agenda has been accomplished primarily by executive order and can only be sustained based on the will of the executive…As Stephen Miller asks: “What’s Obama’s historical legacy if everything he does can be undone via executive order?” Look at the bind he has put his party in. If their entire agenda is enacted by executive fiat, then everything depends on an unbroken string of victories in presidential campaigns. One lesson from all those science fiction dystopias is that the dictator’s power grab always breeds discontent and rebellion. In two years, a lot of Democrats could be looking around at the wreckage of their agenda and cursing the day they embraced the temporary illusion of unilateral executive power.
That’s another thing I don’t get. How do Hispanics not just feel completely and utterly used by the Democrat party to the point of disgust? Democrats play them like pawns. They treat them as if immigration amnesty is the only issue they care about. They pander to them, but make it obvious they don’t really care about them or the issue. They’re just trying to milk them for votes. If Obama and Democrats really cared about these families and solving the problem they would have done immigration reform when they had large majorities in both houses of Congress AND the presidency a few years ago. But they need this issue on the table. They don’t want it settled. It’s gross and I think Democrats may overestimate the degree to which Hispanics are eating it up. Or at least I hope so.
Tonight the President will announce that separation of powers is bullshit and those immigrants who came here legally are SUCKERS. If you still don’t understand why this is a big deal, consider the following. The norms on which a Republic relies lie outside its laws. They are, in many ways, more important than the laws. But those norms only exist when civil society recognizes and reinforces them. We have arrived at a very dangerous point. You cannot have a Republic without a vital and vigilant civil society. We appear to have lost that. It’s terrifying. An engaged citizenry is the single most important bulwark against tyranny. Without it, those in positions of power will invariably do exactly what Obama is doing. It’s human nature. Most people prefer a “benevolent” dictator. It’s easier. Someone’s there to do all the hard thinking and make the hard decisions for you. A constitutional republic is hard. Liberty is hard. It requires thinking, work, maturity. Our shiny object, “I want it now” culture can’t handle it. This is why I always shake my head when George W. Bush uses his childish (although beautiful) line, “I believe freedom is the hope of every human heart.” Unfortunately, it’s not. I wish it were true. Stalin is certainly not what people desire, but soft “smiley face” tyranny seems to be. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t give away our liberties so freely, as we’ve been doing for the last 100 years. Societal norms die slowly, and therefore quietly, and so no one cares. If they died quickly, society would notice and become enraged. Our once vigilant citizenry has gone to sleep, therefore our liberties continue to slip away. It appears Tocqueville’s imagining of the despotism that might befall a Republic was correct:
“I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Over these is elevated an immense, tutelary power, which takes sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate. It is absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident and gentle. It would resemble the paternal power if, like that power, it had as its object to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks, to the contrary, to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood…it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in their principal affairs…The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers it surface with a network of petty regulations – complicated, minute, and uniform – through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way…it does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own…it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way; it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
Anyway, some important things to read before tonight. Michael Auslin wrote yesterday:
What is being undermined are the norms on which our system rests. Once those begin to go, they are extremely difficult to reassemble. Instead, that slow, irreversible slide towards ever-more destruction of laws and customs becomes the rule of the day. That, then, leads to the obligatory Rome reference. No, we are not Rome and Barack Obama is not Julius Caesar. But he is, perhaps analogous to Sulla, whose crossing of hitherto sacrosanct lines and blatant disregard for timeless norms set the Republic on a dangerous path into chaos. What Sulla represented was the idea that anything was now conceivable, even though he justified his actions as responses to those taken by his political opponent Marius. Yet what he did could well be called the tipping point, and only inertia in the Republic’s system kept it going for another nearly half-century. As Julius Caesar crept towards the Rubicon, all of Rome could see it coming; all knew that two irresistible forces (Caesar and Pompey) were about to collide, yet the norms of restraint had been so eaten away, and creative politics so attenuated, that there was no chance of avoiding the explosion. What Barack Obama sows in 2014 may not be reaped for years or decades. But it eventually will be reaped, unless the political leadership of this country today and tomorrow shows far more wisdom, self-restraint, and civic duty than it does now.
Charles C.W. Cooke has a great piece here. An excerpt:
Since the indignities of the Great Depression swept Franklin Roosevelt and his crack team of social engineers into the highest offices in the land, the Left’s primary political strategy has been to pass as big an expansion of government as is feasible in their brief moments of ascendancy and then to dare the dissidents to take its fruits away when, eventually, they get back into power. As we have all learned over the last 80 years or so, progressives tend to view the welfare state in much the same way as conservatives regard the Constitution: as settled and almost holy writ, the fundamentals of which should be changed only in extraordinary circumstances. In 2012, it was this presumption that informed the popular chant that Obamacare was now “the law” and that it was in consequence to be set in aspic for all time. It is this postulation, too, that explains the crass envy that so many on the left feel for Europe, on which continent the form of sweeping statism that they covet is held to be wholly uncontroversial. And it is this conjecture that explains why FDR wished to entrench positive government action within the nation’s legal firmament, his administration’s hoping that the tenets of the New Deal would eventually be codified into a Second Bill of Rights. Why do we imagine that Obama works so hard to cast his health-care legislation not as a government program that can be altered or repealed at any time but as an immutable “right”? Because, once in, additions to the welfare system are supposed to be untouchable…Put bluntly, Barack Obama understands that, long-term, his usurpations are worth the cost to him and his party…As any naughty child knows, it is far easier to apologize than to ask for permission.
All told, one cannot entirely blame him, for he knows full well that any reforms will be almost impossible for a future legislature or a future president to undo. What rational political outfit, one has to ask, is likely to spend the next few years irritating the direct and indirect beneficiaries of this change? Is a Republican in 2016 going to risk being endlessly demagogued as “anti-Hispanic” in order that he can make a process point about which most voters do not seem much to care? Will the Right writ large risk the teary 60 Minutes interviews featuring illegal immigrants who had been spared deportation but are now once again in fear? I highly doubt it. Such inquiries, moreover, presume that conservatives would in fact wish to reverse those policies in the first instance — a supposition that is by no means beyond doubt. Obama understands these things, and he knows that, even if he is slapped down for having overreached, the important thing is that he gets his own way. If, as he seems to believe it to be, the president’s choice is between constitutional propriety and Hispanic voters’ long-term devotion to this party, he has an easy answer does he not?
Keenly aware that his conscience is the only material barrier between our established political norms and his faction getting what it thinks it wants, the president has decided to roll the dice. The move is ugly as hell, and, in the long term, it will prove to be constitutionally cancerous. But cheating helps to move the ratchet, and for some that’s all that really matters.
Gabriel Malor tries to explain to the Left for the umpteenth time that no, what Reagan and Bush did is not what Obama is about to do. Andrew Evans lays out why Obama’s orders will actually betray progressives. Robert Tracinski lays out the first rule of Amnesty Fight Club here. Jazz Shaw has a good post up at Hot Air. Seth Mandel has a great piece on presidential power grabs and what can be learned from Harry Truman:
A good example of the right outlook of a president comes from Harry Truman. He notably and unilaterally rolled back several of what he thought were FDR’s power grabs. But the thought process behind one of those decisions stands out: Truman’s refusal to run for reelection in 1952. In 1947 Congress passed the 22nd amendment, which forbade an elected third presidential term. It was ratified in 1951. The amendment was written to exclude the sitting president–Truman–from its restrictions, however, so as not to be seen as a Republican Congress targeting a sitting Democratic president. Truman was elected in 1948, and could have run again in 1952. Yet he already knew in April 1950–before the Korean War–that he had no interest in testing those limits, or lack thereof. And here we have, from Truman’s biographer Robert J. Donovan, what Truman was thinking at the time, having written out his determination. Donovan smartly devotes a (brief) chapter to this decision, but here is what Truman wrote the day he made this decision:
“Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, Madison, Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson as well as Calvin Coolidge stood by the precedent of two terms. Only Grant, Theodore Roosevelt and F.D.R. made the attempt to break that precedent. F.D.R. succeeded. In my opinion eight years as President is enough and sometimes too much for any man to serve in that capacity. There is a lure in power. It can get into a man’s blood just as gambling and lust for money have been known to do.
This is a Republic. The greatest in the history of the world. I want this country to continue as a Republic. Cincinnatus and Washington pointed the way. When Rome forgot Cincinnatus, its down fall began. When we forget the examples of such men as Washington, Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, all of whom could have had continuation in the office, then will we start down the road to dictatorship and ruin. I know I could be elected again and continue to break the old precedent as it was broken by F.D.R. It should not be done. That precedent should continue–not by a Constitutional amendment but by custom based on the honor of the man in the office. Therefore to reestablish that custom, although by a quibble I could say I’ve only had one term, I am not a candidate and will not accept the nomination for another term.”
Truman understood that there is something about power that is unhealthy both for the man who possesses it and for those over whom he wields it. Getting presidents to act with that in mind shouldn’t take a constitutional amendment, Truman thought. And he’s right, and it’s what makes Obama’s power grab so disconcerting. Truman understood that legally enforced limits aren’t the kinds of limits that show, shape, or test a person’s character. The limits presidents place on themselves, as honorable public servants, are. Something is lost, then–a great deal, in fact–when the law is the only limit on a president’s actions.
Ted Cruz lays out exactly what Republicans should do to stop this executive amnesty and I hope they do it:
Peter Kirsanow lays out a perfect “Decision Making Guide” on defunding amnesty. There is already balking to this by the pansy-ass Republicans, of course. Sean Davis takes apart the ridiculous claim by the House Appropriations Committee today that it “can’t be done.”
Ok, going to go drink all the wine now and sob. Have a sad night.
The Emperor (and yes, he likes it when you call him that) will issue his illegal executive amnesty (read: undo the Constitutional order and destroy the Republic) tomorrow night in primetime, if you’re into watching that kind of thing. The Dear Leader decided to troll us all and go full Orwell on his website today with this statement:
And Twitter wept:
Man, I sure wish this guy was President:
Does this not bother you?
YOU’RE the ones he’s calling stupid. It’s not those knuckle-dragging ReTHUGlican TEATARDS he’s calling stupid. He’s vindicating them. He’s admitting they were right. He’s admitting that pretty much everything those of us on the anti-ACA side were saying (and got called poor-hating racists for) was true. And yet I see hardly any Democrats upset or insulted by this. I don’t expect the Democrat “elites” to be upset. They agree with Gruber that the ends justify the means. They know what he did in order to get this bill to pass and they agree with it. As Gruber said, “I’d rather have this bill then not have it,” so it was worth it to lie and deceive. Like I said yesterday, the ends always justify the means for progressives. They’ll do whatever it takes. But I know a lot of true believers, a lot of naive Democrat voters who have a child-like understanding of – and belief in – the efficiency and competence of government and the pure motives of our oh-so-wonderful politicians. They really believed every word Obama said about how this won’t add anything to the debt, it won’t tax the middle class, “if you like your plan, you can keep it,” it’s not just a wealth redistribution scheme (LOL, see below), etc.
I don’t understand why these people aren’t upset. If Paul Wolfowitz was caught on tape admitting, laughing, repeatedly gloating about how Bush really, really wanted to invade Iraq so they just made up the WMD claims, got all the intel agencies to go along with them and got away with it all because the American people are so STOOPID HAHAHAHAHAHA, I would be PISSED. I would be pissed A. Because I was lied to and B. Because this pompous prick is calling me stupid. But I don’t see that reaction from any of my Democrat friends. And they can’t use their favorite “FauxNews/right wing conspiracy” garbage excuse for this one. The man is on tape – I think we’re up to eight times now – saying these things. In this video Gruber literally mocks a voter to his face, calling him an “adolescent child,” just for asking a question. Even if you somehow love Obamacare too much to criticize Gruber’s comments on it, doesn’t it upset you that this prick represents your tribe? I just don’t get how the tribal loyalty can be so strong that you people never criticize your guys for anything. How can you be so slavish? You’re that person who stays in an abusive relationship. It’s fucking embarrassing. Have some self-respect.
The only thing I can come up with is that they believe the Gruber truthers. Hard as it is to imagine that anyone could believe Nancy Pelosi, Obama, etc. when they say they don’t really even know Gruber (despite all the literal video evidence to the contrary that can be turned up with a quick Google search), they must. This guy was on the government payroll, making hundreds of thousands of dollars to help craft this law, referenced by every Lefty pundit and politician as a unique health care/economist genius for months on end, and now they’re trying to get away with pretending they don’t know him. Gruber? I hardly know her. (Try the veal. I’ll be here all week). But some of my Democrat friends adore and believe in their politicians and their pundits more than my Catholic friends adore and believe in the Pope, or Jesus, for that matter. I’m not sure there is a religion in the world more impervious to evidence than the religion of progressivism. No matter how much evidence you put in front of them, they don’t believe it. If Democrats say Gruber had nothing to do with crafting Obamacare then it must be true, the mountains of indisputable evidence to the contrary be damned. Sean Davis gathers the evidence here and begs the Gruber truthers to give it a rest and stop beclowning themselves.
Some additional notes/links:
- Can you imagine the media reaction if Bush had acted like he didn’t know who the chief architect of his signature law was? They would have gone nuts calling him stupid/a liar for months. I don’t know how these media people sleep at night. How do they have any self-respect? They’re such dishonest hacks. NBC and ABC still have yet to cover the Gruber tapes on their nightly newscasts. We basically have the media (and academia) of a one-party state. Protect the Precious, no matter what. It’s disgusting.
- Ace has a good explanation of Gruber’s admission in the sixth video about how they deceived on the “Cadillac tax.”
He has done us all a favor by affording us an unvarnished look into the progressive mind, which values complexity over simplicity, favors indirect taxes and impositions on the American public so their costs can be hidden, and has a dim view of the average American. Complexity is a staple of liberal policymaking. It is a product of its scale and reach, but also of the imperative to hide the ball. Taxing and spending and redistributive schemes tend to be unpopular, so clever ways have to be found to deny that they are happening. This is what Gruber was getting at. One reason Obamacare was so convoluted is that its supporters didn’t want to straightforwardly admit how much the law was raising taxes and using the young and healthy to subsidize everyone else….This kind of sleight of hand is crucial to the progressive project, which always involves imposing taxes, regulations, and mandates at one remove from the average person so he or she won’t realize that the costs are passed down regardless.
Most liberals would never come out and call Americans stupid in a public forum, as Gruber did. But the debate between conservatives and liberals on health-care policy and much else comes down to how much average Americans can be trusted to make decisions on their own without the guiding, correcting hand of government. An assumption that Americans are incompetent is woven into the Left’s worldview. It is reluctant to entrust individuals with free choice for fear they will exercise it poorly and irresponsibly.
So Gruber deserves to be listened to, even if he ultimately got it wrong. The public is smarter than he and other Obamacare supporters give it credit for. It has never believed the magical, deliberately deceptive promises about Obamacare, or supported the law that continues to be a drag on the Democratic party. Rather than congratulating themselves on their cleverness, the law’s architects might better reflect on how, even with crushing majorities in the House and the Senate, they had to lie and obfuscate to get Obamacare passed. That is damning commentary, not on the American public, but on their misbegotten handiwork.
- Keith Hennessey has a great blog post, “I’m With Stupid.” Here’s an excerpt:
If American voters are stupid because they think academic credentials do not perfectly equate with intelligence…If they are stupid because they think policy decisions should be informed both by sound science and values…If they are stupid because they would rather let people make their own mistakes than allow government to make different mistakes for them…If they are stupid because they support less redistribution than certain progressive policymakers and their allies in academia…If they are stupid because they don’t spend all their time trying to sift through policies intentionally designed to deceive them…then I’m with stupid.
- Kyle Smith has a comprehensive, awesome rant on the lies that are central to Obama’s agenda here. An excerpt:
Damn Americans. They just don’t see the wisdom of surrendering to experts the power they need to remake the country into a progressive paradise. Sighing with regret, liberals like Jonathan Gruber admit that they’re forced to hoodwink the citizens. For their own good. Gruber, the MIT economist who (in the words of The New York Times) “put together the basic principles of” ObamaCare and helped Congress “draft the specifics of the legislation” is one of a long line of liberals driven by the belief that the stupidity of the American people is so insurmountable that persuasion is futile…Gruber’s jocular tone wasn’t surprising. In explaining why a huge tax increase was disguised to conceal it from the American people, he was admitting what was obvious to close observers: The law is really just a redistribution scheme. Even the Democrats didn’t think ObamaCare could pass by being so described. That’s why deception, as Gruber says, was central to its design.
Except Gruber got it wrong: The people weren’t actually fooled. Most Americans are not wonks. They simply suspected that the law was too good to be true. ObamaCare will cut your premiums? By $2,500 a year? And reduce the deficit? While giving gold-plated coverage to tens of millions more people? Who won’t have to pay much? And none of this will result in anyone losing their current plan? To the average person, Obama sounded like a used-car dealer shouting, “Free Ferrari. Gets 100 miles to the gallon! Did I mention it runs on rainwater?” Americans didn’t buy it. Never did. At no time has approval for ObamaCare hit 50% in the Gallup poll. So the Democrats pushed the program through anyway, without a single Republican vote, via legislative legerdemain. No program of similar scope had ever been rammed through without bipartisan support.
The reason liberals consistently mislead, or try to mislead, the public on their policies is that they don’t pass the common-sense test.
- Jake Tapper has a good explainer of what Gruber said and how it contradicts Obama’s promises here.
- Check out this old column from the very progressive Jane Hamsher, who recognized Gruber for what he was back in 2010.
- Here’s a fantastically scathing Chicago Tribune editorial:
A video that surfaced this week shows Gruber telling a Rhode Island audience in 2012 how the feds will collect a tax on high-end policies without families realizing they’re actually paying the tax via insurers: “(I)t’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.” A 2013 video has Gruber in St. Louis describing how that “Cadillac tax” got into the ACA: “They proposed it and that passed, because the American people are too stupid to understand the difference.”
Gruber told MSNBC on Wednesday that his Pennsylvania comments were “at an academic conference” and “off-the-cuff”: “I basically spoke inappropriately and I regret having made those comments.” No doubt because they’re true. Gruber hasn’t renounced a thing he said.
Apologists surely will dream up more sophisticated excuses. But after the blithe yammer we’re left with the admission of National Journal’s Ron Fournier, an ardent backer of the ACA: “And so even I have to admit, as a supporter, that Obamacare was built and sold on a foundation of lies.” He says that in today’s political discourse there are two types of lies: “Those that hurt ‘my party’ and ‘my policies’; and those that don’t. We condemn the former and forgive the latter ….”
Even in Gruber’s come-cleanery, there’s one more lie. The people who deceived you about Obamacare didn’t do so because you’re stupid. They did so because they thought voters are smart, and would reject them and their schemes if they didn’t spin their many deceptions. We had a decisive national election last week. Maybe Americans proved how stupid, or how smart, they truly are.
- Here’s Peter Suderman on how the Left’s new effort to diminish Gruber’s role in crafting Obamacare is actually just proving Gruber right. Here’s an excerpt but go read the whole thing:
Gruber was not just “some adviser” who ran computer simulations but played no role in setting policy. He was not just like 300 million other Americans, some guy with an opinion. He was intimately connected to the law and its creation, an influence on Obama before his presidency, paid handsomely to analyze Obamacare’s effects, invited to at least one presidential meeting at the White House to help determine its structure, and directly involved in the writing of the law’s legislative text on Capitol Hill. It’s clear from their dismissive remarks that the administration and its supporters want to avoid too much discussion of this. They don’t want to be associated with the man or his ideas. But Gruber’a ideas, and his deceptions, are part of the foundation of Obamacare. They just don’t want to admit it.
Indeed, by trying to escape his remarks, Obamacare’s defenders are amplifying Gruber’s essential point, which wasn’t that Obamacare supporters made up spectacular fabrications but instead that they heavily shaded the truth, presenting it and editing it in a way intended to create a false but politically convenient impression: The deception that he described regarding the crafting and selling of Obamacare is again on full display as supporters of the health law desperately attempt to diminish and downplay the role of one of its key architects, despite the plain evidence to the contrary. As an episode in the ongoing saga of Obamacare, it’s both revealing and confirming: The White House and its allies are misleading the public about Gruber just as they have about the law. They don’t want the public to know the full truth about either.
- And finally, here’s a great Jonah Goldberg rant from Special Report the other night.
This is one of the most remarkable statements I have ever seen. It’s almost self-parodic.
Huh. Interesting. These new rules could sure be fun for a future Republican president:
“I’m going to abolish the IRS. If you don’t want the IRS abolished, pass a bill saying the IRS has been abolished and I’ll sign it.”
“I’m going to repeal Obamacare. If Congress doesn’t want me to repeal Obamacare then they’ll pass a full repeal.”
Now, I don’t want a GOP president to do that, much as I’d like the IRS and Obamacare to go away, because I respect and love our system. It is the best system in the world. I don’t believe in using tyrannical means to get what I want. Is Obama about to break the system like some two-bit Latin American caudillo? Probably. Because he doesn’t care. The Left doesn’t care and he is a man of the Left. He is no liberal. The Left hates the system. It restrains them. And every Leftist (not classical liberal, Leftist) is really just a little authoritarian at heart. The ends justify the means for these people (as Jonathan Gruber has reminded us all week in tape after tape). They don’t have any principles. They want what they want (control) and they’ll do whatever they have to do to obtain it. This should be terrifying to anyone who believes in liberty. It should be terrifying to anyone who has a basic understanding of history. As Charles C.W. Cooke notes in this superb piece, Obama must be stopped because once the system is gone, it’s gone, and will be lost forever as the will to power only ever gets stronger. Here’s an excerpt from Cooke’s piece, but go read the whole thing. It’s truly excellent.
Sean Trende is absolutely correct when he maintains that constitutional “norms” are nigh on impossible to retrieve once they have been abandoned. But, far from providing a justification for surrender, this is precisely why conservatives should refuse to “shrug” their shoulders and wait patiently for revenge. If, as he suggests, we cannot afford to watch these conceits consigned to ash, then shouldn’t we make it abundantly clear that they should be protected at all costs? Trende is also on to something when he observes morosely that “the public pays no attention to process arguments” and that Obama’s move will “be seen as a fight over immigration, which is what the Admin wants.” But, again, he is absolutely wrong to suggest that there is more to be gained by avoiding this fight than by engaging with it. The Constitution of the United States represents an explicit attempt to codify and preserve a republican form of government, and to set hard limits on the power within the system of any one person, group, issue, or institution. For champions of ordered liberty, the integrity of this codification is not vital to getting what we want: Instead, it is what we want. Passionate as I am about day-to-day politics, that a president of whom I approve might one day be able to push through my coveted agenda with little to no resistance is no consolation at all. Nor am I inspired by the prospect of my preferred leader’s being able to disregard the law if he happens to disagree with it. Instead, I am keenly aware that the rule of law and my own security are inextricably bound together. As George Orwell might have said, a strongman that one holds in high regard is still a strongman.
The “Constitution,” John Adams wrote, “was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” To this maxim he might have added the warning that the charter could not possibly survive unless those who swear to uphold it elect to respect its boundaries and honor its purpose. As should by now be obvious, culture matters a great deal. Almost every time the American system has been tried in South America, the inevitable tension between executive and legislature has produced a coup, the “gridlock” that is the hallmark of our Madisonian system of separated of powers serving as a boon to the presidency and as the overture to military rule. For years now, progressives have pointed to these foreign failures, predicting gravely that such an outcome was the inescapable structural product of the constitutional system itself and that it would eventually happen in America, too. Aware of the indispensable role that national habits play in any political settlement, conservatives have tended to argue otherwise, noting that the maturity and experience of the American electorate guards against such usurpation. “Which president would want to break the system?” we have inquired. And which lawmaker would be so lacking in jealousy that he would refrain from stopping him? We are presumably about to find out. It is time to gird our loins.
Gabriel Malor presents the alternative argument: that Democrats have already destroyed the system, it is already gone, and now Republicans must fight fire with fire. Here’s an excerpt:
Cooke thus needs to face a hard truth: Obama will probably get away with his super-DACA, just like he got away with DACA and with the Obamacare delays. The constitutional mechanism to stop him—impeachment and conviction—has largely atrophied, and in any case, the incoming Senate would never have the votes to convict. The political mechanism to stop him—holding government funding hostage against Obama’s good behavior—will be a repeat of the failed shutdown strategy of 2013. And the legal mechanism to respond—Speaker Boehner’s still unfiled lawsuit premised on the concept of legislative standing—is a long shot, at best.
Which means that we are living in a crapsack world where Democratic presidents get to make an end run around Congress when they find it convenient to do so. And yet, Cooke writes that Republican presidents should nevertheless voluntarily hold themselves bound to an altogether more restrictive code of behavior. This unilateral disarmament would be political suicide. It leads directly to a world where Democratic programs and policies are easily implemented and enforced, but where Republican ideas face a host of self-inflicted procedural hurdles, followed by the chance that even if a conservative idea were to become law, a Democratic executive could simply ignore it.
The race to the bottom is unfortunate. It would not be my first choice. But the Democrats brought us here and, as Sen. McConnell recently said of the partisan repeal of the judicial filibuster, “it’s hard to unring that bell.” The Democrats are fighting dirty, which means this is no time for Marquess of Queensberry rules. Instead, because they cannot be reasoned with, Democrats must be shown the error of their ways. There will be no faster route to squealing outrage from the Left than applying the Obama Rule to one of their beloved federal programs.
Let the Democrats mount legal and rhetorical challenges against the Obama Rule of a non-executing executive. Maybe they will even be successful at re-instituting the old norm of American government. But if they are not, at least the Republicans will not have preemptively disarmed themselves. Republicans have to be ready to respond in kind.
I go back and forth between these two arguments. Sadly, I think Gabe’s points are more based in our current, depressing reality. The Founders understood that the Republic could not survive with a disengaged, uneducated, apathetic citizenry at the helm and that is what we have now. I don’t want to go Gruber and call everyone dumb, but evidence strongly bears it out. Much of the public is historically illiterate and more interested in Kim Kardashian’s butt than whether or not the president undoes the constitutional order. The practical part of me thinks Gabe is unfortunately correct, but the principled (and emotional, I must say) part of me comes down on the side of Cooke and David Harsanyi. Even if we fail, let future historians read, let it be known throughout the ages, that some of us tried. Some of us bore our constitutional responsibility. We tried to preserve the beautiful American experiment and prevent it from descending into some degree of tyranny, like every other society on earth. Some of us stood athwart history yelling, “Stop! Please don’t!” instead of succumbing to our baser “two can play at that game” instincts. I’d rather leave the scumbag tactics solely to the Left. Drew articulates this well over at Ace of Spades:
It’s hard to see how the solution to lawlessness is more lawlessness. Conservatives are pretty big on the Constitution. The idea that you can break it to save it, strikes me as nonsensical as anything a liberal like Ezra Klein would say about the Constitution.
Yes, it’s hard and sometimes unpopular to use the legitimate constitutional processes (the power of the purse (added thought: No Senate confirmations for Obama appointees)) to correct the use of illegitimate ones. So? That’s why people swear an oath to “preserve and protect” the Constitution…it’s a sacred duty. If it were easy or unimportant you wouldn’t have to swear to do it before you got to hold office. Embracing the Obama view would mean we would no longer be a government of laws but of men. Sure we’d be throwing away our birthright as free people but hey, at least we’ll get ours next time! Personally, I’ll leave that ethos to the liberals.
The solution is rather simple….the next time a Republican wins the White House, instead of breaking a whole bunch of laws to teach Democrats a lesson, they can simply rescind Obama’s orders and return the country to the rule of law. Of course we all know a Republican President won’t do that because it would be politically unpopular with Latino voters. And no doubt one argument against such an action would be that it would be unfair to to do this to people who came to depend on the word of the government to organize their lives. Which of course is the very reason not to embrace rule by fiat…people need to know the law means something and have faith in how it’s created and administered.
So many of the problems government is forever trying to solve are efforts to fix the damage of earlier government actions. The idea of undoing the original decision is never consider. All we ever do is add another screwball piece of equipment to our Rube Goldberg machine. That’s what embracing the Obama doctrine would do…try and solve a problem by adding more problems. Fighting now and using the legitimate constitutional tools available is so crazy it just might work. If nothing else, it’s worth a shot before giving up on 200 plus years of American liberty.
As to the fretting and hand-wringing GOP establishment types like Brit Hume are doing over the possibility of a government shutdown and their grave warnings against it: As I said last year, no one outside of D.C. really gives a shit if the federal government is shut down for a few days. Those of us out here in real America don’t even really notice. I know it’s shocking for those in the Beltway, but the vast majority of us manage to go about our daily lives just fine if the overpaid bureaucratic nannies get a few days off from watching porn at their desks in D.C. all day. The doomsayers who thought it would cost the GOP the 2014 election were obviously proven totally wrong recently. Of course, there are other methods besides a shutdown that can and should be used first to stop Obama’s executive amnesty, but I say if a shutdown is a last resort then so be it. Hard as the media will try, I think it will be harder this time to convince the majority of the American people that this shutdown is the Republicans’ fault. Maybe I’m giving the American people too much credit, but even some Democrats are worried that they would be blamed for this one.
Bottom line: Do whatever is necessary to stop this, Republicans. That’s why you were just overwhelmingly elected. Not only do you have a constitutional responsibility to rein the President in, but the American people agree with you on the specific issue at hand. They don’t want amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants. If you don’t fight on an issue that has the public this much on your side, then you’ll never fight for anything. If the punishment that people like Hume worry about comes and it means Republicans don’t get elected anymore then so be it. I have no loyalty to the Republican party. If it dies because it doesn’t stand for anything – or it stands for the wrong things in the eyes of a populace that increasingly apparently just wants to be taken care of – then it dies. Let’s have this fight. I would love a real choice in 2016, between a socialist nanny like Elizabeth Warren and a Constitutional conservative or libertarian like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. Let’s see where we are as a country. I’d like to know whether the majority of the people want liberty or tyranny. If it’s the latter then I can know that America is absolutely over and I can go back to blogging mostly about literature and poetry and food, rather than trying to convince people that they want something they apparently don’t want (the freedom to run their own lives, rather than have the “elites” and the “experts” run it for them). But I’ll be damned if I’m going to just give it away without a fight and let historically illiterate imbeciles like this run the show.
Even some of Obama’s biggest fans recognize that what he’s doing is bad and many are even begging him not to do it. Here’s a good David Brooks column (although Brooks just can’t help himself in the last paragraph). The WaPo editorial board reminds Obama that he has previously acknowledged that this is not how our system works, and even commentators on MSNBC today were questioning the president abusing his power.
No defender of Obama’s proposed move has successfully explained why it wouldn’t be a model for a future president interested in unilateral rewrites of other areas of public policy (the tax code, for instance) where sweeping applications of “discretion” could achieve partisan victories by fiat. No liberal has persuasively explained how, after spending the last Republican administration complaining about presidential “signing statements,” it makes sense for the left to begin applying Cheneyite theories of executive power on domestic policy debates. Especially debates in which the executive branch is effectively acting in direct defiance of the electoral process. This is where the administration has entered extraordinarily brazen territory, since part of its original case for taking these steps was that they supposedly serve the public will, which only yahoos and congressional Republicans oppose.
This argument was specious before; now it looks ridiculous. The election just past was not, of course, a formal referendum on the president’s proposed amnesty, but it was conducted with the promise of unilateral action in the background, and with immigration as one of the more hotly debated issues. The result was a devastating defeat for Obama and his party, and most polling on unilateral action is pretty terrible for the president. So there is no public will at work here. There is only the will to power of this White House.
Presidential systems like ours have a long record, especially in Latin America, of producing standoffs between executive and legislative branches, which tends to make executive power grabs more likely. In the United States this tendency has been less dangerous — our imperial presidency has grown on us gradually; the worst overreaches have often been rolled back. But we do seem to be in an era whose various forces — our open-ended post-9/11 wars, the ideological uniformity of the parties — are making a kind of creeping caudillismo more likely.
But if that evil must come, woe to the president who chooses it. And make no mistake, the president is free to choose. No immediate crisis forces his hand; no doom awaits the country if he waits. He once campaigned on constitutionalism and executive restraint; he once abjured exactly this power. There is still time for him to respect the limits of his office, the lines of authority established by the Constitution, the outcome of the last election. Or he can choose the power grab, and the accompanying disgrace.
Lastly, Mark Krikorian slaps down the progressive argument that Reagan and Bush did what Obama is about to do.