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.