The Day Arrives

They told him not to do it, and then they told him again not to do it, and again and again, but like a dimwitted and confused teenager who sneers and defies his kindly and wise parents, he’s going to do it:

President Obama said in a video that he will lay out his proposal to overhaul the nation’s immigration system Thursday and will travel to Las Vegas on the heels of that announcement to rally support for his initiative on Friday.

“Tomorrow night I’m going to be announcing here from the White House some steps I can take to start fixing our broken immigration system,” Obama said in a video posted on Facebook Wednesday afternoon.

So the day has arrived. He’s going to take the law into his own hands and grant total amnesty to fourteen millions folks who are here illegally, and give them each a new car and tickets to Disneyland, and free healthcare, or he’s not. His aims seem to be more modest:

“Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken. Unfortunately Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long,” Obama said. “So what I’m going to be laying out is the things I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem.”

He’s going to adjust enforcement activities, to concentrate on sending dangerous folks back home to wherever they came from, and getting to everyone else later? The “everyone else” in this case may total only five million folks, and he’ll get to them later? That’s it? That’s not much, and none of these folks will be eligible to sign up for Obamacare either. He has deported more people-here-without-proper-papers than any other president in history – two million and counting – so he’s hardly an open-borders guy. He seems to be acting like a careful and rather boring administrator, explaining a shift in resource allocations to a bored staff in a conference room. There’s nothing very startling here:

In a blow to activists advocating on behalf of young immigrant families, there will be no guaranteed protections for the parents of so-called “Dreamers” – children protected by Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – nor for immigrant agricultural workers, said the Democrat, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

What we’ll get is no more than tinkering around the edges, and the Republicans should see that as a good thing, as one of their own advocacy groups suddenly realized:

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, wrote in an e-mail that even as Obama acted on his own to break the stalemate on the issue, Republicans would still have a chance to legislate.

“While executive action is not ideal, it accomplishes four things: Stabilizes our workforce, prioritizes law enforcement, protects families and puts congressional Republicans in the driver’s seat going into 2015,” Noorani wrote. “They have an incredible opportunity to get credit for fixing America’s immigration system.”

This group used to talk about closing down the border and little else. They changed their tune. They sense that what Obama is doing is nothing much at all, leaving the field wide open for Republicans to be the heroes here, eventually. The unspoken assumption, however, is that the Republicans want to do something about the “broken” immigration system. That may be a stretch. Republicans thrive when things are broken and they can point fingers. Who needs Republicans when thing are going well? And there’s the matter of modern conservative philosophy. When things are going well, that means government works – it can do good stuff – and that just can’t be. Ronald Reagan said the ten most dangerous words in the English language are “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help” – or maybe Jesus said that. It doesn’t matter which. That’s a given. Why would they fix the immigration system? The business community – large corporations and the national Chamber of Commerce – want immigration reform, because they want cheap labor with no legal hassles, and they do pay the campaign bills for every Republican, but maybe they can be put off again. This could be tricky.

It’s not tricky for this guy:

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn warns there could be not only a political firestorm but acts of civil disobedience and even violence in reaction to President Obama’s executive order on immigration Thursday.

“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation,” Coburn said on Capital Download. “You’re going to see – hopefully not – but you could see instances of anarchy. … You could see violence.”

The implication is that massive waves of violence might be justified in this case, because the president is acting like “an autocratic leader who is going to disregard what the Constitution says and make law anyway” – and rising up against that is right and natural, or something or other. This is, of course, tantamount to giving permission for certain folks – the Rush Limbaugh crowd and those who think Ted Nugent is the finest constitutional scholar living today – to go out and pillage and loot or whatever. He says he’d hate for that to happen, but he’d understand if it did. Coburn seems to hope that will happen. Maybe it is time to overthrow the elected government. He could have just said that.

Then there’s Ted Cruz at Politico with Obama Is Not a Monarch – more of the same sort of thing:

To be clear, the dispute over executive amnesty is not between President Obama and Republicans in Congress; it is a dispute between President Obama and the American People. The Democrats suffered historic losses in the midterm elections largely over the prospect of the President’s executive amnesty.

None of the exit polls showed that, but if Cruz wishes to think so, then this follows:

Undeterred, President Obama appears to be going forward. It is lawless. It is unconstitutional. He is defiant and angry at the American people. If he acts by executive diktat, President Obama will not be acting as a president, he will be acting as a monarch.

Cruz did, however, avoid calling Obama an angry and uppity nigger. Obama is King George of course, and Cruz is Thomas Paine, or perhaps Patrick Henry, or George Washington. It’s safer to say that, but an item in the Los Angeles Times looks at another dynamic at play here:

Tea party conservatives have renewed talk of censuring or impeaching the president. But the strong reaction by Republican leaders has less to do with opposition to the nuts and bolts of the president’s immigration policy and more to do with fear and anger that the issue will derail the agenda of the new Republican majority before the next Congress even convenes.

Republican leaders who had hoped to focus on corporate tax reform, fast-track trade pacts, repealing the president’s healthcare law and loosening environmental restrictions on coal are instead being dragged into an immigration skirmish that they’ve tried studiously to avoid for most of the last year.

They really don’t want to deal with this at all. Obama is forcing Republicans to deal with immigration, setting the agenda, which frustrates them:

To many, stark warnings from Boehner and McConnell sound more like pleas to the president to avoid reenergizing the GOP’s conservative wing, whose leaders are already threatening to link the president’s immigration plan to upcoming budget talks.

Another government shutdown is not what McConnell and Boehner had in mind when their party won control of Congress this month.

In fact, McConnell said flatly a day after the election that another shutdown would not happen. But calls by firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to use “all procedural means necessary” during Congress’ lame-duck session to block the White House’s immigration plans have left leaders scrambling to tame their rebellious ranks.

Republican leaders are increasingly concerned that if Obama follows through, the anti-immigrant fervor in their party will rise to an unappealing crescendo and the rank-and-file’s desire to confront the president will overtake other party priorities.

This does make it hard to advance legislation that lowers taxes on the rich and gets rid of all environmental regulation and confirm trade pacts that let corporations move work offshore, freeing them from whining American workers who want their high wages and stupid benefits. It is a distraction:

“We’re urging Republicans, whatever happens on immigration, let’s also stay focused,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, which is aligned with the billionaire Koch brothers and spent millions in the midterm campaign supporting Republican candidates for Congress. The group has not taken a position on immigration.

“We just want to make sure this economic agenda is not lost, because there’s an enormous opportunity next year with Republicans who control the Senate and the House to … pass significant legislation,” Phillips said.

Note that this group that the Koch brothers set up has not taken a position on immigration. They don’t want to touch that. They don’t want the political party that they now own to go down that rabbit hole. Alice found Wonderland down the rabbit hole, but she also found the Mad Hatter, and the Cheshire Cat. That cat, like Obama, just grinned and grinned until only the grin was left. You don’t want to go there.

Ed Kilgore thinks they may not be able to resist that:

As the engines of the Right-Wing Noise Machine rev themselves up into a high-pitched, chattering whine in anticipation of the Great Tyrannical Amnesty Declaration of 2014, it becomes harder and harder to believe that Republicans are going to resist the temptation to shut down the federal government again. Some of them, of course, are already there. And a lot more are back to the “partial shutdown” position that Ted Cruz tried to sell during his “Defund Obamacare” run-up to the 2013 shutdown: the fantasy that Republicans can get Obama blamed for a shutdown if they keep saying they want everything other than the contaminated areas of government to continue.

When they shut down the government last time they did quickly make sure the air-traffic controllers got back to work right as it started – important people flying to important places to do important things were getting pissed off – and they made sure the Social Security checks went out. Their base is full of angry old folks on Social Security. Shut the government down, but don’t tick off your people. That was what they thought would work, even if it didn’t, but now, looking back, Republicans also don’t think voters will remember what happens this time, because they didn’t last time.

Paul Waldman explains that thinking:

Approval of the Republican Party took a nose dive in the wake of the shutdown, and though it is still viewed negatively by most Americans, that didn’t stop Republicans from having a great election day. Because as at least some within the GOP understand, you can create chaos and crisis, and large numbers of voters will conclude not that Republicans are bent on creating chaos and crisis but that “Washington” is broken, and the way to fix it is to elect the people who aren’t in the president’s party. That in this case that happened to be precisely the people who broke it escaped many voters. The fact that the electorate skewed so heavily Republican in an election with the lowest turnout since 1942 also helped them escape the consequences of their behavior.

Kilgore:

There’s a very fine line between realizing you’ve escaped the consequences of your behavior and concluding there are no consequences. And once you arrive at that conclusion, you’re the alcoholic who has a drink or two, doesn’t pass out, and decides to celebrate the drinking problem being gone by ordering up a whole bottle.

Waldman:

We may be seeing the front end of an evolution in their thinking, not just from “Shutting down the government would be bad for us” to “We could shut down the government and be just fine,” but from there all the way to “Shutting down the government would be genius.” Just you wait.

They will go down that rabbit hole, and they will meet that grinning Cheshire Cat. That would be the grinning cat with a plan. Slate’s John Dickerson explains:

Republicans will react with anger and fury, but the president believes the move might spur Republicans to act on immigration if for no other reason than to overwrite his executive orders. Some of the president’s aides and supporters believe it will lead to a Republican overreaction like the government shutdown of last year. That, in turn, would weaken the GOP, helping Democrats politically and possibly even offering the opportunity for better negotiating terms with Republicans on a variety of issues, when they become anxious to show that they can govern ahead of 2016.

That’s the theory anyway.

Ah, but there’s more to it:

More important, this president has picked a course for the final stage of his presidency that is a total reversal from its original heading. The promises of Obama 2008 have been dead for a long time. The idea of progress through engagement and a higher-minded approach to the zero-sum politics of the Bush years started dying not long after Obama had his first contact with a determined Republican opposition. By the time the president won re-election, his team was operating under the premise that it was useless to negotiate with Republicans in the House. They concluded GOP leaders couldn’t deliver on the minimum requirements necessary for governing. What the president is doing now on immigration is going one step further. He’s embracing a strategy that posits that progress doesn’t come through cajoling, speechmaking, or refusing to budge, as he did during the debt ceiling debate during the shutdown; instead, you have to punch them in the nose. It’s an approach that is bigger and more confrontational than the minimum wage workarounds or Environmental Protection Agency regulations. He once promised to use his pen to make progress; now he’s wielding it as a weapon.

You have to punch them in the nose? Maybe there is no other choice now:

This, say the president’s aides, is the only way to proceed when faced with Republicans who refuse to act on immigration reform. The GOP has had years to make progress and has failed to do so. Marco Rubio, the Republican senator who pushed a comprehensive solution, now feels like a remote participant in the conversation and House Speaker John Boehner wouldn’t raise a bipartisan Senate bill in the House for fear of having an election-year crackup over policy details. That dynamic hasn’t changed, so the president is moving forward.

He could give them more time, another two years perhaps, to come up with something on their own, but there are other matters to consider:

Why not give Republicans a handful of months to come up with their immigration plan and then, if they don’t meet the deadline, go ahead with the executive orders? There’s no real rush (or Obama would have ordered the overhaul before the election), and the election has actually changed the dynamic. (If the election didn’t change things, then why did Obama wait until it passed to act?) An argument can be made for delay on purely political grounds. It would look “reasonable” to the op-ed writers and pundits, and it would put pressure on Republicans to act – to actually wrestle with the details of the issue – and that would be messy as different GOP factions fought it out over specific legislative language. Chaos in Republican ranks benefits the president because GOP leaders would have to work to avoid appearing that they were unable to govern on an important issue of the day. That might make them partners on a larger immigration deal that could benefit more people and offer a big legacy item for the president, whereas if the president moves unilaterally they’ll never cooperate with the White House on immigration. Any deal with Obama after the executive orders would be seen by the conservative grass roots as a grand capitulation.

The president cannot delay say his aides and allies, because he cannot disappoint his supporters in the Latino community again. There have been too many delays already. Deferring any longer would damage the political unity he’ll hope to draw on in his final two years, and it would hurt Democrats up for re-election in 2016, especially if the president backed down again. That’s why in an interview with Univision, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made his case for the president “going big” by referring to his own political situation. “I think the parents of people I know in Nevada deserve this.”

In short, the argument for moving unilaterally is stronger than the surprisingly strong argument for putting that off, and you can also help people and still screw the Republicans:

Democrats believe that delay will only create calls for more delay and more inaction. By forcing the confrontation now, the president takes immediate action to help immigrant families and still puts political pressure on the GOP. Republican leaders now have to temper their reaction by reining in in their members calling for impeachment or another set of budget confrontations, perhaps even a government shutdown, which could backfire as the last one did. At the moment, the risk of a shutdown looks remote, but the challenge is larger than just avoiding a shutdown. Republicans also have to be smart about how they undo the president’s actions, making it an argument about presidential overreach and not an opportunity for them to be painted as inflexible on the issue.

At least someone learned something:

President Obama’s new, muscular position on immigration is the best evidence of his newfound freedom that has come after his party’s big loss at the polls. He is no longer holding his fire to protect Democrats up for re-election in red states. (Some of his aides believe the restraint not only irritated him but led to the weak outcome.) This will likely be the first of few brawls in the president’s final years in office.

The day has come for that and it starts with an announcement of a few administrative adjustments to existing law, which doesn’t change.

This is not a big deal, but it is to those who long to rise up and rid America of this usurper, but Sam Stein reports this:

At the Mayflower Hotel, lawyers gathered for the annual Federalist Society national convention –one of the highest-profile conservative legal events of the year. The day’s big draws were the opening speech by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and an evening event featuring Justice Samuel Alito.

Before the crowd changed into black tie attire for Alito’s appearance, however, a smaller panel convened under the title, “Federalism: The President’s Duty to Take Care That the Law be Faithfully Executed.” Panelists discussed major confrontations between the branches of government, from enforcement of marijuana law and the implementation of health care to Obama’s impending executive order on immigration.

The talk was, well, lawyerly. Every conclusion seemed to have a qualification attached to it. But, by and large, the panelists agreed the president has wide legal latitude to prioritize and shape deportation laws, as regrettable for Republicans or the long-term balance of powers that may be.

The lawyers know:

“I think the roots of prosecutorial discretion are extremely deep,” said Christopher Schroeder, the Charles S. Murphy Professor of Law and Public Policy Studies at Duke Law School. “The practice is long and robust. The case law is robust. Let me put it this way: Suppose some president came to me and asked me in the office of legal counsel, ‘Is it okay for me to go ahead and defer the deportation proceedings of childhood arrival?’ Under the present state of the law, I think that would be an easy opinion to write. Yes.”

And the Cheshire Cat grins.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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One Response to The Day Arrives

  1. Rick says:

    Paul Waldman has his own theory on why shutting down the government didn’t hurt Republicans at the polls:

    “Approval of the Republican Party took a nose dive in the wake of the shutdown, and though it is still viewed negatively by most Americans, that didn’t stop Republicans from having a great election day. Because as at least some within the GOP understand, you can create chaos and crisis, and large numbers of voters will conclude not that Republicans are bent on creating chaos and crisis but that ‘Washington’ is broken, and the way to fix it is to elect the people who aren’t in the president’s party. That in this case that happened to be precisely the people who broke it escaped many voters. The fact that the electorate skewed so heavily Republican in an election with the lowest turnout since 1942 also helped them escape the consequences of their behavior.”

    This is to blame it, in a way, on the “stupidity of the American voters” — or at least the Republican ones — which may have a certain validity, but my own theory has to do with something we tend to forget:

    The mid-term electorate, especially in a year like this odd-ball one in which open red-state senate seats happened to be more numerous than blue, is not the same as the presidential years, which tend to be more national. While polls showed most people nationwide blamed Republicans for the shutdowns, the voters this year were local and skewed Republican. And so, even if the shutdowns had been an issue in the election — which they weren’t — they would have worked for the GOP, not against it. But whatever. Most of these voters were going to vote Republican, no matter what.

    Still, Democrats should take some comfort in the knowledge that 2016 will bring not only a national electorate instead of just a local one, but also a higher number of blue senate openings. And national voters not only remember political shenanigans, they remember who’s responsible for them.

    And as for the Republicans taking the Senate, there’s something else we tend to forget: In a way, it’s strange it’s taken them this long.

    That’s because our federal system, as designed, makes sure the less populous states get the same number of senators as the states with more people. Since all those so-called “flyover” states are red on the map, all the most populous states are outnumbered in the Senate by the less populous ones. So until Democrats can figure out what to do to counter Republicans taking over state governments and, through gerrymandering, leveraging their minority numbers into higher congressional representation than they deserve, the “new norm” may be a blue executive branch and a red legislative branch — and who knows what color Judiciary, since Congress will still have the power to dispose of whatever the President proposes.

    But this should only be a problem until that famous upcoming demographic tidal wave sweeps over the country, hopefully turning most of those red states purple, and then to blue. So hang in there; better days are ahead.

    Rick

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