If you’re a frequenter to this blog you’re probably aware that I’m no fan of the President, nor his use of his office as a stick to poke at his political enemies in every way he can. Six years into his presidency I’ve finally come to the realization that Barack Obama really doesn’t see his role as anything but a tool for self-aggrandizement and worship from a relatively-small but powerful cadre of supporters who lionize everything he does and says (Hollywood, east and west coast progressives, the mainstream media). Most Americans voted him into office because they believed his lofty promises for uniting the country and being post-partisan, and (not in small measure) because he stood for a post-racial America where people could feel good about electing an African-American to the highest office in the land.
I write this only because what we saw on Thursday night was, in a little over fifteen minutes, a microcosm of the entire Obama presidency. Lots of chastising his political adversaries. Masterfully-delivered lofty words and promises full of seemingly rational and good intention. And, most typically, no small number of mistruths, lies, and spin. And it’s not just me saying this: when you have usual stalwarts like former White House spokesperson Jay Carney, the Washington Post and the AP issuing fact-checks, well, the jig, as they say, is up.
That all being said, I’m going to go out on a limb here and give the President his due. Never mind the fact that had he truly wanted to do immigration “reform”, he could have done it before the 2010 midterms when he had a Democrat Senate and House. He could have done it following his 2012 re-election, saying the country had reaffirmed his call for “hope and change”. He could have done it ahead of the 2014 midterms as a way to bolster the Democratic brand in advance of elections where historically the party in the White House loses seats in Congress. In each case, however, he didn’t, offering up one excuse after another – some plausible, some not. And so, keeping true form, what the President did last night had little to do with an intense desire for immigration reform – rather, it was designed for one thing and one thing only: to show Republicans he still mattered as a political force in Washington (no lame-duck he!), and to goad Republicans into political overreach that would both hinder GOP initiatives over the final two years of his presidency and harm the GOP brand going into 2016.
That’s all it was. And I agree with National Review’s Daniel Foster that it was both a masterful performance and as skillful a political tactic as one will ever see. He was good, very good. How do you know? because this morning he’s taking flack from both sides: from activists who don’t think his proposals go far enough, and from radical conservatives who think the Constitution has been shredded and the country is in a Fukishima-like meltdown. Neither, of course, is true, and I applaud the President for his (at least for now) his political masterstroke.
Republicans would be cautious to overreact here, because, in the end, Obama’s executive actions don’t really change much of anything, with the possible exception that they could – could – attract more illegals from Mexico and Central America in the knowledge that the President’s actions will be hard, if not downright impossible, to implement and enforce, and in the hope that nothing really ends up getting done and the status quo remains as is. Rather than focus on the human aspect of immigration by punishing the folks who are already here, I would encourage Republicans to pursue a series of small, but powerful legislative actions that pursue a three-pronged approach: 1) securing the border, 2) promoting the enforcement of existing laws already on the books, and 3) chastising the President for constitutional overreach.
Reforms that start with enforcing our southern border first would be a no-lose proposition for the GOP. Folks know damned well our southern border is a sieve, and Republicans can develop common-sense legislation that will force enough senate Democrats to support rather than risk appearing to be soft on national security and our sovereignty as a nation. And if President Obama wants to veto, the GOP candidate for 2016 has a ready-made popular issue to run on. Republicans in Congress can also use the power of the purse to force federal agencies to enforce existing law and punish those who don’t. Once again, if senate Democrats and President Obama want to support the non-enforcement of existing laws, let them try to run on that in 2016.
Finally, Republicans need to make it clear to the American people that Obama’s attempts to make law rather than enforce it at the Executive level poses great harm to the country, not just now but going forward. If played right this can be a constitutional “teaching moment” for the country, and whether the GOP seeks action through the courts similar to (Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit) or in Congress (censure or tabling all Obama appointment requests indefinitely), it has to be made clear that what President Obama has done is not just bad for the country in practice, but politically as well. Democrats would be wise to pay attention: imagine if a Republican is elected president in 2016 and his/her first executive action were to, say, abolish all public service labor unions or halt the collection of taxes by the IRS. After all, what’s good for the goose…
One final note: because that’s the nature of politics, people can debate who “wins” and who “loses” as a result of President Obama’s actions, in the end the biggest losers are African Americans (a common theme, unfortunately, throughout the Obama presidency), and the very people Obama pretends to want to help – those living in the so-called “shadows”. Hugh Hewitt is absolutely right: by seeking to shove immigration reform down the throats of Americans though executive action, he is risking a backlash against illegals or undocumenteds or whatever you want to call them, making their present situation and status all the more difficult:
The president’s lawless act will have the apparently contradictory impact of both making life harder for “those in the shadows” by increasing the reluctance of employers to hire the obviously illegal, while at the same time attracting millions more north across the fenceless border. Employers are simply going to be less willing to hire the obviously illegal because of a host of other laws the president cannot change, but the underground and top line messaging of the president’s act will be an amplified “Olly olly oxen free” to the millions who wish they were in America and not living in their own country.
Time will, of course, tell how all of this plays out. But there’s little doubt that what President Obama truly sought to do through his speech and actions last night – pick a fight with the next GOP-led Congress and keep it going through the end of his presidency – is his political “mission accomplished” moment. Unfortunately (though not surprisingly), it’s neither good for the country, the rule of law, nor the office of the presidency in general.
…not that either of these has ever been a concern for this President or his administration.
The bottom line is – and you heard it here from The Great White Shank – the President’s intended actions on immigration “reform” have little to do with immigration or the people impacted on both sides of the issue. Rather, it is only, as it always has been and always will be when it comes to Barack Obama, all about him and the way he has learned to play politics. Is it effective? Hell, yes. But good for the country and it’s future? No.