Politics through Distraction; Governance through Fiat

A couple of weeks ago, President Obama decided to go to San Francisco — a stalwart sanctuary city if ever there was one and a metropolitan area generally in tune with his weltanschauung — to talk about immigration. Apparently tired of the constant drumbeat of negative publicity about the failed health care website and concern over a number of other major policy issues, such as spying on American citizens’ telephone and Internet metadata, that have adversely reflected on the administration and caused Obama’s favorable standings to plummet in the polls, he went to his base for support.

It probably seemed like a no-brainer, and a win-win situation for him. Don’t want people focusing on all that bad stuff? Stand at a podium with the back of the dais filled by all of those supporters gazing at you with vaguely religious looks of rapture while you bring up immigration reform and talk about how it really needs to be done nowand would be, but for those stiff-backed xenophobes in the House of Representatives.

The timing was perfect: What could go wrong? Assuming that a broad-based amnesty of the type the Senate attempted is moribund, then you are seen as having tried against overwhelming odds to get it moving again. If, for some reason, it is resurrected, Lazarus-like, then you get credit for breathing new life into it. And, if nothing else, it would distract his base from any number of irksome things in which they have every reason to be disappointed. Except this time the tactic backfired.

A young man standing among those in the dais began shouting for President Obama to halt deportations of all 11 million illegal aliens in the country through “executive action”. The president tried to talk through the shouting, but failed because of the man’s persistence. The Distracter-in-Chief was out-distracted. In fact, as the man began tochant “stop the deportations”, a number of others on the dais and in the audience joined him. This was a remarkable moment because the tactic of disruption, though familiar, is one usually used by the president’s open-borders allies against more conservative, enforcement types. I have been thinking about it ever since it happened, revealing as it did such clear evidence of a split among the ranks of the faithful.

But even more remarkable was the president’s response that he couldn’t halt deportations through executive action: “If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws through Congress, then I would do so,” he said. “But we are also a nation of laws — that’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend that I can do something by violating our laws.”

Let me make clear that I agree entirely with the president that attempting to use executive powers to usurp the lawmaking authority of our legislators is illegal. However —though the president’s words in San Francisco resonate with all of the appropriate Democratic Party touchstones — in point of fact, where immigration policy is concerned, this administration has trampled all over that bright constitutional line with frequency, preferring instead to rule by something much more reminiscent of imperial decree.

Remember the “prosecutorial discretion” memoranda emanating from Immigration and Customs Enforcement under former Director John Morton, which resulted in wholesale purging of immigration court dockets throughout the country?

Remember the “administrative” Dream Act that they regulated out of whole cloth some months ago? Governance by fiat seems to have been more the rule than the exception.

In fact, mere days before the president apparently discovered that there was a separation of powers clause in the constitution, his director of Citizenship and Immigration Services had issued a memorandum granting wholesale parole to illegal aliens with familial ties to current or former military members, including reservists.

If this young man was led to believe that anything was possible through executive action, it is because of the administration’s own wanton disregard of the legislative process. They have only themselves to blame that he and many others like him are now beginning to feel betrayed.

But notwithstanding the disenchantment of the open borders advocates who form a part of the president’s base, it’s nice to know that his views on the limits of executive power have matured in the area of immigration policy. Now let’s see the proof, Mr. President: Roll back the previous executive actions, which, by your own acknowledgement, constitute a “violation of law.”

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