President Obama delivered his address this evening that laid out his proposals for immigration reform. His plan was a balanced collection of enhanced security measures along with the more controversial initiative to delay deportations for family members of citizens.
The President made an impassioned plea to preserve families and the values that define American character. He supported his authority to take these steps by noting that every president – Republican and Democrat – for the past half century have taken similar actions. And he prevailed upon the Congress to produce legislation that would make permanent reforms and negate entirely the need for this executive action.
And the response from the conservatives who inhabit the Fox News asylum of kneejerk negativity? Well, you can probably guess. There were four main arguments that the right-wing politicians and pundits threw back at the President, and none of them addressed the substance of the issue.
- One: Obama is overstepping his legal authority and venturing into the realm of an unconstitutional breach of separation of powers. However, most actual legal experts (including Bush’s former Attorney General Michael Mukasey earlier today on Fox News) agree that the specific measures being implemented by Obama are within his authority to take.
- Two: The president should have waited for Congress to act rather than “going it alone.” But by any objective analysis that would have taken longer than the President has left in office. Congress has shown a distinct disinterest in advancing this issue. There is already a bill that was passed by the Senate on a bipartisan basis that would pass tomorrow in the House if Speaker John Boehner would allow a vote. Don’t hold your breath.
- Three: They wonder why Obama didn’t get a bill through Congress during the first two years of his first term when Democrats controlled the House and Senate. For the record, Democrats did not have a filibuster proof majority in the Senate for six months after the election while votes were still being counted and contested for Al Franken’s seat in Minnesota. After that there was a full agenda that included health care, recovery from a severe economic collapse, and matters involving the two wars that were still raging in Afghanistan and Iraq. And in the final analysis, it is congress that sets the agenda for what legislation will be taken up, not the President. That’s the same congress that has distinguished itself in the last six years as the least productive in history. More to the point, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the debate today. The only reason it is brought up is to distract from the issue at hand.
- Four: The Fox contingent accused Obama of hypocrisy for saying in the past that he didn’t have the legal authority to do this, but now he is doing it anyway. However, they are badly conflating two different positions. Obama’s prior remarks correctly stated that he could not assume the authority of congress to make laws such as granting citizenship. But that isn’t what he did today. It is entirely within the President’s purview to instruct his Department of Justice on matters of prosecutorial discretion. Furthermore, it is within his authority direct the law enforcement resources of the Border Patrol and Immigration services.
The problem with Fox News and the GOP is that they complain about the President trying to move forward, but offer no solutions themselves. They allege that he is doing it solely for political purposes. So why don’t they stifle his scheme by passing a bill of their own? Not only would that deny Obama the political high ground they think he is trying to grab, it would nullify the executive action announced today that they so bitterly oppose and believe is unconstitutional. Why do they engage in evasive arguments by reaching back to the President’s earliest days in office, and even before that, to raise irrelevancies that ignore the real issue?
By refusing to act, Congress is demonstrating that all of their whining is no more than a disingenuous and partisan temper tantrum. They prove that they are more interested in having an argument than a solution. Congress has the power to set the course going forward and cast aside what they regard as a presidential power grab, but they won’t exercise it. And until they can explain why, their bitching has to be dismissed as cynical political carping and distraction.