For months Obama has been saying, “I’m gonna do it, I’m really gonna do it—unless of course you give me what I want.” He even told us the timing; it would be after the election.

In doing so, he will be keeping a promise to his radical base (Hispanic and otherwise), issuing a threat to the Republicans in Congress, and thumbing his nose at the American voters who expressed disapproval of him on November 4. You don’t get a trifecta like that every day from a president.

I just wrote that what Obama is about to do constitutes a threat to Republicans in Congress. But actually, it’s a threat to Congress itself. Democrats should be just as disturbed as Republicans by it, because it’s not the ends that are as important here as the very dangerous means. But if you’ve listened to a great many Democrats talk about it, you’d think ends are all they care about—and you might just be correct for most of them.

Obama has the strong support of leading Democrats, who seem only too happy to cede the power of Congress to the president to get something they think will benefit the Party. Of course, they don’t state that it’s a dangerous executive power overreach; they say this is just like what other presidents have done when they used their executive discretion to tweak immigration laws. Surely they must be aware of the differences. But being aware has nothing to do with it; ideologues of the left have no trouble telling themselves that 2 + 2 = 5, and that what Reagan and Bush did was just the same as what Obama is poised to do now, even though only political junkies have even heard of the former actions before because they were relatively non-controversial.

Frum summarizes the differences here, and they are substantial:

Reagan and Bush acted in conjunction with Congress and in furtherance of a congressional purpose. In 1986, Congress passed a full-blown amnesty, the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, conferring residency rights on some 3 million people. Simpson-Mazzoli was sold as a “once and for all” solution to the illegal immigration problem: amnesty now, to be followed by strict enforcement in future. Precisely because of their ambition, the statute’s authors were confounded when their broad law generated some unanticipated hard cases. The hardest were those in which some members of a single family qualified for amnesty, while others did not. Nobody wanted to deport the still-illegal husband of a newly legalized wife. Reagan’s (relatively small) and Bush’s (rather larger) executive actions tidied up these anomalies. Although Simpson-Mazzoli itself had been controversial, neither of these follow-ups was…

…[Obama’s about-to-be announced action] would not further a congressional purpose. It is intended to overpower and overmaster a recalcitrant Congress…

Another summary is here:

Reagan and Bush…made administrative corrections designed to carry out congressional intent.

…In short, while Reagan and Bush worked closely with Congress to implement the comprehensive legislation that Congress had passed (in the case of Reagan) or would pass shortly thereafter (in the case of Bush), Obama is bypassing Congress entirely. He is unconstitutionally revising existing law and, without Congressional approval, imposing new ones that have been explicitly rejected by Congress time and time again, thereby setting himself up as a kingmaker (or king) on immigration policy.

By doing so, the president is establishing a dangerous precedent that violates fundamental principles of separation of powers that serve as a bulwark to protect our liberties and that established a government of laws and not of men.

That’s not the only way that Obama’s action is unique, and uniquely awful. Can you think of another case in which a president himself has made the case that an action is unconstitutional, and made it repeatedly while in office, and then reversed himself and said it’s perfectly constitutional because he’s grown impatient and wants to do it? Obama himself has clearly said, over and over (22 times, to be exact), that he can’t do it. But we are supposed to forget that, like those Soviet photos that removed Communists who had incurred the wrath of the Party and become unpersons.

Let’s hear the opinion of a legal expert who happens to mostly agree with Obama’s ends, but deplores Obama’s means in the very strongest of terms. Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, says, “It’s a very sad moment, but it’s going to become a particularly dangerous moment.” When asked specifically about resemblances to Reagan and Bush’s executive actions on immigration, he says simply and unequivocally, “this would be unprecedented, and I think it would be an unprecedented threat to the balance of powers within our system.”:

Reports of the death of the republic are perhaps premature. But it may be in serious or even critical condition. Much will depend on the reaction of Republicans, and on whether a significant number of other liberals join Turley (for example, even Ruth Marcus, of all people, is at least uneasy about the precedent being set by Obama) in expressing condemnation, and joining with Republicans to fight Obama.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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