by Benjamin J. Kirby
I have always thought one of the least appreciated -- and least understood, in many respects -- "job descriptions" of the President was that of leader of his political party. Though he's the President of all the people, to be sure, and he shapes the agenda for the nation, he also shapes it for the rank-and-file who support the policies of one party over any other.
This question is made more interesting when you look at the roles of ex-presidents, too. I think this is one of the underlying, and under-reported themes you see in the tensions between former President Clinton and President Obama: Obama is leading the Democratic Party in ways President Clinton, still the active political animal, never would have.
As I said, though, the President of the United States is the agenda-setter -- the decider, the last guy might've said -- for the whole country first, not just his own political party.
But boy, is it sure nice when those two things can align. And so they did this past week. In the midst of dopes like me who were preoccupied with Tucker Carlson's irrelevant interrupter, something remarkable happened, and it was good for America, good for the President, and good for immigrants. President Obama announced that he would be dramatically changing our immigration policy for the better:
Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization.
Now, let's be clear -- this is not amnesty, this is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.
This is good policy, of course -- it's good immigration policy, it's good economic policy. And with an expanding base of Hispanic voters, it is, of course, good politics.
Which is why the GOP is crapping their pants.
John Yoo writing that this immigration action is executive overreach is like a two-bit government lawyer testifying to a Congressional committee that it is just fine for the President of the United States to have the testicles of a child crushed.
To the former, perhaps Yoo just needs to understand that "it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that." I don't know anyone insane enough to speak to the latter.
(As an aside, somewhere the late William F. Buckley, founder of the National Review, in which Yoo writes this nonsense, is spinning in his grave at the ham-handedness of having a Yoo, George W. Bush's torture memo author, lecture us about violations of executive power and violations of the Constitution.)
The second bit of proof of the GOP train wreck is the Romney Campaign response. Of course, the Republican nominee for President of the United States -- and the new standard-bearer of the GOP brand and platform -- fell right into the Obama trap: Romney knocks Obama’s immigration move but struggles to offer an alternative plan.
Mitt Romney criticized President Obama’s decision to stop deporting some illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children as an election-year political move, but he repeatedly declined in an interview Sunday to lay out an alternative plan.
I suppose he had no other choice, but can you imagine if he'd came out in full agreement of President Obama's plan?
...a Romney administration would press for an immigration policy designed to maximize America’s economic potential. The United States needs to attract and retain job creators from wherever they come. Foreign-born residents with advanced degrees start companies, create jobs, and drive innovation at an especially high rate. While lawful immigrants comprise about 8 percent of the population, immigrants start 16 percent of our top-performing, high-technology companies, hold the position of CEO or lead engineer in 25 percent of high-tech firms, and produce over 25 percent of all patent applications filed from the United States.
- Raise visa caps for highly skilled workers
- Grant permanent residency to eligible graduates with advanced degrees in math, science, and engineering
Just to give you a quick refresher, here's a key piece of what President Obama said:
As I said in my speech on the economy yesterday, it makes no sense to expel talented young people, who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans -- they’ve been raised as Americans; understand themselves to be part of this country -- to expel these young people who want to staff our labs, or start new businesses, or defend our country simply because of the actions of their parents -- or because of the inaction of politicians.
Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people. Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization.
And while we're comparing websites, Romney's -- prominently -- says this:
President Obama has failed to solve our immigration problems. Indeed, he has failed even to address them.
Of course, the truth is...
In the absence of any immigration action from Congress to fix our broken immigration system, what we’ve tried to do is focus our immigration enforcement resources in the right places. So we prioritized border security, putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history -- today, there are fewer illegal crossings than at any time in the past 40 years. We focused and used discretion about whom to prosecute, focusing on criminals who endanger our communities rather than students who are earning their education. And today, deportation of criminals is up 80 percent. We've improved on that discretion carefully and thoughtfully. Well, today, we're improving it again.
My guess is we will see a lot of things like this between now and November: policy announcements, executive orders (which have the added benefit of cutting out the inactive Congressional middle-man, by the way), and statements in which everyone knows Romney probably agrees with, at least to some degree.
The problem is, this is the anyone-but-Obama strategy for the Republicans. Obama says up, you'd better say down. Obama says left, well, you'd better say right. Obama says, "smart, sane, humane immigration," you'd better say... "With regards to these kids who were brought in by their parents through no fault of their own, there needs to be a long-term solution so they know what their status is."
Your political leader, GOP. Good luck this summer.