Last night President Obama announced what kind of executive action he would take on immigration policy—so-called "deferred action" for parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents as well as deporting only illegal aliens who present "threats to national security, public safety, or border security." Republicans say the president said he wouldn't act alone before reversing course several months ago and finally announcing he would announce what he intended to do after the elections, which went poorly for his party, and former White House spokesperson Jay Carney admitted the president was doing something he previously said was unconstitutional—some constitutional scholars disagree. Some supporters of immigration reform worry unilateral action now makes a permanent legislative solution less likely, as Republicans took control of the whole Congress in the midterms. Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), a longtime supporter of immigration reform, warned about "young punks" saying stupid things that would be taken to represent Republicans as a whole. These aren't your "angry birds." Here are six responses to Obama's decision that stand out as goofy, at best:
1. John Boehner
Speaker John Boehner, who for a while there said he was trying to get a bipartisan immigration reform bill passed in the House before the whole thing collapsed, says Republicans will "rise to this challenge" presented by Obama's immigration actions. "We will not stand idle as the president undermines the rule of law in our country and places lives at risk," Boehner said, talking about the president's decisions to prioritize deportations and defer action against parents of legally residing children and not the illegal war the president has committed U.S. forces to against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The "people's House," as Boehner calls it, hasn't taken any action on this military overreach or any previous one for President Obama. Instead it stood idly by.
2. Jeff Sessions
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), no young punk, nevertheless mouthed off like the way McCain would imagine one to, calling the president's decision "an imperial order to dissolve America's borders" in a column. But the president's action, which effectively caps deportations at 400,000 a year, a number said to be based on budgetary concerns, focuses deportations on security and border threats. For comparison, in 2008, Sessions acknowledged the bank bailout was an "unprecedented governmental intervention in the economy" and voted against it but nevertheless believed it was "well-intentioned." No such slack given here. Even in 2011, when President Obama committed military forces to Libya without any consultation or authorization from Congress Sessions, who opposed the action on the floor, strayed from calling one man's ability to decide to enter his country into a war on his own "imperial."
3. Ted Cruz
At 43 years old, Ted Cruz, the Canadian-born Cuban-American serving as the junior Republican senator for Texas, qualifies as "young" in the U.S. Senate. He didn't wait for specifics about what the Obama administration intended to do before calling it "lawless" and the president a "monarch" who was "defiant and angry at the American people." Politicians of all stripes should mind drawing too much consent out of any particular election result barring the authentic 1984-style landslides. Progressives loved to claim the 2012 election was a "ratification" of Obamacare even though the law was not on the ballot and President Obama had one of the worst showings of any winning incumbent president in history, against a lackluster establishment Republican opponent on whose state healthcare program Obamacare was partially based. Cruz himself led the charge in refusing to authorize spending if it included funding Obamacare, a law. Sounds lawless by Cruz's standards, unless his standards are limited to partisanship sniping.
4. Michele Bachmann
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who professes to be faithful to the Constitution but voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act, also thought the president's actions, directing deportation toward security threats and allowing parents of children here legally outright exemptions from deportation, were somehow an attack on the American people. "All I heard was contempt for the American people, as though he thought we were so stupid that somehow, he could say that his illegal actions were legal and we would all turn over and roll over and believe it," Bachmann, who did not seek re-election, said. But Bachmann believes in an exemption to the constitution when it comes to the war on terror, saying foreigners who come here to (allegedly) attack U.S. citizens don't deserve constitutional protections, widely seen by Constitutionalists as a dangerous erosion of constitutional rights. Who's stupid?
5. Pat Buchanan
One-time presidential candidate and longtime paleo-conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan writes in his syndicated column that the president's decision on immigration is a "monumental step away from republicanism toward Caesarism," arguing that an "Obama precedent" was set that would allow a future president to decline to "enforce this or that law, because of a prior commitment to some noisy constituency." President Obama's ability to take action, inasmuch as he ends up taking action—the pro-reform American Immigration Council noted "the full impact of the President's announcement will reveal itself in the months ahead," the "pass it to find out what's in it" precedent—isn't a new precedent but action built on decades, more than a century's worth, of expansion of presidential powers. Although the Obama administration wouldn't argue it because of its implications, the executive action on immigration is merely a more transparent manner to go about deciding which laws to enforce and how that presidents have been doing for a long time. Buchanan says the president's actions on immigration is the kind of thing the American revolution was fought over, although the Alien and Sedition Acts were roundly rejected as unconstitutional when this nation of immigrants was young.
6. President Obama
While announcing his plans, President Obama rejected the label "amnesty" for his proposal, saying that instead "amnesty is the immigration system we have today," because illegal immigrants don't pay taxes or play by the rules. Oh boy. Illegal immigrants, 8 million of them, already pay taxes, including income, Medicare, and Social Security. The president's actions won't allow any illegal immigrants to access entitlements they paid into. It doesn't provide legal status or a path to legal status, and neither does the current law. Neither is amnesty, but amnesty shouldn't be a dirty word especially for a president who claims to want to bring illegal immigrants "out of the shadows."