I don’t usually comment on federal issues, finding as I do enough material in the strange stuff going on around me in Sacramento. But with the Legislature out of session and your pocketbook safe for a while, I thought I would note a bizarre comment recently from our beleaguered president. It’s worth noting, I think, both because it is typical of the arguments we often hear from the left, and because of what it says about the president’s respect for the intelligence of the American people.
The subject the president was addressing was immigration, specifically, the federal version of the so-called Dream Act. More generally, he was defending himself from the charge that he was somehow to blame for the current confused immigration situation that satisfies neither the left nor the right. And according to the White House web site’s transcript of the president’s comments, the comments I find curious, he said in defense, “I just have to continue to say this notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true.”
Now, of course, precisely NO ONE of any sense, stature, or IQ above room temperature has ever expressed “this notion.” Thus, this defense by the president of his immigration policies – that he cannot “unilaterally . . . change the laws” – is just nonsense. He also can’t “unilaterally” flap his arms and fly to the moon, spin straw into gold, or give everyone a puppy. But then no one ever said he could so what’s the point of his lamenting that he can’t?
The point is to confuse the American people. He sounds so reasonable. He sounds so sincere. He sets up a straw man and then effortlessly swats it down. Why, of course he can’t fix immigration by himself. He’s got that pesky House, run by mean old Republicans, to deal with. So Americans should cut him some slack on immigration.
Now, the problem here is that his reasonable and entirely accurate observation that the president can’t unilaterally change the laws, while undeniably true and a pillar of our Constitutional structure since the founding, completely misses the point! The knock on federal immigration policy is not that the president can’t change it unilaterally, but largely that the government just refuses to secure the border. And that IS something the Commander in Chief can do “unilaterally.”
Moreover, the president had a compliant, i.e., Democratic, Congress for the first two years of his term. He certainly could have, admittedly not unilaterally, but as laid out in the Constitution with the help of his Democratic friends who then controlled both the House and Senate, taken the steps needed to “change the laws.” Yet he didn’t do it when he could, and now finds himself having to defend the fed’s, and his administration’s, dereliction of duty.
So what, exactly, does the president floating this entirely hapless argument say about his view of the American people? Could he possibly have expected his silly comment to actually succeed in confusing voters? Sadly, the answer probably is yes, he did think it would work. After all, as mentioned above, this is a very tried and true leftist style of political discourse.
Consider for a moment a couple of typical “arguments” from the left. For instance, in opposition to the death penalty, we often hear the left note that capital punishment will not bring back the dead. True. Nor will capital punishment stop global warming, force the rich pay their fair share, or make NPR profitable. But, then again, no one has ever said it would.
Or consider the oft heard argument in favor of same sex marriage from the left that it will do nothing to hurt any existing heterosexual marriages. Again, though, this is a non sequitur. No one of any repute whatsoever has ever argued against same sex marriage on the grounds that their own marriage will be damaged.
In short, the arguments that capital punishment won’t bring back the dead or that same sex marriage will not damage any individual marriage are undeniably true. But so what? Conservatives never argue to the contrary. Those arguments by liberals are not responsive to the actual arguments of conservatives.
It is equally true, and irrelevant to the immigration debate, that the president can’t unilaterally change the laws. But then, you never heard his critics say that he can.
The president is flailing on this issue, as on so many others. All he can do is resort to the typical leftist nonsense and misdirection, and hope that the American people fall for it.