Those who think that either the Constitution or possible negative consequences to the Democratic Party will deter President Obama from acting unilaterally on immigration policy probably still don't understand what makes this man tick.
The main things that drive him are his own interests — whether political or legacy — and his own ideological goals.
The Washington Post is reporting that both Democrats and Republicans "are in a state of high anxiety" over the possibility that Obama will issue an executive order allowing millions of people who entered the country illegally to stay in the United States in contravention of Congress, which clearly hasn't authorized this move.
The Post says both parties, for different reasons, fear that such an action by Obama could negatively impact their prospects in November's midterm elections. Obama's threat — and that's what it is, a threat, because there's nothing positive about his acting lawlessly again, especially for such a nefarious purpose — brings back more un-sweet memories.
We've all watched this movie before, not just with the immigration issue but with a host of others on which Obama has thumbed his nose at the Constitution and Congress and virtually dared Republicans to challenge him.
The movie metaphor is especially appropriate because with movies, the audience is necessarily passive. It has no impact on the unfolding of the plot and narrative. Obama often acts as if he were in a movie that's already been filmed and we were powerless to influence events. We must just sit back and watch this character rub our noses in the dirt as he intentionally flouts the prescribed limitations on his authority.
A few years ago, Obama gave a defensive speech to the amnesty-supporting La Raza organization, explaining that he can't change immigration laws on his own, though it "is very tempting." About a month later, he defied his own insincere words, Congress and the Constitution and proceeded to issue an executive order anyway.
He had the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issue an immigration enforcement memo directing ICE agents, attorneys and directors to exercise "prosecutorial discretion," which meant that they were to relax deportation actions for people who were students here, who had lived here since childhood or who had served in the military. This was a brazen act, even for Obama, because this policy had been proposed in the DREAM Act, which had been rejected by Congress. Columnist Charles Krauthammer correctly noted at the time, "This is outright lawlessness on the part of the administration."
It cannot honestly be said that Obama believed he had authority to do that. He had explicitly admitted he did not. So let's not dance around any alleged ambiguities in the Constitution or anything else concerning his executive authority to act in that situation. His own admission, just a month before, as to his inability to act is a smoking gun on this issue, on his character and on his attitude toward the law and the American people.
Now he's getting ready to do it again — and even more egregiously. He has pretended he is concerned with the border invasion from Central America, which his policies invited. He has promised, repeatedly, that he will take action to enforce the border and to expedite the deportation of these people.
As an excuse for refusing to enforce it, he has blamed Republicans for not agreeing to his "comprehensive immigration reform" bill, which, as always with his initiatives, is deceitfully misnamed. Republicans oppose that legislation because they believe that it would amount to amnesty and that it would not secure the border — the worst of both worlds.
Know this: Obama fully understands that he also has no authority to issue the executive order on immigration he is now planning. His order would allow millions of people who came here illegally to remain in the country.
Is there any restraint on his authority that he recognizes? What if he decides to just release criminals from prison? What would stop him should he sympathize with their plight, given his perennial angst against the system?
The Post reports that many Democrats up for election are worried that such an action by Obama would destroy their chances. It says Republican leaders are also concerned, fearing that an overreaction to Obama's lawlessness could backfire on Republicans and help Democrats.
Well, I don't know how all this is going to play out politically, but I do know that neither Obama nor the lion's share of Democratic candidates pretending to oppose his unilateral action care one whit about the constitutional restraints on Obama's authority. They'll pretend to care only to save their skins in their elections.
This is what it's come to in this country. We have a president and most of the leaders and elected officials of his party subscribing to an end-justifies-the-means approach to governance and exhibiting a willingness to put their partisan interests and their ideological agenda ahead of the rule of law and the national interests.
Despite fears of some establishment Republicans, I choose to believe that if Obama makes good on his threat, there will be electoral hell for Democrats to pay in November — not Republicans. Just watch and see.