In a post on The Hill, the highly regarded website focused on national politics, contributor Allan J. Lichtman, a history professor at American University, recounts moves unilaterally made by a number of United States presidents on immigration policy, including what Lichtman calls the most sweeping of all, Republican Herbert Hoover’s action in 1930, during the Depression, to drastically curtail immigration. Following Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all acted via executive order to introduce new immigration procedures. Lichtman notes, however: “In none of these examples did the opposition party raise sweeping objections comparable to those of today’s Republicans in challenging the authority of the president to act broadly in immigration.” And there’s the rub.
A cacophony of shameless Republican and Tea Party voices have been vying for air time, trying to deliver the shot heard around the world against President Obama, in response to the president’s announcement that he would take executive action to move the ball on immigration reform, after Congress (more specifically the House of Representatives), subjected the immigration issue to a stall of more than a year and a half, refusing to consider bi-partisan legislation passed in the Senate. In truth, one ought not be surprised at the hypocrisy, and worse, that has ensued from those familiar ranks following Obama’s indicating how he intended to proceed. You would think this president had committed the most heinous of capital crimes!
We would apply the “shameless” tag to these attacks on the president, even while noting what another commentator, Rick Ungar in Forbes magazine, had to say about one of the makers of that shrill noise emanating from the right, Congressman Paul Ryan. Adhering to a “hyperbole is what counts” rule of thumb, Ryan had said of the Obama administration, that it had become “an increasingly lawless presidency.” In Forbes, as he duly observed the fallacy of these Obama attacks contending that the president had stepped onto some new forbidden terrain, wondered whether “people like Ryan are simply ignorant of our history and the subject matter upon which they deign to expound.”
Ignorant some few of them may be, but the bulk of the characters behind this sniper fire, we believe, know good and well that President Obama is following in the footsteps of several prior occupants of the White House, most of whom were Republicans.
It’s the nature of the beast, the idea of there being pushback from the other party and political types in the society not particularly enamored of a president’s policies, when an executive order is issued, more so one that packs a punch. But if Hoover, back then, could unilaterally limit immigration to a mere trickle, and FDR could reverse that trend a few years later to accommodate European refugees, also via executive order, as Lichtman reminds us, what’s so shockingly different about Obama’s intended action?
What’s different, as we have consistently said in this space, is what has set this presidency apart from all others, not for the right reasons, in the minds of a troublingly large component of the political establishment, as well as the overall polity. Because he dared to so radically break the mold for holders of the nation’s highest office, Obama earned himself the dubious distinction of tenure -long disrespect from those folks. It only compounds the national disgrace when, worse than disrespect, what’s directed at the president has been a level of vitriol that is absolutely without precedent.
This bout of caterwauling about “lawless” or “emperor” and all the rest is not to be confused with what’s been previously experienced when a sitting president caught flak from the other side for taking a particular action. There is a systemic venom at work here. And true to the pattern, the self-styled Obama presidency demolition team players have been none too reserved about advertising their non-stop, no-holds-barred mission. We can almost certainly expect more of the same when Obama vetoes legislation passed by a GOP-majority Congress, as he likely will. Check the posturing in the publicly conveyed message, that if the president insists on doing his immigration initiative, he would have “poisoned the well” against GOP cooperation on anything else. And they call that governing!
What was more lawless than Republican George W. Bush and a bunch of interventionists hell-bent on toppling Saddam Hussein on a flimsy pretext, even while considerable public opinion, both here and in key parts of the international community, was thoroughly against it? Or Republican Richard Nixon giving formal sanction to criminal wrongdoing?
Despite the bull’s-eye on his back, placed there by those ubiquitous mouths that roar, the president should stride confidently toward issuance of that executive order. It’s a right he has earned.