In how many different ways will Republicans on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the country be prepared to show their wanton disrespect for the President of the United States? We are but a mere two months into the life of the new Congress, and the bashing and attempted blocking of the president that has seemingly been the be-all and end-all of the GOP’s raison d’etre, has continued right on in inveterate fashion, perhaps with even more gusto now that the party controls both houses of Congress.
We were treated last week, once again, to that old tried and true GOP circus routine — threat of shutdown of a key government operation. This time it was the Department of Homeland Security being readied as the sacrificial lamb. All because voting to fund the department would mean allocating funds for the president’s executive order intended to bring relief to certain undocumented immigrants. And the GOP caucus in the House, particularly the extremist flamethrowers unable to be controlled by their own so-called leadership, would have none of it. So another stop-gap measure for a temporary fix, and another and another ad nauseam looks like what we can expect from this Congress. Today it’s Homeland Security; who knows what tomorrow. Some folks are of the view that it’s just as well Republicans won those Congressional majorities last November, handing them an opportunity to display an affinity for taking care of the people’s business that conspicuously eludes them.
But really, on the matter of presidential disrespect, “open season on Obama” continues to surpass all else that went before it in sinking to eye-popping levels of bad taste. With respect to the immigration issue, rabid Republican opposition to President Obama’s executive order hardly would suggest to the unknowing the multiple instances of presidential precedent…by Republican presidents, no less. Eisenhower in 1959, Reagan in 1987, George H.W. Bush in 1990 and George W. Bush in 2002 all issued executive orders meant to offer some form of relief to immigrants. But even if ideologically they aren’t disposed to be supportive of immigration overall, the fanatical extremes to which some Republicans are prepared to make good their objections to this president’s initiative, like de-funding a critical government operation, is merely more of the special anti-Obama venom that spews from haters of the first non-Caucasian who dared to be president.
Inevitably, the courts get involved in the process, with the immigration issue as with everything else. So a bunch of states joined in a suit to throw a monkey wrench into the program the president’s executive order would have initiated. A federal judge in Texas, in a 123-page decision (more is better?), ruled for the plaintiffs halting, at least temporarily, thousands of undocumented immigrants about to take advantage of the opportunity for a change in status that the president’s order offered them. The president and his legal team, in immediately serving notice of appealing the decision, believe they have both the constitutional parameters of presidential authority and precedent on their side to prevail in a higher court.
We all know, however, that any notion of the courts being politics-neutral enclaves is laughable — that the highest court in the land is as indisputably a bastion of ideological bias as there is. So while Eisenhower, Reagan and the two Bushes issued executive orders that went into effect unhindered, we ought not be surprised if some right-leaning tribunal today impedes the Obama effort, never mind attempting but failing to mask the naked politics of it all.
And then we’ve seen come to fruition this week the barefaced indifference to President Obama by Speaker John Boehner in his outreach to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, inviting Netanyahu to address the Congress. Boehner and the prime minister or their surrogates could attempt to re-phrase the rationale for their little duet every which way. It doesn’t require Rhodes scholar brains to understand that a ‘dis’ of the president was the overriding impulse here. Because they scheduled the thing within striking distance of Israel’s elections, possible political gain for Netanyahu would be gravy. Boehner, were he imbued with the right stuff (fat chance!), would be thoroughly ashamed for his flagrant breach of foreign policy protocol in circumventing the president to issue the invitation. And the same applies for blustery Netanyahu in his readiness to participate in the Boehner gambit. Both men, well aware of what was at stake, proceeded to allow their mutual dislike of President Obama to lead them to a grand-scale show of disrespect. The Boehner-Netanyahu collusion, slice it how they will, was all about sticking it to this president.
But even with an international dimension introduced into this non-stop treating the president with scant courtesy, the drumbeat gets to the point of no longer registering here among the plebes. After hearing a GOP Congressman call the president a liar during a State of the Union address, we can be excused for thinking we’ve heard it all.