Can we please cease pretending that President Obama‘s decision to utilize “prosecutorial discretion” — a move David Frum has termed “amnesty” — was anything but a cold political calculation? It certainly wasn’t from some altruistic concern.
What is more, liberals should consider the long-term implications regarding executive power.
Here’s the deal: George W. Bush frequently stepped into questionable territory while president. For that reason, I got a good chuckle out of the idea of former Bush adviser John Yoo criticizing Obama in a tone that Andrew Sullivan described as like someone who “hyperventilates.”
But Sullivan didn’t answer Yoo, instead choosing to mock him. And that’s too bad, because Yoo raised important questions — especially for those who criticized the extensive use of executive power under our last president. What happened to them? Is executive overreach only a problem when it’s done by your political adversaries?
Those who think increasing executive power is fine when their guy is in power, should be wary of setting dangerous precedents. Here is Yoo’s suggestion of what Obama’s decision could spawn: “President Romney could lower tax rates simply by saying he will not use enforcement resources to prosecute anyone who refuses to pay capital-gains tax. He could repeal Obamacare simply by refusing to fine or prosecute anyone who violates it.”
So what’s to stop the next Republican president from doing that. Would the argument simply be that the immigration is radically different than tax collection?
But even if one disagrees with this “slippery slope” argument, there are still legitimate reasons to oppose the move. For the sake of argument, let’s concede that what President Obama did was perfectly legal and would survive a court challenge. Was his action proper and within the American tradition? Was it the right decision to make when keeping future action in mind? Was it the right thing to do? No, no and no.
Whether or not what the president was legal, it was outside the intent of the law. That’s wrong no matter who occupies the Oval Office — and this really shouldn’t be something up for debate. The president is not the sole “decider” — nor should he be. Our country has long agreed that it makes sense to divide — and limit — power, chiefly away from the executive branch. The legislative body passes the bills. The president can choose to sign or veto said bills. The Supreme Court can then choose to find such action unconstitutional.
It’s really not that hard. Forgive me for potentially being “overwrought,” but this is a big deal. When the nation watches the president unilaterally reshape policy that is meant to be controlled by law, that puts us one step further away from the intent of our governing system. As a conservative, this gives me pause no matter which party is in power. As I’ve said for some time, I support Rubio’s version of the DREAM Act (the framework of which is essentially identical to what Obama has ordered).
But this was no Act. This was a dictate — and we fought a revolution centuries ago to ensure those would never again occur on our soil.