Violating the No-Goad Zone: Last Tuesday, in Nashville, President Obama confidently predicted that no future president would be able to reverse his recent executive amnesty of some 4 million illegal immigrants:
“It’s true a future administration might try to reverse some of our policies. But I’ll be honest with you — the American people basically have a good heart and want to treat people fairly … So any future administration that tried to punish people for doing the right thing, I think, would not have the support of the American people. … It’s true, theoretically, a future administration could do something that I think would be very damaging. It’s not likely, politically, that they reverse everything we’ve done.”
As a political move, this may or may not have been a smart thing to say. As a legal move, it seems a non-trivial blunder.
1) The courts are now considering challenges to the executive amnesty. Many judges probably feel Obama’s grabbed too much power from Congress but are reluctant to intervene. Why taunt them by proclaiming that the alleged power-grab is effectively irreversible? It isn’t irreversible by judges! … P.S.: If you don’t think judges read the newspapers and respond to this kind of political goading — even though it’s not in the briefs — you’ve never clerked for a judge. Obama just increased the chances the Supreme Court will take the case.**
2) Texas Attorney General (soon-to-be Governor) Greg Abbott has asked for a preliminary injunction to block the executive action. (That tactic worked in the 1952 steel seizure case.) One of the things you have to do to qualify for an injunction is show you’ll “suffer irreparable harm” if the court doesn’t step in immediately. Obama has just done much of Abbott’s work for him by agreeing that his action, if allowed to take hold, will in effect be un-undoable.
In other words, Obama’s statement also increases the chance that, if the courts take up the case, he will lose.
P.S.: Does Obama secretly want his executive amnesty overturned? It might un-poison the well, liberating Boehner and the GOP’s business lobbyists and Jeb-enablers to make a final push for a “Gang of 8”-style legislative amnesty. Obama would still get points with Latinos for trying, plus his party could hammer home the importance of retaining the power to make Supreme Court nominations. With Gang of 8.2 he’d have a shot at a second-term legacy that went beyond bitter single-branch Podesta-ism.
I suppose it’s wrong to reach for a complicated explanation involving Machiavellian misdirection when there’s a simple alternative explanation involving incompetence, Hispandering, and hubris. But if Obama doesn’t want to lose the case he’s got a funny way of trying to win.
** — It also didn’t help, in the no-goading department, when Obama reassured the undocumented community that his executive orders really protect almost all 11 million illegals — those who are “otherwise law abiding” — from deportation, not just the 5 million or so who now qualify for work permits. (“You’re not going to be deported.”)