I often disagree with President Obama’s decisions. Normally, his policies tend in the direction of more regulation and more burden on American citizens. In his latest policy statement regarding this country’s immigration laws, however, I must applaud his decision. President Obama has politely declined to enforce the Congressionally-enacted statutes requiring deportation of illegal aliens who were brought to this country as children. He is refusing to use the power of his office, declining to invest federal resources to carry out his duties, saving us all some money, and promoting a humanitarian cause to cap it all off. Finally, a victory for the good guys, with no downside. If Congress won’t act properly, what else is a President with high ideals supposed to do?
Presidents have always had a fraught relationship with Congress, a tug-of-war over who has control of the purse-strings, and who has control over what actually gets done. In his decision not to enforce the law to deport illegal aliens, Mr. Obama has effectively cut Congress out of the decision-making process. No matter how many laws Congress may enact, that legislative body has no power to enforce any of its codifications. Only the President, the Executive of the Executive branch of government, has the power to carry out any of Congress’ mandates. And, under the Constitution, he has not only the authority, but the duty, to assert his own interpretation of the Constitutionality of any law, and to act in accordance with that assertion. This behavior, this decision to enforce or to not enforce, is certainly not unprecedented, despite what some conservative pundits may have opined.
Previous Presidents have engaged in neglected enforcement of laws that they personally found too onerous, mean-spirited, unconstitutional, or otherwise unappealing. President Obama is acting no differently than many of his predecessors. He is decrying the stupidity of a policy that allows, even encourages, children who are in this country illegally to take full advantage of the benefits of living here (including their education), then kicks them out at the very point that they would otherwise be ready to give back to the country that raised them. Kudos to you, Mr. President, for refusing to enforce a law that leaves us with the worst of both worlds: we pay for the education of people who we say we don’t want in this country in the first place, then, once they have been assimilated, eject those same people and send them to a country which is as foreign to them as it is to any person born in America. Who wouldn’t come to hate a country that acted like that?
The best that we could hope for in complying with that immigration law is that those young souls unceremoniously dumped in their country of origin would be able to move past their resentment, and build a new life back home, as it were. The worst is—well, we all know what people who do not care for the policies of the United States are capable of. For a myriad of reasons, then, Mr. Obama says this law is stupid, a complete waste of our resources, both governmental and human, and I’m just going to ignore it. I’m going to pretend that it was never enacted. Executive discretion trumps Congressional legislation. Hispanics are happy, liberals are happy, anyone who cares at all about children is happy. The only people who could possibly object to such a scenario are racists who hate children, because there is no other reason to hesitate to endorse such an act, right? Obviously, you haven’t been paying attention to my previous rants.
The Constitution is the result of much compromise, debate, and hand-wringing. It is a terrible document. It shreds power and plops pieces of it into three combative camps. Instead of investing the ability to get things done in one person, it mandates interaction amongst various elected officials. There is a reason that the Founding Fathers set up such a fractured system: it tempers majority rule by requiring cooperation to accomplish anything. Doing an end run because following its principles is too hard violates its spirit, no matter the good that is to be accomplished. If you are not capable of adhering to its ideals, if you don’t have the skills necessary to achieve your goals through the proper means, then you don’t belong in office. We all have noble goals, but we are not all competent to realize them in accordance with our principles. There is no shame in failure, but there is shame in forsaking all standards to get what we want.
The Founding Fathers put a lot of time, effort, and angst into setting up the system the way that they did, and the President took an oath to uphold that system. Now he wants to convince us that he has the authority to refuse to enforce any law that he finds objectionable. Or any law that the citizens, the voters, his base, find objectionable. And why not, he says? Who is in charge here, anyway? So what if Congress is busy churning out legislation that the people are not fond of? One lone President is much more amenable to public opinion than are 535 disparately elected Congressmen. Let those people on the Hill do their worst; if the President doesn’t care for any particular law, he can just ignore it. Selective enforcement gives us the best of all worlds: we abide by the laws we like, and reject the rest. Think of the good that we can accomplish in the world! Saving the environment, giving equal protection under the law to all comers, providing all our citizens—providing the world—with everything we need, from cradle to grave. Paradise on earth could be ours, if we could just give the power of this entire country into the hands of one man, one good man, one man with a vision of hope and change.
If only the Founding Fathers had put just a bit more thought into the system they were creating—if only they’d considered the possibility that leading a country, gathering consensus from all regions and all manner of elected officials, is hard, they certainly would have made it easier to do the right thing.They would have allowed us to change the law of the land on a daily basis, based on the most urgent needs. We’re already the subjects of nearly constant polling—let’s put that inconvenience to some good use. Each day the temperature of the citizenry could be taken, and the only elected official in the country who answers to all of its citizens could be persuaded by the force of public opinion to disregard any unseemly pronouncements coming from the the legislative body. The President could take a poll, discern which elements of which laws offend the citizens most likely to vote for him, and selectively choose to not enforce those particular provisions. Case solved. In fact, we could probably just dismiss those pesky Congressmen, and let the President go it alone.
But what if the President hasn’t accomplished his entire agenda when it’s time to leave office? Say he’s fulfilled all of his campaign promises (a much easier task when you’re not dragging Congress along, kicking and screaming); there is always more good to be done. Look at the state of the world today. Eight short years is not nearly enough time to achieve perfection.
There’s got to be a solution to this quandary. After all, if the Founding Fathers only knew what a terrific job he was doing, they’d be more than happy to let him tweak their favorite document a bit more. Term limits are only pesky guidelines, amenable to interpretation. Besides, this would be a case of extreme necessity. Just imagine if the other side, those racist, greedy, whack-job, people-haters sneaked into office, with their own agenda—and after all the power we’ve given the President. The horror! You know, President For Life is sounding pretty good. And just think of all the good he could do. No downside. No problem.