Monday, November 17, 2014

Friends don't let friends practice Jesuitical casuistry and drink tequila at the same time

Image via gopixpic.
Shorter Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "Who's Afraid of Executive Action?", New York Times, November 17 2014:
Sure the president's proposed immigration actions aren't illegal, but if they were they'd have exactly the same consequences. So how is that not frightening?
Yesterday the Monsignor, who may not as a matter of fact be quite on board with the Church's immigration policy, came out to join the chorus complaining about Obama's "caudillismo"—Ross's elegant term—in insisting on his presidential prerogative in the decision over which undocumented immigrants get deported, even though he himself had said it would be a "betrayal of our political culture" to do so, according to an exposé in the Free Beacon of his wicked designs.

Actually, "betrayal of our political culture" is Ross's own elegant terminology too; he is not quoting the FreeBea quite accurately, to say nothing of what Obama in fact said to the National Council of La Raza, 25 July 2011:

Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own.  (Applause.)  And believe me, right now dealing with Congress --
AUDIENCE:  Yes, you can!  Yes, you can!  Yes, you can!  Yes, you can!  Yes, you can!
THE PRESIDENT:  Believe me -- believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting.  (Laughter.)  I promise you. Not just on immigration reform.  (Laughter.)  But that's not how -- that's not how our system works.
THE PRESIDENT:  That’s not how our democracy functions.  That's not how our Constitution is written.
So let’s be honest.  I need a dance partner here -- and the floor is empty.  (Laughter.)
Obama has said he can't change the law, and he can't "stop deportations" ("I'm not a king"), but he has been quite clear that he can make adjustments to who gets deported, the way Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush did, or he himself did in the Dreamer program beginning 2011. So no, it's Msgr Douthat who regards the new proposals as a "betrayal".

So Douthat comes out against the administration's "prosecutorial discretion" to prioritize who gets deported because
This argument’s logic, at once consistent and deliberately obtuse, raises one obvious question: Why stop at half? 
Yes indeed. If you claim it's legal to have two shots of tequila why don't you drink six? Pretty sure that's unanswerable.

Although what Obama has repeatedly said is that he cannot stop deportations, and indeed there isn't a possibility of "stopping at half" in any case, because there's no way they could ever deport more than half of the undocumented immigrants as the backlog of cases continues to swell faster than they can be deported, and cases are going to continue to be dismissed out of hand as they have been doing since 2010 at least with or without the president's input. This is the problem Congress has to fix, and Obama is very well aware that his current proposals won't put more than a dent in it.

So today Ross returns to praise his own effort in terms that would certainly gratify a piccolo player ("my latest shrill-but-accurate column") and after what reads like a good bit more tequila, with an attempt to add a more substantial argument or three against Josh Voorhees at Slate, for claiming that everything the president proposes is only provisional and Congress or some future president can repair it whenever they like, which is also true:
First, as Voorhees himself goes on to concede, even in the strictest legal terms the line between temporary and permanent relief isn’t always that bright, because a move like this does probably open a pathway to green cards for the unauthorized spouses of lawful residents...
Although if the system were working they'd be getting those green cards anyway, and any fix passed by Congress would give it to them.
Then second, whatever the legal realities, in practical and political terms it’s clear that Obama is expecting this move to create facts on the ground that no future president will be able to reverse.
Oh no, just like the West Bank settlements, which Ross has always so vehemently opposed! But in this case please, you know, no future president will want to reverse them, because they are things that everybody agrees are necessary components of a comprehensive immigration reform.
Then finally, even setting all of the foregoing aside, even allowing that this move could be theoretically reversed, pointing to the potential actions of the next president is still a very strange way to rebut complaints about executive overreach.
Oh, because it's strange?

No, because it's not overreach, you tamarin-bearded lump of choux pastry! It's normal executive power, extended where Congress refuses to exercise its prerogative, as the constitutional balance of power has always worked. It's legislative underreach, and work that somebody in the government really has to do. And what Obama can do will be not nearly enough, but it's going to help.
Golden tamarin, Singapore Zoo, via Viator.
Douthat, via combatblog.*
* (a cool piece from 2010 featuring the Monsignor's praises for Pat Buchanan)

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