So last night Barack Obama crossed a Rubicon. His speech was officially billed as a speech about immigration “reform.” Obama began by saying that our immigration system was “broken, and everybody knows it.” In fact, what “everybody knows” is that the speech was all about extending executive power, trespassing upon the prerogatives guaranteed to Congress by the Constitution in order to further transform the presidency into a law-decreeing — as well as a law-executing — power.
There were one or two comic moments in the speech. My favorite was the trope about taxes. We’re going to take all those millions of “undocumented immigrants” — in plain English, “illegal aliens” — out of the “shadows” so they can get “right with the law” and start paying taxes.
Ha, ha, ha! What a card! All those millions of sub-literate welfare-sponging criminals (they are here illegally, remember?): how eager they all are to line up and start being productive, tax-paying members of society. I’m surprised the president was able to suppress a laugh.
There is a cartoon making the rounds:
Reporter to Obama: why are you planning to grant amnesty to millions of illegals?
Obama: Because they will do the jobs Americans don’t want to do.
Reporter: Like what?
Obama: Voting Democratic.
Now, Obama didn’t exactly grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. He just said that henceforth the government wasn’t going to do anything about enforcing the law. Worried about being deported? Relax. “All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.” Another rich one!
The president’s speech was an interesting tapestry of half-truths, hypocritical tugs on the heart strings (“Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms”?), and outright lies (“Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight”). Mark Krikorian, among others, has ably dissected the speech.
But back to the Rubicon. When Caesar took his army across that river in 49BC, he knew that he was starting a war. He brought home his dictatorial ambitions to the “Senātus Populusque Rōmānus” and they weren’t going to stand for it. The result was civil war.
I note that the word “emperor” has been bruited about a lot in the last few weeks. But Obama is not acting like an emperor. He is acting like Caesar, usurping the lawful prerogatives of the legislative branch of government. If there were any doubts about that, Obama put them to rest last night. He, not Congress, will decide what the law is, what to enforce, what to ignore. As Andrew McCarthy pointed out, that is not “prosecutorial discretion.” It is the concentration of the executive and legislative functions of government into the hands of one man. Which is, as James Madison observed, “the very definition of tyranny.”
Maybe brownshirted government agents are not breaking down your door at night to trundle you away to answer a few questions. Or maybe you have had that experience. The point is, Barack Obama last night publicly codified behavior he has been indulging since taking office. If he wants something — amnesty for illegal aliens, a “war on coal,” socialized health care, whatever — if he wants it and doesn’t get it, he calls the status quo “gridlock” and sets about making new laws by fiat. Hail Caesar!
And what are Republicans going to do about it? So far, the consensus seems to be: impotent bluster. They’re going to stamp their little feet. Like Hans Blix responding to Kim Jong-il, they are going to write really angry letters. They are going to file toothless law suits. Here’s a vocabulary word: “aposiopesis” — “becoming silent.” It is a fancy rhetorical term to describe a sudden breaking of speech. King Lear provides a classic example:
—No, you unnatural hags,
I will have such revenges on you both,
That all the world shall — I will do such things, —
What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be
The terrors of the earth.
I expect to hear something like that emanating from the offices of Speaker Boehner and Senate-Majority-Leader-in-waiting McConnell. What will they actually do? Probably, not much. I hope I am wrong.