Reporter's Note: President Obama once, long ago, asked the public for advice on how to run the country. I can’t imagine that any of my advice would be worth a nickel, but doing my duty I write each day…sometimes with answers, sometimes with just more questions.
Dear Mr. President,
Well, you certainly sprayed some gasoline on the barbeque today! This new provision of yours to stop deporting the children of illegal immigrants under certain conditions has created a regular firestorm on Capitol Hill.
Of course some Hispanic activists and Dems are very happy; of course some conservatives and Republicans are very unhappy; and I suspect a good many Americans are a bit confused. Not about your policy. They can probably sort that out well enough and then render their opinion for or against it. No, I imagine what has them puzzled is the mechanism by which you are taking this action, and to be frank, I’m not sure I understand it myself.
Let me make this clear to begin with: I’m not questioning the intent or effect of the action; that is a philosophical debate that has more than enough combatants on both sides eager to take it on.
I just honestly don’t quite grasp how and when any administration, Democratic or Republican, gets to say, “Ok, we’re going to enforce law A, but we will not enforce law B.” I always thought that Presidents were pretty much required to uphold all the laws of the land, whether they agreed with them or not. Sure, a chief executive has every right (perhaps even a duty) to vigorously contest such laws in Congress, trying to overturn them, derail them, defang them; but I thought once Congress acted, the law was…well, the law.
Again, please believe me when I say I am truly just puzzled by how you (and other recent Presidents) have approached these matters. After all, if Presidents are going to simply ignore the laws passed by Congress whenever they don’t like them, what do we have a Congress for? And what does that say about the broader scope of representative government?
I know that your supporters are probably thrilled by your action today, in no small part because it is a thumb in the eye of Republicans who have blocked similar measures in Congress. But will they be as happy when one day, as inevitably will happen, they are in the minority and another president slams through a policy they hate over the objections of Congress, defending it with a terse, “President Obama did it!”
Give me a call if you have a moment to chat this over. I’d love your take on it.
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