Hysteria Over Routine Bureaucratic Action
Let’s dial it down several notches and start with some facts.
The President’s recent administrative rule changes on immigration are neither an unusual use of presidential authority (Reagan and Bush both made identical changes on the same issue) nor do these actions make effective government action (on immigration or other issues) less likely in the president’s final two years.
So many talking heads get it backwards, arguing we should focus our anger at the president’s decision to address a long-festering problem. But Gerson is correct to note that the president’s decision to adjust the rules promulgated by an executive branch agency, as every president does all the time, can be seen as sign that the president has ‘given up on politics.’
The other side has spent six years ensuring that no progress can be made taking the harder road of compromise. The sound-bites have been played over and over, where Congressional leaders proudly announce that their strategy is to prevent the president from addressing any of the challenges we face as a nation. Gerson argues the president is turning away from politics because he cannot handle the heat and does not want his own ideas to be challenged. This is, again, backwards.
This president has consistently shown an enthusiastic willingness to compromise. We know he has put on the table concessions that most in his own party do not support in order to get things done. As Mann & Ornstein demonstrated in a bipartisan analysis that leaves those criticizing the president today looking like partisan hacks, there is no doubt where the source of the obstruction has come from. It is simply not accurate to claim that ‘both sides are doing it.’
In a context where one side consistently refuses to subject their own ideas to the scrutiny and challenge of doing politics, the executive would be irresponsible not to act. The fact that the president has shown restraint in waiting six years is yet further evidence of his excessive willingness to do politics, to subject his ideas to challenge.
But even when the president embraced Republican ideas in order to make politics work for Americans (individual mandate and carbon tax, for instance) the response has been, like the criticism of his administrative action today, to re-write history. Just like responding to the president accepting their own ideas with the charge that these ideas—their own ideas—are socialism, today the partisan obstructionist strategy is to blame the president for their own obstructionism.
The president’s action is actually rather unremarkable. It is a testament to the power of the extreme right noise machine (and their dominance of the so-called ‘liberal’ media) that a routine bureaucratic action has come to be accepted by most talking heads as a revolutionary act by either a courageous or treacherous president, depending on your partisan position.
Since the track record of the past six years provides clear evidence that anyone would be foolish to expect comprehensive immigration reform to emerge from this Congress, after spending six years trying to partner with those more interested in demonstrating government itself is a bad idea, the president has finally taken action he could have taken years ago.
He waited because he would prefer collaboration to create a comprehensive fix that can only be done through legislation. It is not within his executive authority to implement a comprehensive fix, but he can adjust the rules to help hard working families and he did.
With no reasonable expectation that even embracing Republican ideas will lead to compromise, there is no rational way to conclude that the president’s action will make it harder to get things done, or that it increases polarization, or will further stall stalled action on presidential nominees, or that it hurts the president’s allies.
Will it further enrage the already irrationally hysterical far right? Yes. But being an alien socialist Muslim follower of a radical Christian preacher does that, so there is clearly nothing in the realm of the reality that this president can do to prevent their hysteria.