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The Two Step Sidestep

During the 2014 elections that just closed, one tiny little detail was lost in all the coverage. The press didn't really report on it, commentators didn't really mention it, and people like me largely just shrugged and moved on.

In other words, we all ignored a potential warning about the attitude of the nation.

Oregon has a reputation as one of the most liberal states in the union. And one of the things on the ballot this year was a measure that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. This thing had nothing but support. Newspaper polls showed it getting 90% support from the populous. Everyone was talking about how this was a good idea.

It failed to pass.

At the time, I simply shrugged and thought, "Hmph." It wasn't until further reflection that I realized what this meant. It's the old political rule, "The map is not the territory." And if one of the most liberal states in the union suddenly will not pass something to benefit illegal aliens, then doing things in this regard is a lot riskier than people realize.

President Barack Obama has decided to play this risky game. His legacy is in tatters right now, between his handling of Syria and ISIS and how Obamacare is going to die and domestic spying and...he doesn't want to be known only as the first black President, but anything else he can do is collapsing. So he's decided to target immigration reform. And he's doing it in the worst way possible -- with obfuscation and confrontation.

You have to keep in mind that, when Obama was first elected, he talked about compromise and consideration. They were what made him so popular among the electorate, a guy who wasn't going to just throw his weight around. But he has become the opposite of that. After the Republican victories in the recent elections, Mister "Compromise And Consideration" told the R's, "I have a pen and a phone," threatening to use executive orders to get his way. The fact that he is employing them now instead of waiting for the new Congress to be sworn in is a bad move. One last chance for the D's to use their bully pulpit in the Senate to say, "We want reform, but the R's in the House are holding it up!" He's bypassing his own party to make this happen.

This is a mistake.

The American people expect to be lied to by politicians. It's a given. But the American people do not like being treated like they are stupid, as the furor over Gruber and Obamacare demonstrates. The Obama Administration, despite its goal to be the most transparent administration in history, operates with much murkiness, and what would be a forgivable mistake, which I will get to in the next paragraph, instead becomes further proof that the guy is slimy. It doesn't help that Obama has been saying for years he can't take executive action on immigration, and now that his party got stomped in the election, he's doing just that.

It was recently discovered during an audit that that 7 million person sign-up for Obamacare that the administration targeted didn't quite reach the mark. Something like 70,000 people were counted twice because they signed up for separate medical and dental. The administration says it was a mistake, and in this instance, I believe them. After all, it would have meant that they missed their mark for the sign-up by only about 3,000 people. That's not even a margin of error, and the numbers are always rounded up anyway, so risking a political gotcha over that just strikes me as wholly unlikely. But with all the talk of Gruber and Obama and Pelosi conning the American people into approving Obamacare, it becomes further proof that the administration is corrupt and can't be trusted. And all over something that, last year, would have been printed below the tide schedules in the newspaper if it got printed at all. The news item itself is not a big deal, but it's being incorporated into a big picture that makes it a big deal.

So now Obama is waving his dick around on immigration reform. Unfortunately, the trust he had is gone. People are now looking closely at what he says, and that's not good. Obama's timing is telling here -- by doing this before the new Congress is sworn in, he has made it a talking point and campaign issue for the next two years. Basically, he's looking to disrupt the R's on finding their message to rally around. But once again, there is a steady but definite opposition. If those numbers are big enough, Obama's actions could make those people throw their support to the R's and spell more trouble for the D's in 2016. And that assumes they take the bait. Jeb Bush, one of the rumored nominees for the R's in 2016, has already gone on record that a more compassionate immigration reform is needed. If these measures prove popular, Jeb will be seen as ahead of the curve and can ride that support. Likewise, Noo Joisee Gov Chris Christie, the most likely to get the nod, signed a version of the DREAM act for his own state in January despite everybody in power in the Republican Party telling him not to. The two big names have already embraced Obama's stances, so if Congress does nothing, the two biggest R's will already be on board. There is almost no political risk to the biggest R threats in Obama's actions. Someone forgot how the game is played.

(Note: for those of you saying Obama is trying to do this in private, he wasn't. He organized a media event to give a speech and explain himself. None of the major networks decided to cover it. You can't blame Obama for that. He wasn't being secretive, he was ignored. As a senior administration official correctly pointed out, "In 2006, Bush gave a 17 minute speech that was televised by all three networks that was about deploying 6000 national guard troops to the border. Obama is making a 10 minute speech that will have a vastly greater impact on the issue. And none of the networks are doing it.” The only networks providing coverage of the speech were CNN, MSNBC, Faux News, and the two Spanish networks Univision and Telemundo. In fact, Univision delayed its broadcast of the Latin Grammy Awards to accommodate the speech. Don't make up reasons to hate.)

Obama's executive orders, scheduled to be signed at a high school in Las Vegas today, fail to illustrate two fundamental problems, that of legal definition and of creating a permanent underclass that can never be granted the full protection of the law. Let me address these in order. I understand Mexico is a poor country, I understand it is a violent country, I understand that it is not technologically advanced, I understand that its humanitarian industries like health care are horrible compared to the US. But it does not change the fact that these people are in the US illegally. It is right there in the name -- illegal immigrants. If being in the country illegally is not a problem, why treat it as such in only certain instances? That constitutes "inconsistently applied," and if illegals could afford better lawyers, they'd reduce it to absurdity by lunchtime. The second is that illegals remain illegals. That means that people can treat them like shit, feed them table scraps, whatever, and not only can nothing be done because these aren't US citizens, but the US citizens abusing them can threaten to deport them if they get out of line. Why hire US citizens who can do things like unionize and lawyer up when there's a vast pool of people who can't fight back to exploit? I will simply point out that CEO's in the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, which is chock full of blue chip CEO's, unilaterally and strongly support Obama's executive orders. Remember Rule Of Politics #1 -- any time a law is passed, someone somewhere is making money.

(I would like to take a moment to applaud one CEO who seems to get it. Greg Brown is the chairman and CEO of Motorola, a Republican, and the chair of the Business Roundtable Immigration Committee. His response? "We appreciate President Obama's commitment to improve our immigration system, but America's needs can be met only through reform of our entire immigration system; executive action does not fix our broken immigration system." Remember, it's an executive order, not a law -- the next president can simply revoke it without Congress, so yeah, the long game is important here.)

So, let's take a look at the executive orders themselves and what they portend. Keep in mind, these were drawn up by Obama's think tank, so they are pretty restricted (the better to keep the courts from shooting them down as overextending their reach). A quick visual pat down says that illegals can still be deported, just that ones engaged in criminal activity will get priority. If you have been in the US at least five years, registered, pay taxes, and keep your nose clean, you maaaaaaaaaaybe can still be deported, but you won't be pursued as vigorously as someone who, say, robbed a liquor store. It also expands the DREAMer program to cover more people who their parents brought them over when they were kids but are still considered illegal residents. It also makes those "low priority" cases eligible for work permits. This means they can legally work in the US and compete with citizens and legal residents for the better jobs out there.

So, what are the R's going to do? Well, there are two immediate, obvious courses of actions. The first is to rewrite the law so that the executive orders no longer apply because the executive orders do not apply to the new law. QED. This is about as likely to happen as the heads of the Catholic church and the Protestant church holding a prayer breakfast in Salt Lake City. If they decide to go the "new law" approach, one angle is creating enforcement goals for the laws -- for example, directing Homeland Security to step up deportations, which would nullify the executive order. But with people complaining about government overreach due to domestic spying and the like, the D's could easily spin this into the R's first steps to creating a police state. Not happening.

The second obvious option is a government shutdown or to simply "neglect" to fund the order. Remember, this requires applications to work. If there is nobody being paid to take applications, applications are not being taken, so the executive order does not cover anyone. This is filed under "dick move." The only way to make that work is a complete government shutdown. The agency handling the applications is self-funded, so threatening the cash supply is out, only completely shutting down all government agencies and operations will prevent the applications from being accepted. This is like swatting flies with a sledgehammer. The R's have already seen what happens to their image with government shutdowns, and have been corralling the Tea Partiers in to keep that from happening again. The only thing they can do is let the order stand, see how the public reacts, and use that to their advantage.

Obama is in a dangerous position. He's trying to spend the last two years of the presidency defining his legacy, knowing that every piece of major legislation has bombed out. In doing so, his behavior has become less presidential and more imperialist. He isn't doing anything in concert with other Americans, just taking unilateral action and the hell with everyone else.

Then again, he became president without ever running a ward and didn't even serve a full term in Congress. This pretty much figures.

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