Chris Matthews: This Obama mega-amnesty for illegals will be his Emancipation Proclamation
posted at 2:41 pm on August 7, 2014 by Allahpundit
Via RCP and Breitbart, I’m surprised more lefties haven’t already reached for this analogy to snuff objections to Obama’s power grabs. It doesn’t work legally — the Emancipation Proclamation was grounded in Lincoln’s war powers as commander-in-chief whereas Obama’s mega-amnesty would be grounded in … what, exactly? — but most Americans don’t care about constitutional niceties. Matthews is drawing a moral analogy. Lincoln liberated one group that was mired in second-class status, now Obama’s going to liberate another. I’m already looking forward to the artist’s rendering of O with a beard and stovepipe hat on the cover of Time when he finally does it.
Charles Lane sees it coming too:
There is obviously no analogy between slavery and the disadvantages the undocumented face today. Among many other differences, the undocumented arrived voluntarily, searching, often successfully, for a better life. Also, they established residence unlawfully, for which there must be some reckoning…
[But] the issue has this in common with slavery: It’s a long-standing debate over fundamental rights that the nation’s democratic institutions have proven incapable of resolving, leading to increasingly bitter partisan conflict…
There’s just one problem: Our system does not let the president make laws on his own, no matter how good his intentions. Lincoln himself was aware that he needed constitutional authority for the proclamation, invoking, plausibly, his power as commander in chief: Depriving the South of forced labor and making erstwhile slaves potential Union soldiers would help win the war, he argued…
In short, the broadest measure Obama is considering would be constitutionally dubious, politically explosive and flatly contradictory to his own recently expressed views.
Right, but the more you can sell it as an “emancipation,” the more the media will coo and try to bring the public around on it, constitutional warts and all. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been kicking around the idea of O doing all of this as a pardon rather than as “prosecutorial discretion.” The latter is dry and lawyerly, the former is kingly and magnanimous. It’s not quite emancipation — a pardon concedes that the subject has done something wrong — but it’s a grand gesture in the mold of emancipation. I guarantee you that he and his team have at least looked at framing amnesty as a pardon even if they ultimately choose another path.
One thing about Lane’s piece, though: What’s the timetable on deciding when “the nation’s democratic institutions have proven incapable of resolving” an issue? Ezra Klein’s piece for Vox made that assumption too in justifying bold executive action by O. If there’s a pressing policy problem and Congress is irretrievably deadlocked, the theory goes, then the president needs to step in. But … the Senate already passed an immigration bill with bipartisan support, as Obama himself noted during his presser last night. Clearly the Republican leadership in the House favors some sort of comprehensive deal; if Boehner had the guts to bring a bill to the floor, he might well end up with a majority of his own caucus in favor. Once the midterms are over, Republican leaders will begin to tremble at the thought that they haven’t pandered enough to Latino voters before 2016 and will immediately start babbling about comprehensive reform again. The odds of a bill early next year or even during the lame-duck session this year are fair. In which case, how has Congress “proven incapable of resolving” immigration? If you want to fill out this slavery analogy, America didn’t give up on resolving that issue legislatively until states started seceding and war broke out. Fast forward 150 years and the new touchstone of irreconcilable differences is John Boehner hemming and hawing a bit too long over whether to make a deal with Harry Reid. It’s bonkers.