Obama: "I just took an action to change the law"

Isn’t this an admission against interest? Barack Obama has spent the past several days insisting that his changes in enforcement of immigration law and regulation is entirely constitutional, since it doesn’t actually change or conflict with statute. It only took a heckler in a crowd last night to get Obama to brag that he “changed the law” — a process which the supposed Constitutional law scholar would know is impossible without Congress:

“Don’t just start yelling, young ladies,” Obama said as multiple women stood up to demand that Obama stop deporting people.

“I let you holler,” he said as they continued shouting. “You’ve got to listen to me too.”

Obama said that the protesters were right about a lot of illegal immigrants getting deported but that he was acting to change it.

“What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

Just to be clear, executive action — whether through formal EOs or other kinds of directives — cannot “change the law.” They can only act as guidelines on how to act within the law. Any change to statute has to originate in Congress through passage of a bill, and then signed by the President to take effect. This, in fact, is exactly what Republicans have accused Obama of attempting — a change in statute by executive edict, a move that would be unconstitutional and illegitimate. Anyone who has passed a high-school civics class understands that process and that restriction on power.

Nor did this appear to be a simple case of pulling the wrong word. The once-celebrated constitutional scholar actually made the case twice that he had changed the law in response to the heckling. The Hill captured Obama’s continued argument, emphases mine:

“You have been deporting families,” a heckler yelled. The president urged the demonstrator to stop shouting before he fired back.

“What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law, so that’s point No. 1,” Obama said, his words echoing to 1,000 attendees. “Point No. 2, the way the change in the law works is that we’re reprioritizing how we enforce our immigration laws generally.”

So yes, Obama thinks he’s changed the law, which is something EOs and executive actions cannot legally do. There has been no change in the law at all; Obama’s simply violating it. He’s not exactly being discreet about it, either. One might think that a constitutional law scholar would realize that this isn’t the smartest PR in the world for his unprecedented unilateral action, but apparently Obama is less worried about discretion than he is about getting cheered at rallies. Some things never change.

However, some things do, including what people feel about presidents who overstep their authority while presiding over one incompetency after another. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, support for Obama’s job performance is near an all-time low in this series, and people aren’t terribly happy with illegal immigrants, either:

American voters are divided on whether President Barack Obama should take action to address the immigration issue if Congress fails to act, as 45 percent say the president should issue an executive order while 48 percent say he should not, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today.

At the same time, support for immigrants is at its lowest level ever measured by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll. Offered three choices on what to do about illegal immigrants:

  • 48 percent of American voters say they should be allowed to stay, with a path to citizenship, down from 57 percent November 13, 2013, and the lowest this number ever has been;
  • 11 percent say immigrants should be allowed to stay, but not be allowed to apply for citizenship, consistent with previous surveys;
  • 35 percent say illegal immigrants should be required to leave the U.S., up from 26 percent 12 months ago and higher than this number ever has been.

There is a wide gender gap on Obama’s action, as women support it 50 – 39 percent, while men oppose it 57 – 39 percent. Support is 59 – 33 percent among voters 18 to 29 years old, but drops among older voters, with voters over 65 years old opposed 53 – 36 percent.

Democrats support Obama’s immigration move 74 – 18 percent, with opposition at 75 – 20 percent among Republicans and 51 – 40 percent among independent voters.

Obama’s job approval rating dropped to 39/54, almost at the December 2013 level of 38/57 in the middle of the Obamacare meltdown. The survey was taken between November 18-23, which includes two days before Obama’s executive-action speech on immigration. Quinnipiac does not give any information about the before-and-after dynamics, but from the narrow opposition to it and the numbers on immigration policy, one can at least presume that Obama didn’t do himself any good with Thursday’s speech, except perhaps among Democrats.

Obama has also ceded the high ground with the GOP in Congress, which complicates his post-speech position even further. Republicans at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue have a five-point lead in trust over Obama now, 47/42. Women trust Obama more, 48/41, but men trust Republicans by double digits, 53/35. Also by double digits, a majority of Americans think that it’s good for the country to have the GOP fully in control of Congress, 51/37 (49/33 for independents), even though 67% of Americans think it will produce more gridlock rather than less. Obama gets the narrow edge for blame on any gridlock that does occur, 44/42.

A few other points are worth noting, too, about Obama’s political position going into his lame-duck period. ObamaCare is just as unpopular as ever (40/54), and a narrow plurality thinks Congress should repeal it (48/46). Sixty percent favor a national law banning late-term abortions after 20 weeks, with only 33% opposing it — which is almost identical to the result among women (59/35) and young voters (57/38). Only 19% think Obama’s ISIS strategy is working, with 61% see it as failing. Even among Democrats, Obama’s policy only gets a 29/41.

Increasingly, it looks like Obama gave the wrong speech on Thursday evening. Even he can’t keep it straight now.

Update: Dang it — I forgot to include the link to Breitbart, where I got the partial transcript. It’s in the post now. My apologies to Charlie Spiering.