The surest sign yet that President Obama will cashier his "hope" and "change" gimmicks from the last campaign in favor of a switchblade and brass knuckles for the next one was the stunning landmark decision he quietly made last week before hightailing it up to Martha's Vineyard for a trip to Luxuryville.
Like a dictator currying favor by releasing political prisoners just before an "election," Mr. Obama decided to reject the repeatedly expressed wishes of Congress and halt deportations of illegal immigrants.
If you doubt whether this is a shocking and unconstitutional overreach by the president, just ask the great constitutional law scholar himself, Barack Obama.
"The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting, I promise you, not just on immigration reform," he said earlier this month in an address to a militant pro-amnesty group.
"But that's not how our system works. That's not how our democracy functions. That's not how our Constitution is written."
The weeks since he said how unconstitutional it would be to ignore Congress and deploy his own immigration policy have been the roughest of his presidency. Polls now show him in statistical ties with Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul — once regarded as silly, third-tier GOP candidates.
So he had to ditch his "Audacity of Hope" he is always lecturing about in favor of the "Desperation of Winning Re-election in a Double-Dip Recession" motto.
Lest we think him a softie, Mr. Obama made very clear he still intends to deport those who have broken the law. Uh, what part of "illegal" is not, like, uh, breaking the law?
This, you see, is why people such as Mr. Obama prefer meaningless non-terms such as "undocumented" or "unauthorized" immigrants as if it's just a minor paperwork mistake or somebody walked through a wrong door.
The move also appears to usher in by fiat the so-called Dream Act, which Congress has repeatedly rejected even when Democrats were in charge. Under that legislation, illegals brought into the U.S. as children by their parents would be permitted to attend public universities and enjoy in-state tuition rates.
Now, nobody wants to beat up on children for the mistakes of their parents, but explain where the fairness is that an illegal can attend a premier university at in-state tuition rates while a legal student from outside the state must pay tens of thousands of dollars more for the same opportunity. Not to mention that the illegal is taking a highly coveted seat away from the child of legal, tax-paying Americans.
Caving to the open-borders wing of the Democratic Party proves that Mr. Obama's promises to change Washington and offer a new kind of post-partisan politics are just as empty and laughable as his promises to calm the seas and sprinkle peace around the world.
He has looked at his re-election map and what he sees is not pretty.
His foray deep into reliable Republican states has been beaten back. He can kiss goodbye North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana. Even in Oregon, where Obama won by 16 points in 2008, a highly placed Democrat there says Mr. Obama will have a "tough" time winning again in the reliably Democratic state.
Mr. Obama realizes that his only hope now is to play a down-and-dirty base campaign, where he bribes and threatens Democratic voters to come back out for him and does everything in his power to keep Republican voters home. (When Republicans do that, it is called "disenfranchisement" and they call the Justice Department. When Democrats do it, it's called winning an election and they call it "awesome.")
And then with all the skeezy Election Day tactics we see with same-day registration and a refusal to require voters to actually prove they are legal residents who should be voting in the election, you can bet some of these illegals who had been headed for deportation will manage to sneak in a few votes.
Maybe even enough to swing the election.
• Charles Hurt's column appears Wednesday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.