Barack Obama put the cat among the pigeons Thursday night, but he may be surprised by how big that cat could get, and with it a big cat’s appetite for more than pigeons.
His “executive orders” demanding a stop to deportations is no doubt good news for millions of illegal immigrants — 5 million at last count — he wants to preserve and protect for Democrats looking to replenish a depleted constituency. But it’s not such good news for anyone who appreciates law and order on the border. Amnesties can be good, but they must be written carefully lest they invite more of the same misery that led to amnesty. The president’s invitation to the millions south of the border — “Come on in, I’ll find a way to make you legal later” — guarantees that hell on the border will continue, and probably get worse. The hell on the Potomac will get a lot worse.
The president and his lawyers are clever. By not actually issuing an executive order called an executive order — he can call it a “memo” to his prosecutors but it’s still an order from the executive — he will make it more difficult for the Republicans to find a way to overturn it.
Just the anticipation of the president’s big speech set off cries and celebrations. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, having abandoned her dream of ascending once more to speaker of the House, and who knows no more of the nation’s history than the president apparently does, got lost Thursday afternoon in a history book. She mistook Barack Obama for Abraham Lincoln, and his immigration amnesty for the Emancipation Proclamation. “Does the public know that the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order? she asked. (Does the public know that the Emancipation Proclamation preserved slavery in the four slave states still in the Union, and freed no slaves in the departed Confederate states? The public could look it up.) The only similarities in Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation and Mr. Obama’s order is that neither was intended to resolve anything, but to set loose that cat among the pigeons. The Civil War circa 1861-1865 ground bloodily on, and the immigration system circa 2014 is still broken and bleeding, and probably farther from resolution than ever.
Civil war is the metaphor of the day. Phyllis Schlafly, who almost single-handedly defeated the feminist crusade for an equal-rights amendment, now calls Mr. Obama’s executive order “a modern-day Fort Sumter.”
Pat Buchanan, the columnist and onetime presidential candidate, hints not of civil war but of revolution. “Our rogue president has crossed a historic line,” he says, “and so has the republic. Future presidents will cite the ‘Obama precedent’ when they declare they will henceforth not enforce this or that law, because of a prior commitment to some noisy constituency. We have just taken a monumental step away from republicanism toward Caesarism. For this is rule by diktat, the rejection of which sparked the American Revolution.”
Mr. Obama’s “prior commitment to some noisy constituency” has already set off noisy celebrations. Watch parties of the noisy constituency were held in Hispanic communities across the land, with many people who know better, or should, gloating that Mr. Obama’s signature puts an end to the argument over amnesty. Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois said he had two words for the dissenters: “Stop whining.”
“Mitch McConnell,” he told NBC News, “they should stop whining, and start legislating, and start saying what they’re going to do. They have an incredible victory in the Senate, an incredible new majority in the House of Representatives. Use it to do something constructive.”
Geraldo Rivera, the former Jerry Rivers, who identifies himself as senior correspondent of Fox News, celebrated with screeds against the very idea of securing the border, lest it stem the flood of more illegals. “The Grand Old Party,” he says, “has zero intention to do anything on immigration except build higher fences and hire more border guards my only beef is that he is late, but better late than never.”
The president will dispatch Cabinet officers and other high administration officials to strike out across the country to promote his executive orders alias memorandum. If these are open meetings, and not carefully plotted closed meetings, they’ll get an earful.
Mr. Obama invites that earful. The construction of his orders — “memos,” as he insists — hints that he expects the Republicans to eventually deploy the “nuclear option,” and having had so much to say about his “racist” enemies, invites a showdown that he can cast as racist. The impeachment talk has so far been the talk of Democrats, not Republicans. But it’s not difficult see that he is setting up the ultimate shootout: “You want to impeach a black president? Bring it on.”
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.