When President Obama said Saturday that he was reversing his pledge to take executive action on immigration by summer’s end, what he meant was simply this: I’ll wait until after the midterm elections before I ignore the Constitution and break the law.
But there’s more: He also meant that he didn’t want to take his unlawful unilateral action before the election because then voters could — gasp — cast their ballots based on that action.
The sudden change of heart — the viciously partisan Mr. Obama had declared on June 30 he would act by Sept. 22 come hell or high water — also means one more thing: The president’s domestic policy is just as disastrous as his foreign policy.
Team Obama drastically miscalculated this spring when it sought to push immigration reform to the forefront. Hoping to spur Hispanics to vote in an off-year election, the political team inside the White House stoked up a phony crisis at the U.S.-Mexican border. Mr. Obama assumed (correctly) that his sycophantic fans in the media would follow his lead and report non-stop on the made-up dilemma.
But across the country (in those pesky flyover states), Americans were angry over the taste of amnesty that accompanied the crisis. Some 50,000 illegal aliens (the White House called them “unaccompanied children”) were allowed into the country no questions asked, and Americans did not approve. Worse, they saw a glimpse of what would come if and when Mr. Obama decided to grant amnesty to more than 12 million illegals now in the U.S.
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Of course, Team Obama could care less about any of that. But there was one problem the crack squad in the White House didn’t foresee: Those flyover states are holding elections this November, and if the president hopes to hang on to the Democratic majority in the Senate, his party needs to win in at least some of those states.
So suddenly, Mr. Obama has changed his mind.
“The truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem,” he said, referring to the pseudo-border emergency. “What I’m saying is that I’m going to act because it’s the right thing for the country. But it’s going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration, what we’ve done on unaccompanied children and why it’s necessary.”
But that’s not at all true. It’s all politics.
With his Gallup approval rate plunging to a record-low 38 percent, Mr. Obama has already been staying away from vulnerable Democrats who find him toxic. Many political pundits predict Republicans will take control of the Senate, so Mr. Obama’s new move appears aimed at trying to do no more harm to his fellow Democrats.
“Two White House officials said Obama concluded that circumventing Congress through executive actions on immigration during the campaign would politicize the issue and hurt future efforts to pass a broad overhaul,” The Associated Press reported. Well, that’s a bit more honest (and, as always, unattributable).
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While that sounds surprisingly diplomatic of the highly partisan president, the report went on to say that Mr. Obama “still would take his executive steps before the end of the year.”
That, no doubt, will be complicated should Republicans take over the Senate and control both congressional chambers. While Mr. Obama could still take action, the GOP could follow with new laws to mitigate or circumvent those actions.
Still, breathing a collective sigh of relief were Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Each is statistically tied with the Republican opponent, but each also is drawing far less than 50 percent support, worrying party leaders that late breakers will choose the challenger.
The desperation of Democrats has grown increasingly clear over the last few weeks. Mr. Pryor released an ad that claimed his Republican opponent Rep. Tom Cotton would do nothing to combat the spread of the Ebola virus (oh, and that he opposes children’s hospitals — and quite possibly hates puppies).
Meanwhile, Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, another embattled Democrat, released a Willie Horton-style ad in claiming his Republican opponent Dan Sullivan is responsible for a dangerous criminal being released from prison.
And in the most obvious desperate move, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Wisconsin Republican incumbent Gov. Scott Walker “has given women the back of his hand,” adding that tea party extremists are “grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back.”
With fewer than 60 days to go to Election 2014, the terror among Democrats is clear. Mr. Obama, who Sunday said he finally realized that playing golf right after making a statement about a beheaded American was “bad optics,” has suddenly gotten the message from Democrats in danger: Stay away, and don’t do anything!
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.