Now liberals have a version of executive overreach with the temporary amnesty for 5 million illegal immigrants. So, bluntly, here's the question: Is Obama's overreach OK while Bush's was wrong?
It seems like Dems/liberals are lining up to defend Obama, whereas the critics among the Dems are close to mute. A few, such as senators from swing or conservative states, publicly disagreed with Obama for five minutes, and then the issue subsided.
A good enough reason?
Of course I know the argument that Obama gives: All Congress has to do is pick up the mantle (its mantle) and make an immigration reform law. Congress didn't do its duty, so the president decided to go ahead and act.
But here's an important question: what are the limits on presidential action if he doesn't need the Congress to pass laws anymore? If the prez has to wait two years, is that too long, so it's OK for him to do what he wants? Can the prez set the tax rates? Can he change established tax policies, closing loopholes, and maybe opening others?
Obama has carefully addressed these questions. His immigration policy is based on the well-established principle of prosecutorial discretion--the ability of the person enforcing the laws to decide that a case is too weak or too minor to bring to court. Obama has decided that no case against an illegal immigrant with American child warrants prosecution. Beyond that, he's going to give each of these parents a work card.
Do the work
This definitely seems like overreach to me. However, when Obama did the same for illegal immigrants who came here as children, it didn't bother me. This is part of the problem of deciding what is right based on gut feelings. It conveniently bypasses all the hard logic I'd otherwise have to thrash out.
So maybe following my gut feelings are somewhat similar to taking executive actions. Neither follows a good process or well-tested logic. I should not follow my gut feelings on issues of policy, and the president (whoever it is) shouldn't push executive action into new areas. Sometimes, you have to wait, even if it means waiting forever.
So, should Obama simply wait, and not act? Should it be the same for the next president? When has the wait been too long? Maybe there are times when the wait is too long, and immigration reform has certainly been a long time coming.
However, we still haven't exercised the grand old option of chartering a bipartisan committee to thrash this out. We definitely should have one--a recent committee (Simpson-Bowles) was pretty good. Maybe this committee would be good too, but only if it's not led by current politicians (as the Supercommittee was), but by serious, intelligent people who want to figure out what's best for the country as a whole instead of what benefits their party.
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Extras. A libertarian blogger agrees with the legal justifications. Is it his steel-trap mind, or is it convenient reasoning? A law professor on different kinds of rules. I understand this--our legislatures are too large and bogged down to make all the rules we need, or to write all the guidance in how to implement them. However, I still think it's overreach to change immigration all for 5 million people.