Since You Asked, My Opinion On Last Night’s Speech

Comments: 4 Comments
Published on: 2014.11.21

Actually, only one person asked. And to be truthful, they only asked if I watched the speech, not what I thought about it. The answer was no, I didn’t watch it. I waited until morning and read the transcribed version, which took under two minutes, rather than the 15 minutes it took for him to deliver it.

I found it interesting that some news outlets, such as NBC, called it a “brief, 10-minute speech”, while others said “15 minutes”, when the actual speech took 14 minutes and 45 seconds.

Additionally of note: The four major broadcast TV networks didn’t carry the speech, though many local affiliates broadcast it anyway.

I further found it interesting that he didn’t actually say much. For all the cheering from immigrants who watched, and all the blistering rhetoric delivered by Republicans afterward, the actions announced by President Barack Obama last night seemed very small an ineffectual to me.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) called it a “brazen power grab that doesn’t solve the real problems”, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the president has “squandered what little credibility he had left”. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) added that Obama would “regret choosing to ignore the will of the American people”.

McCarthy is right that Obama’s plans don’t solve real problems, but the rest of the statements were not factually correct, or didn’t really say anything at all. McConnell surely knows that a large majority of U.S.ians favor the “path to citizenship” approach that Obama announced. Boehner also knows that “credibility” comes from doing what you said you would do, which is what Obama did. And McCarthy knows that Obama didn’t grab any power.

What did Obama’s speech actually promise? 1. Additional resources at the border, “so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over”. 2. “Make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy”. 3. Continue record pace of deportation. 4. Temporary work permits for illegal immigrants with no criminal background.

The first three are actually things that Republicans want anyway. It’s the last point that apparently has certain rightists up in arms. My view on it: it’s impractical (read: impossible) to round up and deport millions of people who are just living and working here. Most of us don’t want that to happen anyway. So this way makes sense.

Another sticking point for some conservative pundits (and a few elected Republicans) is that Obama is doing this via “executive order”. I posted earlier this year the figures on that, that Obama’s pace of issuing executive orders is the slowest of all modern presidents, that you have to go back to Grover Cleveland to find a president with less, and the numbers are still the same. Not only are executive orders entirely legal, they’re actually required for some parts of the president’s job in the modern era.

For those (like Ted Cruz, Michelle Bachmann, Boehner’s spokesperson, Rand Paul, etc.) who’ve stupidly declared that Obama is now a dictator, emperor, monarch, autocrat, and so on, my suggestion is that they should live under a dictator for a few years and see if it’s the same as living here.

Cruz raved in lunacy: “It is lawless. It is unconstitutional. He is defiant and angry at the American people. If he acts by executive diktat, President Obama will not be acting as a president, he will be acting as a monarch.” He went on, accusing Obama of changing the law — which isn’t the case, as Cruz knows — the president cannot make, change, or undo any laws.

I’ve made no secret of my disappointment in Obama, but what he announced last night was so far from deserving of this idiotic response that the responses themselves nearly proved Obama correct. I say “nearly” because Obama’s announced actions stand on their own merits as legal.

For me, this is another proof that elected Republicans in Congress will oppose what Obama does regardless of what it is he does, even it’s something they like. See this Key & Peele comedy sketch (2:46) for a humorous illustration of this.

  1. Zane says:

    Along with the work authorization in point 4, comes “deferred action” which is essentially the government’s word that they will not be deported if they qualify. It is a bending of the existing law that is not written into the Immigration and Nationality Act. It’s an official way to recognize that so many people have broken the law that there is no longer a point in enforcing it. To me, the amount of people who have broken the law is just as much a reflection on the outdated law and the impossibility of enforcing it as it is on the immigrants. The bending is what the Republicans are upset about, but it is necessary since congress seems incapable of remaking the law. It certainly doesn’t justify the rhetoric you talked about.

    This doesn’t get mentioned in the news a lot, but deferred action is a double edged sword. Coming out of the shadows has its drawbacks. Applying for it is an admission of an immigrant’s illegal presence, and gives the government their address, fingerprints and other information. So, if someone is a criminal or commits a crime in the future, they are more likely to be deported.

    Here is more than you ever wanted to know about the changes-

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      “It’s an official way to recognize that so many people have broken the law that there is no longer a point in enforcing it”

      Well said.

      On the point of “enforcing the law” (about which I’ve seen some hateful Republican tweets), there seems to be this assumption among some in the conservative camp that all executives are always required to completely enforce all laws at all times — which just isn’t true, in any sense, anywhere, at any level.

      Every city’s police department is charged with “enforcing the law”, yet every one of them recognizes they cannot possibly stop every crime in the city, nor catch every criminal. Even when they KNOW a certain law has been broken, they have to choose where to focus their energies.

      To use the tired example of speeding, every cop in my city knows that someone is speeding *right now* on US 190. They could buy another patrol car and hire one more officer to sit out there all day and he would more than pay his own salary from the tickets he wrote. But there are many reasons they don’t do that, but at least it would pay for itself. Most other “enforcing the law” activities do not pay for themselves, including (and especially) rounding up and deporting people whose only crime is coming here illegally. In fact, in many cases, leaving them alone is paying for itself.

      • Zane says:

        Speeding is a pretty good analogy. Just imagine if the speed limit was different for every make and model of car, multiple appeals were available for every ticket, it took years to appear before a judge, and speeding for certain reasons was allowed.

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