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Some Fans of ‘Executive Action’ (2)

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops:

WASHINGTON—Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, welcomed the news today that the Obama administration will defer deportations for many undocumented immigrants and their families.

Perhaps I’m being unfair, but it seems to me that the bishops now seem rather less focused on the constitution than they were at the time they were objecting to various aspects of Obamacare coverage.

Meanwhile the National Catholic Reporter reports:

Catholic groups across the country have been quick to applaud President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration, but they are equally quick to remind that more work remains to be done before finding a “humane” fix to our country’s immigration system.

The executive order, which the president delivered Thursday in a primetime speech, expands the government’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and provides temporary relief from deportation for more than 4 million undocumented immigrant parents who have lived in the country for more than five years.

“Generally, we are celebrating this announcement,” said Michelle Sardone, legalization program director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC. “It’s going to help close to 5 million people. But we’re definitely still working toward finding a permanent solution.”

“This a temporary fix,” she said. “There’s still more fighting to be done, to make sure that everyone is included.”

Press releases from various Catholic organizations echoed the sentiment….

Ah yes, there’s always “more fighting to be done”.

The ratchet turns. 

The Rules of the (Political) Road

In a post yesterday, I talked about a particular freedom that those on the left have: If the process gets in your way — separation of powers, the Constitution, and all that — just disregard it, and go for your desired result. Gotta break a few eggs, you know. We must bend that arc toward justice.

Here is another freedom that the Left has: They can quote the Bible with impunity. Obama did so in his amnesty announcement: “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger . . .” In her convention speech, Elizabeth Warren offered a quote — “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” — then said, smugly and proudly, “Matthew 25:40.” She literally cited chapter and verse.

(I should say that Warren came off as smug and proud to me. Whether others felt the same, I don’t know.)

In another convention speech, Jesse Jackson compared Vice President Dan Quayle to Herod. The mother of Jesus, said Jackson, “had family values. It was Herod — the Quayle of his day — who put no value on the family.”

Interestingly, Quayle is pro-life, and Jackson is not.

If a conservative Republican cites the Bible, how does the Left react? “Theocracy!” A theocratic night is falling, and the Republic must be saved. “Wall of separation,” blah blah blah. Obama can quote the Bible till the cows come home. But if George W. Bush tried it . . .

Why this double standard? It could be that the Left uses the Bible for rhetorical effect — to poke the Right in the eye. When conservatives quote the Bible, the Left may fear, or reason, that the quoters actually believe the stuff.

It may be a little like gay marriage. Until about two seconds ago — the spring of 2012 — Obama, Biden, Kerry, the Clintons, and all the rest of them were against gay marriage. Or said they were. But the Left didn’t hold it against them, really — because everyone knew they were lying. They would embrace gay marriage the second it was politically okay.

Anyway, on to another subject — race. It is said, understandably, that the impeachment of Obama is impossible, because he has racial immunity. A move to impeach Obama would be immediately painted as a Klan lynching.

In truth, the impeachment of Clinton was racialized, too. Honestly. (Well, dishonestly, but you know what I mean.) I wrote about this in 1999, in a piece called “The Race Ace: Clinton at his most shameful.” I can’t find it online at the moment, but it is published in an ancient anthology, here.

I suffer from many maladies, but one I am free from, I’m happy to say, is “Clinton nostalgia.” I have none of it, no matter how bad the present administration is.

Faster, Please

On this week’s podcast, Mona and I have a guest, Michael Ledeen — that scholar and champion of freedom. He talks of Iran, primarily. The Khomeinist regime has been a curse on humanity — especially Iranians — for 35 years. Its downfall will be a great day. Mona and I adopt Michael’s trademark refrain, “Faster, please.”

Later, we discuss President Obama’s abuse of power, his “climate” pact with China, and other things. Those other things include Putin, Harper, Sharpton, Cuba, Israel, and Cosby. I am exceptionally shouty, even extreme. Mona is more levelheaded, of course, but still impassioned.

We go out with a stretch of Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony, written in the dead of the war (1943). To join us, go here.

November 22, 2014

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House Intel Investigation on Benghazi Clears Administration, Intelligence Community of Wrongdoing

Via the Denver Post:

A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees. . . .

The investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In response to accusations that the administration misled the American public in the days following the Benghazi attack by blaming events on a spontaneous protest against a YouTube video:

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

The full report is available here.

The Select Committee on Benghazi, headed by South Carolina representative Trey Gowdy, remains in the midst of an ongoing investigation.

Purdue U: Only 50 Percent of Scientists Blame Humans for Climate Change

Houston, we have a problem. Via Paul Bedard’s Washington Secrets:

A new Purdue University report and survey of on global warming finds that just 50 percent of scientists blame human causes, not the NASA-endorsed and widely distributed claim of 97 percent.

In a survey of nearly 7,000 in the agriculture field, found that most scientists agree that climate change is happening, but just 50.5 percent blame mankind.

The study, conducted by associate professor of natural resource social science Linda Prokopy and a team of researchers, surveyed a range of people involved in the agricultural sector in 2011–2012, from scientists and climatologists to farmers.

Purdue University’s press release on the study notes a striking difference in the opinions between those groups:

More than 90 percent of the scientists and climatologists surveyed said they believed climate change was occurring, with more than 50 percent attributing climate change primarily to human activities.

In contrast, 66 percent of corn producers surveyed said they believed climate change was occurring, with 8 percent pinpointing human activities as the main cause. A quarter of producers said they believed climate change was caused mostly by natural shifts in the environment, and 31 percent said there was not enough evidence to determine whether climate change was happening or not.

But, you know, the science is settled.

Oklahoma AG Starts Laying Out the Legal Case Against Obama’s Executive Action: Of Course States Have Been Injured

States may be able to recoup monetary damages incurred as a result of President Obama’s executive action exempting millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation, says Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt. Ultimately, he aims for the courts to issue an injunction against the action, deeming it null.

“We believe that not only the state of Oklahoma, but states across the country have, in fact, been injured as a result of the president’s action,” he told National Review Online. As the impact of the order becomes clear, states will be able to determine its monetary effects on areas such as education, health-care, and public safety among others, he says.

Pruitt was unsure how long the courts would take to resolve the issue, but said that he expects to file the lawsuit in the coming weeks to get the effort underway. He said his office has been “evaluating intensely” since the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) memorandum in 2012, and is prepared to moved forward with legal action against him for overreach of his authority and breach of process.

“The thing about this is the president’s suggestions might be good ideas from a policy perspective, and some of them might not be good ideas, but that’s not the test here,” he said. “That’s not what the focus is for me, and for many that are looking at it — the question is whether the process being used by the president is appropriate.”

“The answer is it is brazenly political, in my estimation,” Pruitt added.

Prior to the president’s address on Thursday, Pruitt released a statement promising to bring legal action against him and his administration.

Harry Reid Slams White House: ‘Get a Life’

The family feud between President Obama and soon-to-be Senate minority leader Harry Reid escalated this week, after the Nevada Democrat told the White House to “get a life” for its continued anger over remarks made by one of his top aides.

The New York Times reports that the rift between Reid and the Obama administration over David Krone, Reid’s top staff member, who made a series of highly critical remarks about the president earlier this month. Krone was already banned from attending White House meetings with Reid, following rumors that he leaked details of meetings between the then-majority leader and the president to the press.

Reid, for his part, is unrepentant. “He didn’t make it up, you know,” the senator said, referring to Krone’s claim that the Nevada senator begged Obama to get more involved in the midterm elections and blamed the president for the impending loss. 

And Reid also appears furious at the White House for their targeting of his top aide and close friend. ”They should just get over it,” he told the Times. “I have a good relationship with the president. This is all staff driven. Get a life. Forget about this.”

Why UKIP’s Latest By-Election Victory Is a Very Big Deal

The U.K. Independence Party’s victory in the Rochester and Strood special election overnight contains enough lessons to fill an encyclopedia — and let’s be candid, encyclopedias usually make heavy reading. So in the next few days I’ll be sending the Corner a series of shorter analyses concentrating on the most important lessons.

The first lesson must obviously answer the question: How big a victory for UKIP was R&S? And if big, how significant for next May’s general election?

Well, the answer is that it was a very big victory for UKIP. Some commentators have suggested that it was a disappointment for UKIP because its 42 percent share of the vote was lower than in some polls, which had predicted a 48–49 percent share, and that its 7.3 point lead over the Tories was likewise disappointing. Those figures are accurate but the conclusion drawn from them is false.

UKIP went from 0 to 42 percent in a constituency where it had never fielded a candidate before. Rochester and Strood had never been regarded as a likely pick-up for the party. It was No. 271 on the UKIP list of winnable seats. And the Tories, who thought they would win the seat only a month ago, threw everything at it. Tory backbenchers were firmly instructed to make five campaigning visits to R&S to canvas voters. David Cameron himself made as many visits. And the campaign was a well-organized one — every home in the constituency was leafleted several times, including at 6.00 a.m. on Election Day.

I made my criticisms of the character of the Tory campaign clear in yesterday’s Corner piece. Some of its pitches struck me as ill-judged and over the top — for instance, the leaflet from the Tory candidate attacking her own leader, David Cameron, as weak on immigration, presumably in order to demonstrate her independence and toughness on the issue. There was more than a touch of comic-opera Putinism about that tactic, playing to the audience the tune it wants to hear today because you intend to play different tunes to different audiences tomorrow. Whatever my criticisms, however, the slight evidence of polls suggests that voters swung back a few percentage points to the Tories in the final week, for which the campaign must be given some credit.

But that modest recovery did no more than moderate the catastrophic nature of the Tory defeat and the seriousness of the threat that UKIP poses to it. As the opinion-polling company Survation observed in its post-election analysis of the result for both parties:

If an MP defecting to UKIP can win a by-election in Rochester & Strood, then similar defections elsewhere could potentially succeed across a very wide range of English constituencies. There are 164 constituencies where the Conservatives won in 2010 on a lower share of the vote than they did in Rochester & Strood. MPs in any of these places who are considering defection to UKIP must now reckon they have at least a reasonably good chance of retaining their seats. Meanwhile Conservative incumbents in many seats must worry that they risk losing either to Labour or, increasingly, directly to UKIP as a result of the continued UKIP success. The message “vote UKIP, get Labour” has less traction than ever when election results like this show it is genuinely possible to “vote UKIP, get UKIP”.  

And the Tories did better in this election than either Labour (holders of the seat two elections ago) which gained a 17 percent share of the total on this occasion — or the coalition partner of the Tories in government, the Liberal Democrats, who fell to 1 percent of the vote!

In other words: The next election is likely to see a massive and largely unpredictable set of results, with no fewer than seven political parties nursing realistic hopes of getting some representation in Parliament.  

Why did this happen? That’s my next piece.

An Imperial Spectacle

For many of us whose family members escaped the oppression of totalitarian regimes to come to a country where the law of the land wasn’t subject to the whim and caprice of a single man, last night’s exhibition had a surreal quality to it. We witnessed a form of the authoritarianism from which our relatives had fled.

To be clear, Obama’s action, no matter how imperious, in no way equates with the edicts of those despotic regimes. Yet it’s precisely because Obama’s edict was issued in a democratic republic that makes it so appalling. Talk to emigrés of a certain age from, e.g., the former Eastern Bloc, and they’ll grab you by the arm and warn, “Friend, don’t even begin to let your country go down this path. We’ve seen this movie before. Trust me, the plot stinks and you probably won’t like how it ends.”

 It doesn’t matter that Obama’s actions were cheered by millions, or that his supporters ridicule as hyperbolic the concerns of his critics. And it matters little that he claimed, in  Orwellian terms, that humanitarian impulses drove the edict. It matters even less that his administration proffered a tortured legal rationale for his actions. After all, each of these things usually happens in the very first scene of that movie the emigré​ warned you about.

What matters is that rather than discharge his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” our commander-in-chief engaged in a blatantly lawless usurpation of domestic power never before witnessed by any American alive today.

Montesquieu cautioned, “There can be no liberty when the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or body of magistrates.” From his serial rewrites of Obamacare to his casual nullification of duly enacted immigration laws, the president seems intent on putting Montesquieu’s claim to the test.

Never Enough: Immigration Activist Heckles Obama During Amnesty Victory Lap

An immigration activist repeatedly interrupted President Obama during his amnesty victory speech at a Las Vegas high school on Friday, proving so insistent that the president had to eventually tell the young man to sit down and be “respectful.”

One day after unilaterally granting temporary legal status to around 5 million illegal immigrants, President Obama took to the stage surrounded by adulating teenagers and pro-amnesty politicians. The president was clearly enjoying the attention.

But not everyone was so exuberant, with one off-camera activist shouting at the president on behalf of the millions who didn’t get legal status. “That’s right, not everybody will qualifiy under this provision,” Obama responded. “That’s the truth. And that’s why we’re going to have to pass a bill.”

“Listen, I heard you,” he continued, after the activist continued to heckle. “I’ve heard you young man, I’ve heard you. And I understand, I’ve heard you. But what I’m saying is, this is just a first step.”

“Young man, I’m talking to a lot of people here,” Obama said with annoyance when the yelling continued. “I’ve been respectful to you, I want you to be respectful to me, okay?”

RNC Uses Hillary’s Words Against ‘The Obama-Clinton Immigration Overreach’

The Republican National Committee put out this video juxtaposing a speech that then-Senator Hillary Clinton gave in 2008 denouncing George W. Bush for ignoring his responsibility to “faithfully execute the laws,” in her mind, through the use ofsigning statements, among other things.


How Our Democracy Works

The executive actions on immigration that President Obama announced yesterday, and the two kinds of modes in which his administration made the announcement (a presidential speech and a Department of Justice legal memo), highlight the challenge of thinking constitutionally in an age when constitutional thought and legal thought have been almost entirely confused for one another. 

Keep reading this post . . .

No to Self-Deportation, Yes to Self-Contradiction

A few more thoughts on the president’s speech last night.

The Things You Learn

I read in today’s Wall Street Journal that I have been “fiercely defending the dollar’s reserve-currency role.” I wasn’t even aware I had views on the subject.

Why Elizabeth Warren Is More Politician Than Populist

Elizabeth Warren has been in the news a lot lately, with presidential whispers swirling around her ascension to a quasi-leadership post in the Senate. She is positioning herself as the principled, populist alternative to career politicians.

But how principled is she, really? As Jason Delislie and I wrote in Politico Magazine recently, Warren’s career is marked by a giant contradiction. As chair of TARP’s oversight committee back in 2009, Warren charged that the government was exposing taxpayers to massive risk while low-balling the costs. She was absolutely right.

But as a senator who wants to expand the federal student loan program . . . she has done a 180, now arguing that the government can ignore market risk when offering loans. Senator Warren wants risk priced into government loans to financial firms but conveniently excluded from the cost of loans to students. As best I can tell, she has never acknowledged this inconsistency.

The point of our piece was not to “play gotcha” with a single politician, but to offer an example of how government accounting is abused for political purposes. Both sides of the aisle are guilty. Nevertheless, I want to respond to one specific defense of Warren I’ve been given. It goes something like this: “Okay, fine, Senator Warren has contradicted herself, and she should be honest about the real costs of student loans. But at least her accounting inconsistency is a consequence of always fighting for the little guy.”

No. Warren is a supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which distributes government-backed loans to (mostly large) businesses, not to little guys. She is also on the wrong side of perhaps the most populist issue of all: immigration. It’s the little guy who sees his wage lowered and his community changed by mass immigration, but Warren supports the same amnesty policies and immigration expansion that Big Business does. Her positions seem to be driven less by a principled populism than by the elite liberalism of today’s Democratic party.

Obama and the Corruption of the Language

Illya Somin writes:

I would add that the part of the president’s new policy offering work permits to some of those whose deportation is deferred in no way changes the analysis above. The work permits are merely a formalization of the president’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion here, which indicates that the administration will not attempt to deport these people merely for being present in the United States and attempting to find jobs here. They do not purport to legalize their status, and the policy of nondeportation can be reversed at any time by the president or his successor.

That seems to me to be stretching the word “discretion.” “Discretion,” in the prosecutorial context, means that we recognize that law-enforcement officials are not necessarily obliged to act in every case; which is to say, the discretion they have is the discretion to not act. It is not the discretion to confer legal rights and privileges upon people who are not entitled to them, e.g. to offer them work permits to which they are not entitled. This isn’t a case of the Obama administration’s not acting, but a case of not not acting, the equivalent of making a declaration that every mass shooter charged with killing fewer than three people not only is safe from federal prosecution but also will be awarded $1,000 a month in federal welfare payments regardless of eligibility, or that they will all be admitted to national parks for free for the rest of their lives.

The word “discretion” is related to the word “discrete,” meaning distinct, separate, and particular — the opposite of general, categorical,  and universal, which is the scope at which the president here purports to operate. The power to exercise discretion in the enforcement of one law is not the power to exnihilate another law into existence. That this should be so thoroughly obfuscated seems to me another piece of evidence that the corruption of the English language is the main project of the legal profession. 

How Obama Betrayed Black Workers Last Night

President Obama last night removed any remaining doubt that he shares Jonathan Gruber’s assessment of the American voter. The group toward whom he’s shown the greatest contempt, however, is low-skilled American workers, particularly blacks.

The president’s edict purporting to grant legal status to up to 5 million illegal aliens will have a devastating effect on the wage and employment levels of all low-skilled American workers, but the competition from (formerly) illegal aliens will be most acute in industries in which blacks traditionally have been highly concentrated — including, but not limited to, construction, hospitality, and service.

The effect of illegal immigration on American wages and employment is now well-established. Hearings before the U.S.Commisssion on Civil Rights, for example, adduced copious evidence of the profound damage done to black wage and employment levels by illegal immigration. Competition from immigration accounts for approximately 40 percent of the 18 percentage point decline in black employment in recent years. That’s nearly a million jobs lost by blacks to immigrants.

Moreover, numerous studies unequivocally show that illegal immigration depresses wage rates. In the leisure and hospitality industries alone, the wage suppression due to illegal immigration has decreased annual wage rates by $1,500.

The fact that employers will, presumably, now have to pay (formerly) illegal aliens at lawful wages rates won’t reduce the negative impact of illegal immigration on black workers because the newly “legal” immigrants will still be paid a low wage, and the president’s edict is a green light to millions more illegal aliens to come to America at a time when our country has a historic surplus of low-skilled labor.

Indeed, the edict could hardly come at a worse time for for black workers whose labor-participation rate is an abysmal 61.4 percent. Black teen unemployment is 32.6 percent. The black employment-population ratio is an appalling 54.7 percent. The last thing black workers need right now is more competition from illegal aliens.

These facts are well-known to the president and members of the Congressional Black Caucus who’ve received copies of the Civil Rights Commission’s report as well as additional data in the numerous letters they’ve received from me on this topic. Unfortunately for black workers who, perhaps not unreasonably, believe that a black president and  members of a Congressional Black Caucus wouldn’t take or support any actions that would throw huge numbers of blacks out of work, the interests of black workers are manifestly secondary to political imperative.

The most loyal constituency of the Democratic party is being thrown under the bus for the shining  possibility of an even larger voting bloc. And the members of the CBC cheer.

Cruisio, Ergo Lileks Sum

Big Jim, who has become a true cruise aficionado, recounts his week on the recent NR Post-Election Cruise. There are plenty of photos and videos, although none featuring our intrepid reporter in a Speedo or holding a pina colada. Still, it’s worth your seeing the voyage through Jim’s iPhone, which can be done here. And as for the next NR voyage, well, it’ll be in Alaska in July. For more info check out our website.​

Bill Says . . .

This Christmas you simply must get those favored little kiddies in your life these two wholesome books, Volumes 1 and 2 of The National Review Treasury of Classic Bedtime Stories. Combined (the handsome hardcovers total over 700 pages!) they present 20 delightful and classic Thornton Burgess tales adorned by 80 beautiful Harrison Cady illustrations. These books are perfect for new and beginning readers, and for mom and dad and the grandparents, they’re designed ideally for you to read to wee ones as they drift off to happy sleep and visions of sugarplum fairies. Each book originally sold for $29.95, but at the NR Store you can get both for $39.95, which includes free shipping. Do that here. And while you’re there, consider getting those kids The National Review Wonder Book of Fairy Tales — another exquisite collection of wholesome tales festooned by glorious artwork. It’s a must for every family library.


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