Bill Murchison
When Congress, split seven ways from Sunday on the question, squelched legislation granting resident status for those formerly called "illegal aliens," President Obama said, in effect, so what? -- we'll do it anyway.

And so he did it anyway, announcing last Friday the birth of a new immigration policy affecting an estimated 800,000 illegals. These illegals -- according to the president, who invokes the right to "prosecutorial discretion" -- get exempted from deportation for two years. The new policy renders them legally untouchable, in spite of their illegal status.

The situation moves beyond factuality. Up becomes down, hot becomes cold -- by presidential directive, it is as if the country for whom the policy has been constructed was another nation entirely: less like the United States, more like the Wonderland in which Alice discovered the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and other self-definition experts.

The president gets to make up his own reality about rules and limits on power. "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'" Mr. Dumpty, meet Mr. Obama.

Not that any doubt exists as to what goes on here. An election goes on. Obama wants a bumper crop of Latino votes in Florida, Virginia, Nevada and elsewhere. He thinks he knows one way to get them: namely, get off the topic of the economy and win a reputation for decisive action, as well as compassion, in an area of policy the country, let alone Congress, still hasn't figured out how to address.

The new policy has two additional advantages: It obliges Mitt Romney, at the risk of offending voters on both sides of the immigration question, to put his own cards on the table respecting treatment of illegals.

Practically speaking, despite Republican talk of a lawsuit challenging the president's right to devise and impose his own policy on immigration, the policy Obama has enacted has only a short distance to gallop without constitutional fodder. If it lasts until Election Day, that's good enough. Let it go at that point.

It's not only possible, but it's also desirable that the president take some well-deserved raps for wiping his feet on general understandings of the limits on presidential powers. However, the number of raps he actually receives is unlikely to be large. The commentators and bloggers who drive our national conversation in the Internet era understand that this matter doesn't turn on constitutional and political science considerations, rather -- as they know -- it turns on political necessity.


Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
 
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