President Obama's unexpected "stopgap" DREAM Act clearly knocked Republicans for a loop. That might explain why their reactions are so strong -- and stunningly illogical.
Marco Rubio, who in April said he would propose nearly identical legislation, said Obama's plan made a long-term solution more difficult.
Why? All he has to do is present his legislation. Let Congress vote.
"The president would sign the DREAM Act tomorrow, the next day, the day after that," Obama senior adviser David Plouffe said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "That's ultimately the only way to fix this, is for congressional action. But in the interim, this is a smart step by the Homeland Security Department."
Obama acknowledged as much when he announced on Friday that he was halting deportations for 800,000 or more undocumented immigrant children so they could attend school and work.
"This is not a permanent fix," he said. "This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. It is the right thing to do."
Those might not have been the words that set off the firestorm of reaction. Maybe it was these:
"They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper," Obama said.
Iowa Republican Steve King, the U.S. Representative who compares immigrants to dogs, was practically apoplectic -- and, perhaps blinded by his outrage, showed a spectacular lack of understanding of the functioning of government, the law and executive privilege.
"I expect to bring a lawsuit against the president of the United States to suspend his executive order," King told the Des Moines Register, adding, "It's no longer about what policy you might prefer, and it's whether you uphold the Constitution and rule of law."
Rubio, bless his heart, showed a similar lack of knowledge of the executive branch of government (kind of scary from a lawyer who's supposedly on the short list for vice president). He accused the president of overstepping his bounds. In a statement issued shortly after the president's surprise announcement, Rubio said the administration is "once again ignoring the Constitution and going around Congress."
People who understand the law, however, disagree.
"Just about everybody from the left or right agrees that this is something at the core of executive discretion," Dr. Ken Mayer, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies executive orders, told the Huffington Post.
Of course, it's kind of easy to see what has the Republicans in such a dither. Obama's move puts them, and their presidential almost-nominee, Mitt Romney, in an ugly corner.
Romney has carefully avoided making his position on immigration clear after he made such a mess of things with Hispanics during the early days of the primary. Things got so bad, he had even Republican Latino groups denouncing him.
That was kind of understandable, though, after he said he wants to make life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they "self-deport," blasted then-candidate Rick Perry for supporting the DREAM Act (he called it "a magnet for illegal immigration") and vowed to veto it if it came before him as president.
He's simmered down a bit since Rubio and powerful GOP leaders told him to cool it. But having the president step up to the plate and do what immigrant rights groups have said he could and should do puts Romney in a double-bind:
If he comes out and says he supports letting undocumented immigrant children stay, he'll anger tea party folks like King. If he says he doesn't, he risks alienating even more Hispanics.
Romney showed exactly how uncomfortable he is with this new turn of events on Sunday when he appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation." He criticized Obama's move because it could be reversed by another president. But he refused -- three times -- to say if he would repeal it.
Romney and other Republicans have called the president's move pure politics. Looking at the timing, with the general election right around the corner, they're probably right. But that may not matter.
"We know this is political -- we like that it's political," Robert Meza, a Democratic state senator in Arizona told the New York Times. "People are smart enough to know that of course it's politics, but if their agenda moves forward, they're happy."
Some proof of that came Sunday, in a Latino Decisions/America's Voice poll taken over the weekend. It shows Hispanic voters are "very enthusiastic" about the president's move.
Enthusiasm had dipped for the president by some 9 percentage points since 2008, the survey's authors said. After his executive order statement, however, "49% of Latino voters said it would make them more enthusiastic about Obama, compared to 14% who were less enthusiastic, a net enthusiasm advantage of +35 points."
"We are very happy to see President Obama 'Do the Right Thing' as he said. It is a wonderful day for the DREAMers that are the future of our country and an important first step toward much needed Immigration Reform."
That's not what Mitt Romney is saying.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison