Wednesday, 26 November 2014

GOP, Obama & Immigration

One of the strangest things about the immigration debate is the fervent belief by conservatives that President Obama is motivated only by devious partisan considerations. Immigration hawk David Frum notes, “the president’s political opponents almost unanimously believe that his act of nullification is motivated by the crassest kind of political calculation.” (Frum does not endorse this belief among conservatives, he merely passes it on.) Michael Gerson — like Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, and unlike Frum, a strong proponent of immigration reform — argues that Obama “uses undocumented workers in a vast political ploy.”
This is a strange belief, first of all, because it fails to recognize the blindingly obvious humanitarian motive that surely supplied much of Obama’s incentive. Obama is a liberal Democrat. Liberal Democrats like immigrants. They want to do something to help the millions of people who have committed a victimless crime in order to give their children a better life.
spot, muddying the political issue and making his unilateralism harder to sustain. Rather than complain about Obama’s diabolical maneuver, they should have thought about maybe preventing it.
It is clear that Obama’s executive action places Republicans in a near-impossible spot. The newest evidence is a poll this week from Latino Decisions, finding that 89 percent of Hispanics support Obama’s move. Now, the wording of the poll, which repeats Obama’s justification but not Republican objections, likely inflates support. Still, it seems to suggest extremely high levels of support. If, as seems likely, the next Republican nominee is forced to promise to overturn it during the primary, it will lock the GOP into a stance of implacable hostility toward the overwhelming majority of the Latino community.
Why have Republicans allowed themselves to be felled by such a telegraphed punch? Internal dysfunction plays a major role, of course, along with sheer distrust. But one underappreciated factor may be that Republicans have come to rely on a strategy that works extremely well in other cases.
The GOP has withheld cooperation from every major element of President Obama’s agenda, beginning with the stimulus, through health-care reform, financial regulation, the environment, long-term debt reduction, and so on. That stance has worked extremely well as a political strategy. Most people pay little attention to politics and tend to hold the president responsible for outcomes. If Republicans turn every issue into an intractable partisan scrum, people get frustrated with the status quo and take out their frustration on the president’s party. It’s a formula, but it works.
The formula only fails to work if the president happens to have an easy and legal way to act on the issue in question without Congress. Obama can’t do that on infrastructure, or the grand bargain, and he couldn’t do it on health care. But he could do it on immigration. So Republicans were stuck carrying out a strategy whose endgame would normally be “bill fails, public blames Obama” that instead wound up “Obama acts unilaterally, claims credit, forces Republicans to take poisonous stance in opposition.” They had grown so accustomed to holding all the legislative leverage, they couldn’t adapt to a circumstance where they had none.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Tea Party & Obama - Both Are Back

In all its fury and unanimity, the response from the right over President Obama’s decision to change immigration policy without the consent of Congress was the manifestation of a major transformation inside the Tea Party.
What started five years ago as a groundswell of conservatives committed to curtailing the reach of the federal government, cutting the deficit and countering the Wall Street wing of the Republican Party has become largely an anti-immigration overhaul movement. The politicians, intellectual leaders and activists who consider themselves part of the Tea Party have redirected their energy from fiscal austerity and small government to stopping any changes that would legitimize people who are here illegally, either through granting them citizenship or legal status.
“Amnesty for Millions, Tyranny for All,” declared The Tea Party Tribune, summing up the indignation among conservatives over Mr. Obama’s executive action to shield up to five million people from deportation.
A group of sheriffs is organizing a demonstration next month at the Capitol. Activists are sending fat envelopes stuffed with articles on illegal immigration to members of Congress.
And in their most audacious plans, Tea Party groups are preparing to recruit challengers to run against high-profile Republicans they accuse of betraying them — as they did when they toppled Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader. At the top of their list of potential targets are politicians like Senator John McCain of Arizona, a proponent of an immigration overhaul. Their fantasy candidate: Sarah Palin, Mr. McCain’s former running mate who now spends much of the year at her home in Scottsdale, Ariz. Two prominent conservative activists, who spoke anonymously to divulge private discussions, said leading Tea Party figures planned to reach out to Ms. Palin to see if she was interested in running against Mr. McCain.
The way they are organizing around the issue of immigration bears striking parallels to how the federal bailouts of financial institutions and the Affordable Care Act galvanized many of the same people in 2009 and 2010. The issues have shifted, but the common enemy has not: Mr. Obama.
“This is going to become the Obamacare for the 2016 cycle,” said David N. Bossie, president of Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group. “You’re going to see a constant drumbeat, a constant march.
“It will be no one thing,” he added. “When you call down the thunder, sometimes it’s not pretty.”
Conservatives say emotions over immigration run so high that the issue could be even more politically potent than the Affordable Care Act. Like many of the economic concerns that animated Tea Party supporters, immigration plays to people’s anxieties about their financial well-being and the future. Many conservatives who have long mistrusted Mr. Obama because they think his policies will fundamentally alter America believe his new immigration order will do just that, with millions of potential new foreign-born citizens even though the president’s action does not call for a path to citizenship.
The conundrum for the Republican Party is how to channel that energy. Turned against liberalism, as it was in the 2010 elections that ousted Democrats from power in the House of Representatives, it can deliver serious political advantage. But turned inward, as it so often has been over the last four years, it threatens to tear the party apart. In Virginia, Mr. Cantor’s defeat so emboldened activists that they have started using “to Cantor” as a euphemism for defeating establishment Republicans.
Conservatives see a moment of truth for the Tea Party as well. If they think Republican leaders in Congress are not doing enough to fight Mr. Obama on immigration, what is their recourse?
“What the Tea Party has struggled with doing is translating their ideological appeal into political clout,” said Laura Ingraham, a conservative author and radio host. “They don’t have a lot of political clout. They can get out the vote out, yes. But I’m talking about getting individual committee chairmen and senators who can mount a real challenge to the establishment forces when required. And can you do that from within the Republican Party?”
One challenge is that some of the party’s biggest financial backers want to see an immigration overhaul pass Congress. And groups that helped finance the Tea Party’s rise, like Americans for Prosperity, which is supported by Charles and David Koch, will not be there to help the anti-immigration reform cause.
Republicans on Capitol Hill are discussing a ways to challenge Mr. Obama but are struggling to find a path that does not anger the right. One would be to go to court; another, though it has been discounted by the House Appropriations Committee, would be to try to cut off funding. Other possible pressure points include refusing to confirm the president’s nominees, like Loretta E. Lynch, Mr. Obama’s pick to replace Eric H. Holder Jr. as attorney general. But satisfying the conservative base will be difficult. Tea Party activists are not likely to sit patiently while a lawsuit works its way through the courts. And many have already expressed skepticism about the Republican leadership’s willingness to see through a fight over appropriations.
Some Kentucky Tea Party activists are already talking about a primary challenge to Representative Harold Rogers, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who has been in office since 1981. Breitbart News, a conservative website, reported on the possible primary challenger this week. Mr. Rogers’ office has said Congress could not simply defund the president’s directive, because the agency that carries it out, Citizenship and Immigration Services, is not financed by appropriations but by the fees it generates.
“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”
Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president, ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.’ ”
Other potential primary targets, Tea Party groups say, are Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee, and even Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, who was elected initially with the help of Tea Party energy.

But that would be a tough and expensive fight. Almost all Tea Party challengers were defeated this year — with the race against Mr. Cantor the notable exception. And patience for low-reward tactics like a government shutdown is waning. As shown by how quickly even many of the staunchest conservatives on Capitol Hill tried to dismiss talk of closing the government to pressure Mr. Obama on immigration, the lessons of the 2013 shutdown are sinking in
Still, others see a conservative populist cause that will be hard to stop. In a speech to the Heritage Foundation on Friday, Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, made the case that Mr. Obama and the titans of business who supported his immigration policy, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, were ignoring the will of ordinary Americans who want good-paying jobs that are not taken by immigrants.
“We are a nation, and a nation owes things to its people,” Mr. Sessions said. “And the average working truck driver is worth just as much as Mr. Zuckerberg, just as much as the Wall Street masters of the universe. And who’s representing them?”

Read the full story here.

Ferguson On Fire

President Barack Obama pleaded quietly for calm in Ferguson, Missouri on Monday night, speaking from the White House as rioters overtook streets in the St. Louis suburb and cable TV broadcasts showed them setting fires and attacking police cars.
After members of a grand jury determined that police officer Darren Wilson will not face criminal charges related to the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, peaceful protests spiraled out of control. Obama spoke to the nation a half-hour later.
The president said anger is an 'understandable reaction' from people who believe 'the law is being applied in a discriminatory fashion,' a reference to Wilson being white and Brown being black.
'What we need to do is try to understand them,' Obama said.
STUDY IN CONTRAST: 'No drama Obama' pleaded for calm while riots erupted in Ferguson
CALM: The taciturn president told the nation that violence won't solve problems, while split-screens showed the strets of Ferguson exploding into pandemonium
CALM: The taciturn president told the nation that violence won't solve problems, while split-screens showed the strets of Ferguson exploding into pandemonium
'There is no excuse for violence,' President Obama said Monday night just minutes after news broke that Officer Wilson wasn't indicted
'There is no excuse for violence,' President Obama said Monday night just minutes after news broke that Officer Wilson wasn't indicted
ON DEAF EARS: A police officer walks by a burning squad car during riots on Monday night
ON DEAF EARS: A police officer walks by a burning squad car during riots on Monday night
And referring to a growing feeling of distrust between urban blacks and mostly white police forces, he warned that healing the rift 'won't be done by smashing car windows. That won't be done by using this as an excuse to vandalize property. It certainly won't be done by hurting anybody.'
'There is no excuse for violence,' he said. 
'Those who are only interested in violence and just want the problem to go away should realize that we have work to do here.' 
As the president spoke, cable news channels broadcast split-screen views of an imperturbable Obama on one side and angry reactions on the other.
In one shot, dozens of protesters were seen trying to overturn a squad car not far from police headquarters. Thy dispersed only when tear gas canisters erupted.
In another, rioters threw rocks and bottles and set fires as Obama counseled 'care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that occur.'
Police 'need to work with the community, not against the community,' he said, indicating his desire to see law enforcement isolate violent instigators – many of whom traveled to Missouri from great distances – and a larger group of people 'who want to protest peacefully.'
'The fact is,' he said, 'in too many parts of this country a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country.'
'And this is tragic because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates. We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America.'
MEANWHILE ... As Obama spoke, protesters began gathering outside the White House to denounce 'racist police terror/
MEANWHILE ... As Obama spoke, protesters began gathering outside the White House to denounce 'racist police terror/
CHAOS: Peaceful vigils erupted into violence after the grand jury's decision was made public
CHAOS: Peaceful vigils erupted into violence after the grand jury's decision was made public
'We need to accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make': Obama counseled acceptance of the outcome in Missouri, even as his Justice Department could lodge federal charges in the case
'We need to accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make': Obama counseled acceptance of the outcome in Missouri, even as his Justice Department could lodge federal charges in the case
Obama delivered his nine-minute statement, answered a single question and then left the White House briefing room as journalists asked whether brown will face separate federal charges related to alleged civil-rights violations.
The Missouri grand jury's decision isn't binding on the Department of Justice in Washington, where outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder still could charge him.
It's possible that Wilson could still face a federal trial and a long prison sentence. That would still be the case even if he had been acquitted in a state-level court. 
Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill hinted at a second bite at the apple for the government in a statement issued after the news broke, saying Missourians should 'await the conclusion of ... [an] independent investigation' being undertaken by the DOJ before passing judgment. 
But on Monday the president firmly legitimized the 12 citizens, nine white and three black, who heard evidence over a stretch of weeks and decided it didn't add up to an indictment.
'First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law, and so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make,' Obama said.
'There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply upset, even angry. It's an understandable reaction. But I join Michael's parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully.'
OUTRAGEOUS: Agitators on the streets burned American flags and looted stores after news broke that Wilson would not face criminal charges
OUTRAGEOUS: Agitators on the streets burned American flags and looted stores after news broke that Wilson would not face criminal charges
LOOTERS: Broadcast cameras caught images of three businesses set ablaze along with a liquor store, a cell phone store and a McDonald's smashed by vandals and looters. This store is the same one Michael Brown allegedly robbed before the clash with police that resulted in his death on August 9
LOOTERS: Broadcast cameras caught images of three businesses set ablaze along with a liquor store, a cell phone store and a McDonald's smashed by vandals and looters. This store is the same one Michael Brown allegedly robbed before the clash with police that resulted in his death on August 9
Obama has not said whether he, like his attorney general, would personally visit Ferguson. He left that possibility open on Monday.
'Let's take a look and see how things are going,' he said in response to the one question he took. 
'Eric Holder's been there. We've had a whole team from the Justice Department there. And I think that they have done some very good work.' 
The grand jury process is different from a courtroom trial. It's conducted in secret and without balance between the government and a potential defendant.
Unlike in a trial, where a jury must assign guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the grand jury must only decide whether or not there's a rational reason – a 'probable cause – to believe that a crime was committed and sufficient evidence to bring the case to court.
Despite taking place in that far more prosecution-friendly environment, the grand jury's determination means that the weight of the prosecution's case was too weak to sustain charges. 

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Monday, 24 November 2014

Obama Fires Hagel?

Since the devastating defeat of his party in the midterm elections, Obama has seemed to be more determined than ever to move forward with his unfulfilled goals.
All this offered hope to Democrats who had become disillusioned with Obama for seeming too eager to seek compromise with a Republican Party they feel is hell-bent on obstruction. For too long, many of Obama's supporters believe, he has pushed aside the big issues and adhered to a pragmatic centrism that has damaged his presidency and White House, as well as his party.Within a week, the President announced that the United States and China had agreed to a historic climate change treaty. He made it relatively clear that if the Senate passed the bill authorizing him to make a decision on the Keystone pipeline, he would veto it. He won't have to make the decision, for now, since the Senate voted it down. Then, the President announced he would use his executive power to provide protection to 4-5 million undocumented immigrants.
Now, President Obama has one last chance to get it right. This would not be the first time a president remade himself as the clock ran down on his time in Washington. In his final year, Ronald Reagan transformed himself from being the most hawkish of the Cold War Republicans into the person who brokered a major arms agreement with the Soviet Union.
Can President Obama transform his presidency at this stage? The opportunity is before him. On immigration, the executive order will go a long way to meeting some of the pent-up demand from activists who have been advocating that Washington do something about the uncertainty that so many immigrants and their families have been facing for years.

While the order will surely incite anti-immigration hard-liners, this will simultaneously energize the immigration rights community and mark a clear commitment from this president toward their plight. It could become the first step toward a more rational, efficient and humane policy toward the millions living without full rights within our borders.
Climate change is an issue that President Obama has always cared about very much, but something that he has not felt he had the political strength to make progress on. But now, even without congressional support, he is using the power that he does have to try to move this front and center. The treaty with China would mark a huge breakthrough in the effort to diminish use of fossil fuels.
If he makes a firm decision that he will not authorize the Keystone pipeline, that, too, would be an action that means a great deal to environmental activists who have been fighting the project for years.
Even with a Republican Congress that just says no, President Obama can use the power of the bully pulpit in the coming years to push back against the conservative rhetoric that has emerged against the science of climate change.
Of course, all this is just a start. It will take much more to provide evidence that Obama is serious about remaking his presidency. Too often the President has talked a big game but then backed down in the face of political pressure.
In the coming year, he will have to fight for the middle class, taking seriously the kinds of arguments that have been put forth by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. He can focus on increasing support for public universities and pushing for higher infrastructure funding. He will have to take a stronger stand to protect the right of workers to organize.
As Warren has argued, "Unions have been critical to building a strong middle class in America." He needs to deal with issues like campaign and lobbying reform, which are the only ways to weaken the disproportionate influence of wealthier Americans on political decision making.

Next summer, the President will also have the opportunity to make good on some of his promises from 2008, when he attacked President Bush's approach to counterterrorism. Until now most of the homeland security program has remained intact and the President has not done much to restore the balance between security and civil liberties.Though the administration has continually boasted about the economic recovery, he has to do more to respond to the underlying economic anxiety in the electorate as too many Americans struggle with low wage and insecure jobs.
The lame duck Congress failed to pass a big reform. Next summer when Section 215 of the Patriot Act expires, there will be another chance for change. There have been members of both parties calling on Obama to institute reforms that will curtail the levels of surveillance that are permissible.
Most important would be to end the bulk collection of phone records and allow for more transparency in what the government forces telecommunications providers to give them. President Obama should come down of the side of reform if he wants to show he is serious. To re-energize his supporters, he would need to continue to accelerate the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo to make progress on the unfulfilled promise of his campaign to shut down this facility.
Will we have a new President Obama, someone willing to use all his political power to achieve progress on so many of the promises that have been left behind? Right now a definitive verdict is out. But the President has shown some signs that he is now responding to critics who argue that he must be true to the values of his party and more willing to take a strong, even if controversial stand, for the policies that he once promised would define his presidency.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

President Barack Obama's expansive executive action on immigration is good for the U.S. economy ?

President Barack Obama's expansive executive action on immigration is good for the U.S. economy ? just not as good as partnering with Congress on broader reforms.
Announced Thursday, the executive order would prevent the deportation of about 4 million parents and guardians who lack the same legal status as their children. By gaining work permits, they will likely command higher wages, move more easily between jobs and boost government tax revenues, according to multiple economic analyses.
"This is focused on people who are already in the economy today, who are contributing mightily but are basically operating in the shadows," said Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. "Their economic potential is being held back."
The new order could boost labor income by $6.8 billion, helping to generate 160,000 new jobs and $2.5 billion in additional tax revenues, according to estimates by Hinojosa-Ojeda. The findings dovetail with separate research showing that a 1986 amnesty measure raised incomes for illegal workers in the years that followed.
Still, any gains from the executive action would be modest in the $17 trillion U.S. economy.
White House officials estimate that the executive order would expand gross domestic product less than 0.1 percent a year over the next decades.
Along with the Congressional Budget Office, independent economists say growth would be much stronger with a broader overhaul that would more than double the number of illegal workers eligible for legalized status, in addition to reforms that would attract high-skilled immigrant workers who are more likely to lead and found new companies.
The Senate passed a measure last year to fix the immigration system, but it stalled in the Republican-majority House that favored a step-by-step approach. The CBO estimated the Senate-backed reform would have added another 0.33 percent annually to GDP growth.
The president's order "falls short of a comprehensive reform that would have a more sweeping effect on the economic landscape," said Joel Prakken of the forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers.
More substantial reforms could lift economic growth by an additional 0.24 percent a year ? or about $41 billion ? for the next two decades, according to an analysis that Prakken contributed to last year for the Bipartisan Policy Center. The reforms could also cut the federal debt by $1.2 trillion over the same period, increase home construction, lift wages and add 8.3 million workers to the economy.
A broader overhaul would also create a framework for attracting more immigrants, which would mute the negative economic impacts of an aging population. As more Americans retire, the percentage of the population with jobs has slipped, limiting the ability of the economy to expand.
But the executive order would do little to promote additional immigration, nor would it fully address the concerns of technology companies looking for high-skilled foreigners.
Obama's plan does not raise the current annual limit of 65,000 so-called "H-1B" visas for skilled workers, although he promised to streamline some of the rules governing them. Scientists, engineers and computer programmers all earn higher wages than the comparatively low-paid workers who would be helped by Obama.

Quotation of the Day