Russ Douthat: ‘Domestic Caesarism’ ‘Lawless, Reckless, a Leap into the Antidemocratic Dark’


This NYT column by Russ Douthat–rarely one to stir the pot– is the talk of talking-heads this weekend. Douthat writes:

…Over the last month… an entire apocalyptic fund-raising campaign has been built around the specter of a House impeachment vote.

Anyone paying attention knows that no such impeachment plan is currently afoot. So taken on its own, the impeachment chatter would simply be an unseemly, un-presidential attempt to raise money and get out the 2014 vote…Obama-incandescent

“The president is contemplating — indeed, all but promising — an extraordinary abuse of office.”

…Beyond a certain point, as the president himself has conceded in the past, selective enforcement of our laws amounts to a de facto repeal of their provisions. And in this case the de facto repeal would aim to effectively settle — not shift, but settle — a major domestic policy controversy on the terms favored by the White House.

[White House Double-Speak – Obama on DREAM Act: Can’t “just change the laws unilaterally” Transcript]

[Not seeing the big picture – To improve its standing with voters, the White House tries to drum up some trouble for itself – Time]

“This is the tone of the media right now: The president may get the occasional rebuke for impeachment-baiting, but what the White House wants to do on immigration is assumed to be reasonable, legitimate, within normal political bounds.”

[Setting the Table: Pfeiffer: ‘The President Has No Choice but to Act’]

“It is not: It would be lawless, reckless, a leap into the antidemocratic dark.”

…This simply does not happen in our politics. Presidents are granted broad powers over foreign policy, and they tend to push the envelope substantially in wartime. But domestic power grabs are usually modest in scope, and executive orders usually work around the margins of hotly contested issues.

[More – Obama’s Immigration Decisions Will Shape Both Parties for Years to Come – National Journal]

In defense of going much, much further, the White House would doubtless cite the need to address the current migrant surge, the House Republicans’ resistance to comprehensive immigration reform and public opinion’s inclination in its favor.

But all three points are spurious. A further amnesty would, if anything, probably incentivize further migration, just as Obama’s previous grant of legal status may well have done. The public’s views on immigration are vaguely pro-legalization — but they’re also malleable, complicated and, amid the border crisis, trending rightward. And in any case we are a republic of laws, in which a House majority that defies public opinion is supposed to be turned out of office, not simply overruled by the executive.

What’s more, given that the Democrats controlled Congress just four years ago and conspicuously failed to pass immigration reform, it’s especially hard to see how Republican intransigence now somehow justifies domestic Caesarism…(read more)

One Comment on “Russ Douthat: ‘Domestic Caesarism’ ‘Lawless, Reckless, a Leap into the Antidemocratic Dark’”

  1. Mike says:

    The trick is to run Obama so far to the Left that Hillary… whatever Socialist is offered up… will appear to be a ‘reasonable’ and ‘rational’ alternative for Liberals to get behind come 2016. I continue to believe this is where Podesta fits in and why he was called back.

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