The Washington Post Fact Checker column has given out a rare upside-down Pinocchio to President Obama for flip-flopping on his promise not to take executive action on immigration reform, and to wait for Congress to change the law.
“Well, actually, my position hasn’t changed.”
–President Obama, news conference at conclusion of G20 summit, Brisbane, Australia, Nov. 16, 2014
That apparently changes tonight when Obama is expected to announce his intention to issue an executive order that could shield as many as five million illegal aliens from deportation, guaranteeing a fight with Congress over his ability to rewrite laws without their consent.
In an interview with Noticias Telemundo on September 17, 2013, Obama said in response to a question about freezing deportations that his job was to carry out the laws Congress passed and that the only way to change the law was through Congress:
Here’s the problem that I have, Jose, and I have said this consistently. My job in the executive branch is to carry out the laws that are passed. Congress has said, here’s the law when it comes to those who are undocumented, and they allocate a whole bunch of money for enforcement. What I have been able to do is make a legal argument that I think is absolutely right, which is that given the resources we have, we can’t do everything that Congress has asked us to do. What we can do is then carve out the DREAM Act folks….
But if we start broadening that, then essentially, I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that’s not an option. I do get a little worried that advocates of immigration reform start losing heart and immediately thinking, well, somehow there’s an out here—that if Congress doesn’t act, we will just have the President sign something and that will take care of it, and we won’t have to worry about it. What I have said is that there is a path to get this done and that is through Congress.
In other interviews on this issue, the Post’s Fact Checker column points out that Obama has stood by this position by stating that he isn’t an emperor or king, and his job is to execute the laws that Congress has passed, which he is planning on usurping with tonight’s announcement.
Yet even The Washington Post editorial board is skeptical of Obama’s actions:
Mr. Obama may find a constitutional way to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws. But in his frustration with democracy, he is likely to prove his point: Unilateralism will not make the system work.
So much for Obama’s pledge to work with Congress on immigration reform:
The Pinocchio Test
The president has certainly been consistent on this issue—until he saw that the path through Congress was blocked. It’s clear from the interviews that the president was not being asked about executive orders that would have provided comprehensive immigration reform, but about specific actions that ended deportations of a subset of illegal immigrants—precisely the type of action he will shortly unveil.
Previously he said that was not possible, using evocative language that he is not a “king” or “the emperor.” Apparently he’s changed his mind. The president earns an upside-down Pinocchio for his flip-flop.