Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) appeared with Megyn Kelly on Fox News Wednesday night, to discuss his plans to resist President Obama’s amnesty plans. Although the video posted by Senator Cruz’s office modestly omits Kelly’s introduction, she went out of her way to cite his legal credentials: in addition to sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he “previously served as Solicitor General in the border state of Texas, and has authored more than eighty U.S. Supreme Court briefs, and argued 43 oral arguments, including nine before the U.S. Supreme Court.” He therefore speaks with authority when he says Barack Obama had it right the first twenty-five times he addressed this issue, and said he lacked the imperial powers to impose new immigration laws.
“We are, unfortunately, witnessing a constitutional crisis,” said Cruz. “What President Obama is doing, is he is defying the law, he’s defying the Constitution. You know, the President quite right said, just a few weeks ago, his policies were on the ballot all over the country. This last election was a referendum on amnesty, and the American people overwhelmingly rose up and said ‘No, we don’t want lawless amnesty.’ I’m sorry to say President Obama’s reaction is defiant, and it is angry with the American people.”
Yes, Barack Obama has a pen, a phone, and a burning desire to punish the American people for repudiating him in the midterm elections. His rhetoric denies the significance of the election, and the voters’ rejection of his ideology, but his actions run more toward ensuring the voters can never do something like that again. Hell hath no fury like a lame duck scorned, especially when that lame duck can count on friendly media to cover his back. Speaking of which, we’re going into two solid weeks of network news outlets maintaining a blackout on the Jonathan Gruber revelations, to say nothing of the secondary scandal in which Obama lied shamelessly about his association with the bean-spilling MIT professor. The same press doesn’t seem very upset about the White House feeding them phony talking points about how Reagan and Bush abused executive power to impose amnesty the same way Obama is doing. Congratulations, ladies and gentlemen of the mainstream media! No one keeps the American people misinformed better than you guys.
This media environment will make both components of Cruz’s two-step response to amnesty tough to pull off. Step One involves making the lame-duck years a living hell for Obama: “The new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should stand up and say: ‘If you disregard the Constitution, if you disregard the law, if you issue this executive amnesty the new Congress for the next two years will not confirm a single nomination, judicial or executive, other than vital national security positions, until you end this illegal amnesty.”
That’s a tough stance, and Cruz must know Obama would quickly call the bluff, probably by sending a minority and/or female applicant to the Republicans and flaying them with racism/War on Women rhetoric if they stand firm on the no-confirmation threat. (Say, isn’t there just such a nominee standing by for Attorney General at this very moment?) Republicans would be accused of stubborn intransigence and gridlock, with the media joining the chorus immediately. Within two weeks of the boycott beginning, they would be accused of obsessing over “old news.”
Naturally, Cruz would want to respond by saying Obama is the one forcing the impasse, on an issue where the American people overwhelmingly side with the Republicans. You can already see the White House’s despotic response to that argument, as Kelly put it to Cruz during the interview. Right after the midterm election, Obama bizarrely declared it irrelevant, and said he would draw his authority from his mystical ability to divine the will of the people who didn’t bother to vote. Now the White House is claiming the historic defeat of Democrats was actually an endorsement of the Democrat agenda, because no matter how many members of Obama’s party voters flung upon the ash heap of history, what they really want is “progress”… rammed down their throats, good and hard.
The problem Cruz will face is that the Beltway media culture will blast the President’s loony argument right into Republican faces, and not only will some of them be unable to hear what heartland America is saying over the din, but some of them don’t want to hear anything but Obama’s line on amnesty. Too many members of the Republican establishment either think they’ll go down under a sea of Hispanic voters if they stand against it, or they represent business interests that want open borders. Obama doubtless factored that into his calculations when he decided to pick this fight. It’s another variation on the age-old theme of an aggressive minority making heated demands from a relatively passive majority, whose resistance can be eroded with a variety of distractions and threats. This is the inevitable result of degrading the Constitution, which gave us armor against both the much-discussed “tyranny of the majority”… and the less well-understood tyranny of the minority, which is actually even more of a problem under the kind of centralized mega-state the Founders warned us against tolerating.
Part Two of Cruz’s plan is also going to depend on a stiffness of spine not every Republican has been known to demonstrate: using the power of the purse. “We need to systematically pass appropriations legislation funding the Department of Defense, funding the VA, funding one department after another after another. And then once the vital functions are funded, we need to pass appropriations with riders specifically limiting the power of the Congress and the power of the president to spend money on illegal amnesty.”
Of course, as Ted Cruz knows better than anyone, there has been a determined campaign to erode the power of the purse, moving America toward the elected-dictator model favored by the Left, in which Americans would get one chance every four years to choose between two absolute rulers. The idea that Congress can fight the presidential agenda by defunding it is considered extremely quaint, an intolerable block against Progress and Getting Stuff Done. If this process of dismantling congressional powers in favor of an imperial executive disturbs you, an easy remedy is available: vote a Republican into the White House, particularly someone who might use those executive super-powers to reduce the power of government and take vote-buying money away from the Left… someone like, oh, say, Ted Cruz. All this nonsense about the imperial presidency will end instantly, and mighty hosannas to the powers of Congress – yay, even unto the gridlock-welding blowtorch of the filibuster! – will rise from the Left and its media allies. Everything Obama is saying about the glorious ability of presidents to write laws will be instantly memory-holed, never to be mentioned again. If you really want the separation of powers restored to its full glory, keep Democrats in the minority in both houses of Congress. You’ll get civics lessons from the big papers and broadcast networks every day.
Kelly was not slow to observe that pretty much any significant exercise of purse-power is doomed to end in a shutdown drama. Cruz said that would be a “wrong and irresponsible response,” an irrational “temper tantrum” by the President. Conventional wisdom says Republicans get blamed for all shutdown battles. Cruz is ready to put that wisdom to the test. We can only hope the rest of the Republican leadership is ready to stand with him, and they can get their message past the media filter. I’ve always thought the leadership was foolish to abandon Cruz and flagellate itself before the high priests of Beltway media after the last installment of Shutdown Theater; maybe they’ll consider the results of the midterm elections, look at the poll numbers opposing amnesty, meditate upon Obama’s cellar-dwelling approval ratings, think about how helpful Democrat control of the Senate was to shaping the last shutdown narrative, and conclude this is good ground for a battle to restore the power of the purse.
It really is a battle worth fighting, because with every check against executive power removed – save for the partisan disdain of Beltway media culture, and the ability of our bloated government to reflexively defend itself from the use of executive power to reduce its size and wealth – we would find ourselves in a truly post-American nation, ruled under a philosophy of government completely alien to our traditions. Some very bad ideas crossed our borders long before the latest wave of illegal immigrants.