Brooks and Dionne on Obama’s immigration plan and what’s next

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    And we return to New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne

    E.J., you just heard what Darrell Issa said. Were you surprised at any of that?

  • E.J. DIONNE, The Washington Post:

    I wasn't, except I just — I was very surprised by this 33-page Justice Department report he put out, because the president was very careful to have Eric Holder do a lot of work, the attorney general, over the coming months.

    He didn't do everything he wanted to do here because he wanted to stay within the confines of the law. I think the Republicans face a real problem. There are a lot of people in the party who realize that, if the party goes way out and threatens shutdowns or anything like that, they will be causing themselves a lot of damage.

    So I think it's watching how they respond to this that's going to be a very big part of this story.


    David, going into the speech, you said the president was making a mistake. After listening to the arguments that he made, did he persuade you? Do you think he will he persuade the doubters, the critics?

  • DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times:

    He made zero germane arguments.

    The issue is not over what — the problem and what should be done for these people. The substance wasn't the issue. Most people agree with him on the substance. The issue is why he's doing it and how he's doing it, the unilateral way he's doing it, and I think probably the unconstitutional way he's doing it.

    First, we had an opportunity to have at least a small honeymoon, where Washington sort of functioned on small bills. That's now out the window because he picked the most confrontational thing to lead with. He was perfectly happy to delay this during the campaign, when it might hurt him politically. Now he suddenly throws it out front to be most confrontational.

    Second, he's ratcheting the use of executive authority, this unilateral access. The one line in this speech about process is, if you don't like this, pass a bill. Well, suppose a future Republican president says, you don't like my decision not to enforce Obamacare or the Civil Rights Act, pass a bill that I like.

    This is not how this system works. We have compromise. We have alternate voices. We have a legislative process. We don't not have unilateral action by the White House.


    E.J., given this flood of disagreement we heard from Congressman Issa, we have heard what Robert Costa is describing, is the White House prepared to act, to deal in this atmosphere of just overwhelming opposition?

  • E.J. DIONNE:

    Well, it's — we don't know if it's overwhelming opposition.

    We know that Republicans are saying — David used the term unconstitutional. There's nothing unconstitutional about what he's doing. He's doing exactly what Presidents Reagan and Bush did, who provided relief to a million-and-a-half illegal immigrants.

    And I think the president really put it right on the table. Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents' arms or are we a nation that honors the family? And I think this debate has to be brought back to the people, the 3.7 million people who will helped by the provision that is trying to keep families together.

    And I think that's where the president is going to keep trying to move this debate. Think about what our government is doing to people.


    Can that debate, can this go back to that part that E.J. is talking about, as long as there is such unhappiness about the process?



    No, on this — on how the people are being treated, I'm totally with E.J.

    But we have a system of government that people don't believe in anymore, because it's dysfunctional and people are just taking unilateral action and not listening to each other. This is another example. I think, politically, the president hopes that if he punches the Republicans in the face, they will do something incredibly stupid and shut down the government or do something insane, and then he will politically benefit.

    But that just puts us back in the tit for tat, extremely partisan, you hit me, I hit you. We wait for the other person to mess up.


    What should the president be doing instead?


    Well, I wish he would be consistent, A, with his 2008 campaign, trying to rise above this.

    And I wish he would be consistent with his 2008-2011 belief that this was not a legal thing to do.


    And we don't think that the Latino support for this is going to override any of this?

  • E.J. DIONNE:

    Oh, I think the Latino support is going to will be important.

    Most Republicans don't have big Latino constituencies. But I think it's better to do something than just wait and wait and wait, which is what he was doing for the Republicans.


    Thank you, E.J. Dionne. Thank you, David Brooks.