Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele appeared on msnbc yesterday, and when host Alex Wagner asked what kind of advice he’d give his party’s leaders in Congress, Steele offered some sound advice. “The first would be, ‘Get a grip,’” he said.
Steele’s comments came to mind after reading this report published last night by USA Today.
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn warns there could be not only a political firestorm but acts of civil disobedience and even violence in reaction to President Obama’s executive order on immigration Thursday.“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation,” Coburn said on Capital Download. “You’re going to see – hopefully not – but you could see instances of anarchy. … You could see violence.”
The far-right senator went on to say, “Here’s how people think: Well, if the law doesn’t apply to the president … then why should it apply to me?”
It’s hard to know what to make of such an odd perspective. If Coburn is correct, why weren’t there similar outbursts of anarchy and violence when Presidents Reagan and Bush took very similar executive actions? If the masses are so deeply concerned about separation of powers and the often-ambiguous lines surrounding executive authority, wouldn’t we have seen instances of pandemonium before?
As a practical matter, I’m not even sure how this would work. The Obama administration has limited resources, so it appears likely to prioritize deportations for criminals who entered the country illegally. So, in Coburn’s vision, anti-immigrant activists will become violent, perhaps literally rioting in the street, until more unobtrusive families are broken up?
Brian Beutler reminded Republicans overnight that “just because right-wingers are blind with rage doesn’t mean Obama’s immigration action is illegal.”
It turns out that the laws on the books actually don’t say what you might think they say. Other presidents have discovered this, too. And since nobody wants to write a “maybe I should’ve asked some lawyers first” mea culpa column, they shifted the debate from the terrain of laws to the murkier terrain of political precedent, norms, and procedure. […]What’s new is that Republicans have perfected a strategy of rejectionism with the help of a media amplification infrastructure—Fox News, Drudge, Limbaugh—that the left hasn’t adopted and doesn’t yet enjoy. Rather than simply fight to reverse the policy in Congress and on the campaign trail—as liberals do when Republicans weaken environmental enforcement—the right can also now scream “Caesar!” without reference to any objective standards, and get a full hearing.
“Get a grip,” indeed.