By Michael Barone
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Iraq, immigration, inversion. On all three of the issues referred to, President Obama finds himself forced by events to do something he dislikes — and he’s in trouble with much of his Democratic-party base for doing so.
Obama seemed ill at ease before the camera and teleprompter on the evening of September 10th. Sending troops into Iraq and Syria is probably the last thing he expected to do when he set out running for president in 2007.
He still insists that he will send in “no ground troops,” though it appears that hundreds of U.S. military personnel are literally on the ground in Iraq. He seems still not to understand that publicly ruling out an alternative means that your enemies know your plans — and can take advantage of them.
But that’s not enough to propitiate at least some Democrats who supported Obama fervently because they believed he would remove U.S. troops from the Middle East and never send them back there.
One of his chief advantages over Hillary Clinton in 2008 was her vote for the Iraq War resolution in 2002 and Obama’s opposition to it, albeit as a state senator from an overwhelmingly Democratic district.
In the late 1960s, Democrats switched from being the more hawkish of our two parties, more likely to support military interventions and commitments, to being the more dovish. Visceral opposition to military action, and suspicion that even the most limited such action will lead to massive war, is deeply implanted in many Democratic voters.
You can expect, therefore, a skittish reaction to Obama’s announcement of a military escalation from senatorial and congressional candidates in states with dovish Democratic electorates such as Colorado and Iowa. We may also see depressed turnout of Democratic doves all over the country in November.
It is apparent that Obama’s decision to take military action against the Islamic State, however limited, came despite his deep-seated feelings and was forced on him by events. American voters do not take kindly to videotaped beheadings of Americans. It unleashes a Jacksonian impulse to wipe the people who do these things off the face of the earth.
Obama, like his predecessor, likes to depict Islam as a religion of peace. An unhappily large number of Muslims, however, have other ideas. Their aggression and immunity to appeasement have forced the president to take actions that he, like many of his fellow Democrats, abhors.
On immigration, Obama has found himself again forced to disappoint a core constituency. On June 30, he met with immigration advocates — that is to say, heads of groups that favor legalization of large numbers of illegal immigrants.
He let them know, and authorized his aides to let the world know, that he intended to issue by summer’s end an executive order legalizing perhaps as many as 10 million. He did so even though there’s videotape of him telling Univision in March 2011 that such an order would “ignore” laws passed by Congress and to “ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.”
Obama’s breathtaking willingness to signal an intention to violate his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the law drew some unfavorable but muted attention. But it gained more attention as tens of thousands of underage (and adult) illegal migrants from Central America started streaming across the Rio Grande.
That vast movement undercut the argument that legalizing one group of illegals would not create incentives for more to cross the border. Now Obama says he won’t act till after November’s election, if then, leaving legalization advocates “bitterly disappointed in the president and Democrats.”
Iraq and immigration are familiar issues. Inversions — merging companies seeking foreign domiciles to partially avoid the U.S. 35 percent corporate tax — are not. Inversions happen because the U.S. has the world’s highest corporate tax rate, a problem even Obama has said should be fixed.
But he has made no serious attempt at negotiating reform with the willing chairmen of the tax-writing committees. So instead, Democrats are demagoguing “unpatriotic” corporations and threatening to re-tax transactions going back to 1994.
Unfortunately for them, as three Politico reporters conclude, “the issue has turned out to be pretty much a massive dud.” The fact that Obama supporter Warren Buffett financed the Burger King-Tim Hortons inversion didn’t help.
On Iraq, immigration, and inversion, events have forced Obama into embarrassing reversals that disillusion his base and leave others unconvinced. Hope and change?