Ruth Marcus: Obama "Was Acting In A Way To Restore Some Faith In The Ability Of Government To Rectify Injustices"


RUTH MARCUS, WASHINGTON POST: Well, it’s hard these days to vote against gridlock in Washington. Nobody ever went broke voting on the theory that we’re going to have more gridlock.

And so I think David is right on that. On the immigration front, I think I see it slightly differently than David, which is I thought the president made two very powerful points last night. The first is the humanitarian point on the implications of just allowing this situation to fester, which both of us obviously feel is a problem.

The second is to put what he did in context of what presidents, Republican and Democrat, have done before on immigration. And so there I think you’re a little bit overstating the case of the president overstepping his executive authority.

And the final important thing that happened yesterday wasn’t what the president said, but what he did, because they didn’t just have the 10 legal scholars. And we can argue about how many legal scholars each side has. They put out a memo from the Office of Legal Counsel explaining and supporting the legality of what the president did.

That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I have some concerns along the lines of what David has about what I call the constitutional prudence of what he did. I have fewer doubts about the legality. My concern is what future presidents are going to β€” how future presidents are going to use this precedent to do other things, to ignore other laws.

But, on immigration, maybe the time just had to come to act.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David, should more to have the focus be on the constitutional question and legality, or should more of the focus be, OK, it’s happened, let’s deal with it politically?


Well, first, I think it should be on the Constitution. As I say, the number one issue β€” there are two issues. One is the substance of the status of the five million people who are affected. And on the substance, I’m totally with the president on that.

But the larger issue is, do people have faith in the government, does our government function, does our legislative process function? And the Constitution is not just a legal argument. It is a set of norms and practices. And it’s also β€” it’s a political document. And it seems to me that what the president did violated the spirit of the politics of that document, which is that we go through the legislative process.

RUTH MARCUS: But in terms of faith in government, David, I guess I just have to argue with you a little bit, though I share your concerns.

When people see government not functioning, their concern is not what the checks and balances are between the branches. Maybe it should be. Their concern is, there is a problem, there is an injustice, there is a health care portal that doesn’t work. We want to see that work. There are people flowing through the border.

It’s not β€” they want government to act and act effectively. Here, I think, you could make an argument that the president was acting in a way to restore some faith in the ability of government to rectify injustices.

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