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The Ruling of the Court and the Rule of the People

The crucial chore of eliminating Obamacare, and preserving our rights as free men and women, is up to the people now. In a better world the Constitution would protect us from such outrageous expansions of governmental power, but not in this one. Not after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday that the deceptively named Affordable Care Act, better known to the public as Obamacare, is constitutional.

The majority decision for the surprise ruling argues that the act’s “individual mandate” — the requirement that citizens purchase government-approved health insurance or pay a fine — is tantamount to a tax, and is therefore valid because the Constitution grants government the power of taxation. Some conservatives have concluded that the court has given hope for future decisions limiting government power by offering such a circuitous rationale, rather than allowing the law to stand based on a more permissive interpretation of the commerce clause, and one can hope they are right, but future decisions that allow such expansions of government authority on the basis of the power to tax will still be allowing unrestricted government. Nor does the argument change the fact that the immediate consequence of the decision is that the government is allowed to restrict the rights of its citizens in ways that are certain to make the health care system more expensive and less effective.

Defining the individual mandate as a tax does offer one consolation, though, as it should offer much help in the political effort to repeal the disastrous the health care reform law. Obama won election on an oft-repeated promise that no one making less than $250,000 a year would see any new taxes or tax increases, and had famously argued with a television interviewer that the individual mandate did not violate his pledge because it is not a tax, but he now has to run for re-election with his name attached to an historically large tax increase that falls mostly on the middle class or concede that the bill is only constitutional by virtue of a fallacious argument.

The ruling also pushes Obama’s consistently unpopular signature achievement back into the political debate, with a timely reminder of its many faults. Anger toward the bill was a major reason that the Democrats suffered huge losses in the 2010 mid-term elections, and since that time the Congressional Budget Office has found it to be vastly more expensive than previously supposed, its CLASS program for assisted living has been scrapped because of the very reasons its critics had predicted, and insurance costs have steadily risen, so the issue could prove even more effective this time around.

While it would have been a good thing for the Court to establish a firm legal principle that the government cannot compel Americans to purchase products or services against their will, establishing the same rule at the ballot box might be even more effective. The judgment of the people has always settled issues more permanently than the opinions of five Justices, as the ongoing battles over the 39-year-old Roe v. Wade decision demonstrates, and it is possible that it might settle this one correctly.

It is of the utmost importance, however, that restraining the government’s lust for power happen one way or the other. The reason Thursday’s ruling came as a surprise to most observers is that the oral arguments had gone so badly for the government’s lawyer, especially when he was asked what limits on government power would exist if the Constitution somehow countenanced the individual mandate. There’s still no good answer to that question, and it certainly cannot be found in the Court’s decision.

— Bud Norman

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Too Hot For Politics

It’s summertime, when the living is supposed to be easy, and this is usually the slow news season when politics and other matters of national importance are supplanted in all the papers by stories about bath salt-crazed cannibals, natural disasters, and celebrity sex scandals. Not this summer, though, as the politics continues unabated.

This hot and hazy Thursday brings two stories that would dominate the front pages at any time of year, as the Supreme Court will unveil its long-awaited ruling on Obamacare and the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on holding the Attorney General of the United States in contempt of Congress. Both stories will drag out over the rest of the summer, regardless of what news today brings, and will inspire seemingly endless arguments and analysis.

Much of the analysis will concern how the developments affect the ongoing presidential race, which has been constantly intruding into the news. Presidential campaigns once took time off after the primaries and didn’t begin in earnest until the conventions, but like so many other worthy traditions that schedule has fallen by the wayside. One can also expect any number of unforeseen developments to command the attention of the civic-minded throughout the summer, too, including foreign crises, economic calamities, and assorted scandals.

The relentlessness of the political news is wearying, even for those of us who find it fascinating, and offers yet another argument for conservatism. A properly limited government wouldn’t require the constant attention of its citizens, and would allow time for such happier pursuits as baseball, lawn work, and addressing all of the problems that government hopes to solve but usually winds up exacerbating. Politics has insinuated itself into almost everything, but it should at least take the summers off.

— Bud Norman

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Just a few months back, which somehow seems a very long time ago, one of our liberal friends was giddily explaining to us why Barack Obama was certain to win re-election by a landslide. He had various reasons for his optimism, but most of it was based on the assumption that Obama was going to raise a billion dollars of campaign funding and overwhelm his opposition with advertising.

We were skeptical of that billion dollar figure, even though it was being bandied about in all the news media and was an article of faith in liberal circles, but conceded that Obama would likely be able to outspend his opponent. Now it appears that the vaunted Obama fund-raising machine won’t be able to match the efforts of Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and even Obama admits it.

The latest fund-raising figures haven’t yet been disclosed, but there is ample evidence that the Obama isn’t bringing in the amounts of money that had been expected by his giddy supporters. A major convention event planned for the enormous Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina has reportedly been cancelled for lack of funds, and even a small event in tiny Durham, New Hampshire, created a public relations mess for the campaign when it tried to stick the cash-strapped locals with a $20,000 tab for security costs. The campaign’s efforts to woo donors are becoming conspicuously desperate, with resort to such widely ridiculed gimmicks as “I’m Out For Obama” t-shirts for sale to homosexual supporters and hoodies emblazoned with the campaign logo for sale to the thug-American voting bloc, raffles to have dinner with the president or the hilariously snooty Anna Wintour and her high-fashion friends, and an “Obama Registry” that invites people to make a campaign donation in lieu of a wedding gift.

These difficulties should not be surprising. Obama’s last campaign was largely financed by Wall Street financiers and big businesses, despite a popular myth that he was able to vastly out-spend John McCain’s low-budget campaign because of all the idealistic young hipsters who decided to forego a café latte in order to send a small donation, and many of those former deep-pocket donors have grown understandably weary of being pilloried in presidential speeches, threatened with new taxes, and subject to ever more regulations. The public sector unions are as enthusiastic about Obama as ever, but they’ve lately been losing members and membership dues, and have already spent much of their war chest on a losing effort to unseat Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Many of those small donors have probably changed their minds about Obama or simply aren’t able to afford either campaign contributions or café lattes. The entertainment industry is still donating generously, but all that hobnobbing with the glitterati will also make it harder for Obama to argue that his opponent is an out-of-touch rich guy who doesn’t relate to the common man.

Should Mitt Romney wind up with more money in his campaign’s account, expect Obama and his supporters to wax outraged about the evil influence of money on the democratic process. When they do, remember that they weren’t so concerned about it just a few months ago when it was widely assumed that they’d have the financial advantage.

— Bud Norman

Middle Eastern Deja Vu

There’s something eerily familiar about what’s going on in Egypt.

After finishing his 101st round of presidential golf on Sunday Barack Obama made a phone call to congratulate the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi on being officially declared the winner of Egypt’s first presidential election. Having done much to make Morsi’s election possible by withdrawing American support from longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak, Obama told the new Egyptian leader that he looks forward to “working together.”

Readers of a certain age will recall when President Jimmy Carter, motivated by a similarly high-minded idealism, withdrew America’s longstanding support for the Shah of Iran and thus ushered in the Islamist rule of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Although Khomeini made no secret of his harsh theocratic philosophy and strident anti-Americanism, Carter’s ambassador to the United Nations hailed the new dictator as a “kind of saint,” American ambassador to Iran William Sullivan called Khomeini a “Gandhi-like figure,” and White House advisor Bill James described the Ayatollah as a man of “impeccable integrity and honesty.” Numerous western intellectuals, including Michael Foucault, Jean Paul-Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, also welcomed the Ayatollah’s rise to power.

History quickly made such intellectuals look foolish, of course. One of the new Iranian government’s first acts was to seize the American embassy and holds its staff hostage, a prolonged ordeal that did much to cause Carter’s departure from office, and Iran has been brutalizing its own people, fomenting Islamist uprisings, sponsoring terrorist organizations, arming anti-American insurgencies, waging wars against its neighbors, and basically tormenting the international community in general and America in particular ever since. Iran is now working diligently to build nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, so the worst of their mischief is most likely yet to come.

Morsi’s rise to power isn’t precisely the same as the Khomeini’s, but it’s close enough to be worrisome. Egypt’s new leader lacks the charismatic appeal of the Ayatollah, but Egypt is Arab and Sunni rather than Persian and Shiite and thus has the potential to be a more influential model for Islamist revolution. The military council that maintained Mubarak’s often ruthless rule will continue to assert power, but it will have to allow the country to become more Islamist in order to appease the massive crowds that are still jamming Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The new government coalition of the military and the Muslim Brotherhood will be forced to address the country’s dire economic conditions, but when they inevitably fail they will likely fall back on the time-honored Middle Eastern tradition of finding scapegoats and launching distracting conflicts with the rest of the world.

Much of the global news media and numerous western intellectuals are insisting that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is now a moderate, even secular, organization. This is a dangerous combination of wishful thinking and that peculiar occidental guilt that romanticizes dysfunctional third world cultures, and ignores the Muslim Brotherhood’s clearly stated theocratic agenda. The president, the press and all those western intellectuals are going to look foolish again, and one can only hope that they’re not tragically wrong.

— Bud Norman

Fast, Furious, Fercockta

An upcoming House vote on holding Attorney General Eric in contempt of Congress has forced reluctant news media to belatedly explain the Fast and Furious scandal, but so far no one has offered a satisfactory explanation of what the heck those government agents were thinking when they launched the now-infamous “botched law enforcement operation.” We don’t know, either, but offer the following scenario, an entirely fictitious account first presented as a skit at the annual Gridiron show, as one possibility.

(Scene opens at a hearing of a Senate investigating committee, with Senators Forehead, Cheeks, Chin and Lips seated at a table. Across from them is Chip Wilson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.)

SEN. FOREHEAD: This session of the Senate’s investigation into Operation Fast and Furious will now come to order. Our first witness is Mr. Chip Wilson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the man who devised this program. Mr. Wilson, could you please tell us what Operation Fast and Furious was all about?

WILSON: Certainly, Senator. Operation Fast and Furious was a program carried out by the BATF under the auspices of our supervisory agency, the Department of Justice. Basically, the program involved our facilitating the sale of more than 2,000 guns, grenades, and other weapons to various Mexican drug gangs.

SEN. FOREHEAD: You purposely helped in the sale of 2,000 guns, grenades, and other weapons to Mexican drug gangs?

SEN. CHEEKS: I’m sorry, Mr. Wilson, but I have to ask you this. Why on earth would you ever facilitate the sale of more than 2,000 guns, grenades, and other weapons to Mexican drug gangs?

WILSON: We wanted to see if anything bad would happen.

SEN. CHIN: Good lord, man, those guns have been linked to more than 200 murders. I think it’s fair to say that something bad did happen.

WILSON: Yes, and now we know. In that regard, at least, I think the operation has to be considered an unqualified success.

SEN. CHIN: Mr. Wilson, one of the murder victims was an American immigration agent. Several Mexican policemen and government officials were also killed.

WILSON: With all due respect, Senator, I don’t think it’s productive to quibble over who’s responsible for whose bloody murder. The important thing is that we now have definitive proof that Mexican drug gangs are not the kind of people you want to be selling heavy weaponry to. If you don’t think that’s important, Senator, well, frankly, I’m disappointed by how very incurious you are.

SEN. LIPS: Mr. Wilson, I am shocked that this cockamamie operation of yours ever won approval from the Department of Justice. When did Attorney General Holder learn of this?

WILSON: I recall that Attorney General Holder testified before this very committee that he learned of it in May of 2011, so I’ll go with that.

SEN. LIPS: We have e-mails from you and other officials discussing this matter with him that are dated well before that.

WILSON: Hmm.

SEN. FOREHEAD: What I’d like to know, Mr. Wilson, is how a person such as yourself ever wound up an employee of a federal agency.

WILSON: Well, Senator, ever since I was a kid there was nothing I loved more than drinkin’, smokin’ and shootin’ off guns. So when I heard that there was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, well, it seemed a good fit. I soon discovered that I had been somewhat misled by the name about the kind of work they do there, but by then I was a government employee, and as you know, there was no getting rid of me at that point.

SEN. CHEEKS: Mr. Wilson, do you have any professional or academic credentials for your job?

WILSON: Well … KU. Senator, if it makes you feel any better, I have recently accepted a reassignment and will be leaving my current post.

SEN. FOREHEAD: Well, I’m sure we can all be grateful for that.

WILSON: Yes, I’m taking over the administration of the new health care program. It should be very interesting to see what might go wrong there.

— Bud Norman

In God We Trust, the Rest of You Not So Much

We right-wingers grouse mostly about the government, and tend to wax enthusiastic about the virtues of the private sector, but deep in our conservatives souls we know that almost every segment of our civilization is decline. A new poll from the Gallup organization, which measured how much trust Americans place in 16 important institutions, suggests that the view is widely shared.

Only the military fared especially well, with 75 percent of the respondents saying they trusted it “a great deal” or “quite a lot” and only 6 percent saying they trust it very little or not at all. The armed forces have traditionally been highly esteemed in Gallup’s annual survey, but scored an unusually high favorability rating this year. We suspect the military’s public image has lately benefited not only from its heroic efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, but also because the media tend to treat its inevitable missteps more calmly when the Commander in Chief is from the right party.

Small business enjoys a respectable approval rating of 63 percent, with only 6 percent saying they trust it little or not at all, but that likely reflects a romanticized notion of the humble mom-and-pop store. Many small businesses are lousy, of course, and in some cases the proprietors are also lousy parents, but they’re rarely portrayed as villains in the popular culture and the failings of a small business are not big news. The police are trusted a great deal by 56 percent and not trusted at all by only 16 percent, which is not bad for an institution that hands out speeding tickets, but there are almost certainly some police forces out there that are bringing down the average.

Organized religion is trusted a great deal by only 44 percent of Americans, with 26 percent saying they trust it very little or not at all. Those numbers probably overstate how secularized America has become, as the non-trusting category will include many evangelicals who regard the mainline churches as too squishy and many mainline congregants who regard the evangelicals as too rigid, but it does suggest that Americans realize that the churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples have all failed in their mission of inculcating moral behavior.

The medical system fares even worse, with only 41 percent expressing a great deal of trust, a 2 percent decline from last year, and 26 percent having little or no trust in the institution. It is not surprising that the government’s efforts at reforming the medical system have not improved its standing, given that the presidency and the Supreme Court are even less trusted, with only 37 percent having a great deal of trust in either institution, and a full 36 percent having very little or no trust in the presidency. The public schools and the criminal justice system, two institutions that are increasingly intertwined, are trusted a great deal by only 29 percent of Americans. Newspapers are trusted a great deal by a mere 25 percent of Americans, television news by 21 percent, and it’s likely that most of those are products of the public schools.

Banks and big business are trusted by only 21 percent, which is not surprising given the way they have been demonized in the pop culture for the past many decades, but organized labor is trusted by the same low number of Americans despite a sustained propaganda campaign, so it’s hard to guess who people will be rooting for in a strike. Health maintenance organizations, which we had previously assumed were part of the medical system, are trusted a great deal by only 19 percent of Americans, perhaps because there are no mom-and-pop HMOs.

Congress comes in last, as it has every year regardless of which party holds the majorities, and with both parties currently reigning in one chamber there is now something for every to distrust, but the 13 percent of respondents who have a great deal of trust is nonetheless a damning number.

All of these results suggest that Americans are a suspicious lot, perhaps even more so than is healthy, but they also indicate that many of our institutions are not very trustworthy. Reversing the country’s decline will require major changes in our government, but it will also require major changes in the broader culture, and we can’t trust the government to do that.

— Bud Norman

Faster and Furiouser

This Fast and Furious business keeps getting worse for the Obama administration.

A House oversight committee voted on Wednesday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over requested documents about the “gun-walking” fiasco, and it’s likely that next week the full House will do the same. Most Americans hold Congress in some degree of contempt, and Holder’s invocation of executive privilege raises the sort of complicated legal issues that send the average voter in search of a celebrity sex scandal or a box score, but the story should nonetheless undermine public confidence in the president and his appointees to some extent.

A contempt of Congress vote is the sort of thing that the major media outlets feel obliged to report on, no matter how much they’d prefer to ignore it, and in this case it will require that they give their readers and viewers some background information about the Fast and Furious operation. A government program that provided Mexican drug gangs with thousands of weapons and resulted in the death of an American law enforcement agent and hundreds of Mexicans apparently is the sort of that major media outlets don’t feel obliged to report on, at least not during a Democratic administration, and even the fact that an Attorney General’s sworn testimony was contradicted by documents  got little play in the news, so many Americans will be hearing the basic facts of the scandal for the first time. None of those facts reflect well on the administration, nor do any of them have anything whatsoever to do with Republican nominee Mitt Romney, so the best that the Obama campaign and its media allies can hope for is to limit the damage.

Holder’s refusal to turn over the documents is seemingly part of the damage control effort, but it will inevitably raise suspicions about what it is that he doesn’t want the public to know. Given how very embarrassing the already known facts are, and the political cost of provoking a contempt vote that puts the tragic story into prominent play, the obvious conclusion is that the documents are pretty darned damning.

The rest of the Democrats’ responses seem similarly counter-productive. The ever-loyal Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is blaming the Bush administration, even after Holder’s Justice Department officially gave up on that ploy, while other Democratic apologists are blaming the controversy on Republican racism, even though the charge necessarily implies that the death of a couple hundred Mexicans is no big deal. We suspect that many Americans are already weary of hearing Bush and racism offered as excuses for the administration’s failings, and in this case it will likely prove especially grating.

Scandals that don’t directly affect the average voter’s pocketbook rarely prove decisive in an election, even when the major news media are inclined to stoke public outrage, but this one can only hurt the president’s chances. It will be hard to argue that same people who ran the Fast and Furious operation should be entrusted to run the economy.

— Bud Norman

Hazy Memoirs

We haven’t yet had the opportunity to acquire David Maraniss’ much ballyhooed new book, “Barack Obama: The Story,” but we have already seen so many excerpts, summaries, snippets, and reviews that there might not be any point in reading it. The most interesting aspect of this biography, it seems, is how often it differs from the subject’s autobiography.

Maraniss is an editor for The Washington Post, and his past books about Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Newt Gingrich also suggest he’s the sort of liberal who intended to present an appealing portrait of Obama, but he inevitably wound up with something far less flattering than Obama’s literary self-portrait. There might be plenty of adulatory material in the lengthy tome, but what’s been offered in advance has mostly provided the president’s growing number of critics with something to chuckle about.

There’s the composite girlfriend, for instance. In his youthful memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” Obama recalled taking a white girlfriend to a Broadway play expressing black rage and being frustrated by her inability to understand why “black people were so angry all the time.” Maraniss interviewed the women that Obama dated while he lived in New York, found no one who could confirm the story, and Obama later conceded that the girlfriend was a fictional character derived from several women he had dated. We rather like the idea of a composite girlfriend, as most real ones tend to be more trouble than they are worth, but we cannot fathom why Obama would invent one to have such tedious post-theater arguments with.

Race also figured in Obama’s literary recollections of his high school basketball career, as he blamed his lack of playing time on the coach’s aversion to the “black” style of play that Obama favored. Maraniss’ research found that most objective observers of the team believed that Obama simply wasn’t as good as the other players, and he even discovered that the white player who beat out the future president for a starting position went on to play Division I college basketball. The discrepancy between Obama’s assessment of his talent and his actual talent is not of particular importance, and is typical of former high school athletes, but the tendency to blame his failures on racism has proved problematic even in adulthood.

The big news in the United Kingdom is that Obama’s Kenyan grandfather apparently was not tortured by the British for helping the Mau-Mau rebellion, as the president had written in “Dreams From My Father.” Maraniss found no records of the grandfather’s detainment, and interviewed several people who knew the grandfather that denied the story and gave convincing reasons that it did not happen. The Brits had long supposed that the grandfather’s unhappy experience with the UK was the reason for Obama’s apparent antipathy to their country, and are now left wondering what they really did to offend him.

Although “Dreams From My Father” was lavishly praised by reviewers and did much to create the excessive enthusiasm that many liberals had for Obama’s presidential campaign, we always felt that it made a strong argument against its author. The book frankly concedes that Obama was a wasted youth during his wasted youth, that he sought out the company of “Marxist professors” and other radicals throughout his education, that his career was a community organizer was almost entirely ineffectual, and it even provided the Obama-ate-a-dog story that negated the Romney-put-a-dog-on-his-car-roof story. Finding out that even such an embarrassing memoir isn’t as embarrassing as the truth is just too much fun.

— Bud Norman

A World of Trouble

Americans are notoriously indifferent to what’s going on in the rest of the world, and a cursory glance at the stories coming in from around the globe will readily reveal why. There’s a lot of bad news out there, and there seems to be little that America can do about it.

Not only is there is no good news lately from Egypt, the most populous and arguably the most influential country in the Middle East, there’s not even a sure way to describe what would constitute good news in such a dysfunctional state. A candidate backed by the Muslim Brotherhood claims to have won the recent presidential election, which might even be true, but the courts have dissolved the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Parliament and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which had backed the second-place candidate, has declared itself sweeping powers that include writing the new constitution that will define the president’s role. Neither the theocratic rule of the medieval Muslim Brotherhood nor the severe order of a brutal military dictatorship serve the interests of Egypt or the rest of the world, but the social media-savvy young modernists that the media and the administration expected to take over back in the giddy days of the “Arab Spring” are no longer an option. Should the country fall into a civil war between the military and the Islamists, a distinct possibility, the hipsters should fare even worse.

A military dictatorship in Egypt might be the best outcome for the west, at least in the short term, but any overt support from America or Europe will only aggravate the constant anti-western sentiment throughout the Muslim world. Western support for the Islamists, even if couched as a pro-democracy statement, will fuel their ambitions but won’t lessen their hatreds. Saying a few nice things on behalf of the modernists will sound nice, but be futile. None of the options bode well for Israel, which is already seeing an increase of violence on its Egyptian border.

America’s interests are somewhat clearer in regard to Syria, where the vicious regime of Bashir Assad has been slaughtering thousands of rebels and non-combatants in a desperate attempt to retain its power, but the options are no more appealing. In addition to the clear humanitarian objections to the Assad regime, Americans of both parties are eager to see a new government take hold because Syria is one of Iran’s last reliable allies, a constant meddler in the affairs of Lebanon and other countries, a backer of terror groups, and a general annoyance to the world order. Although America joined with France and other European countries to provide weapons and air support for rebels fighting against the odious but less troublesome Gadafi government in Libya, this time around the support has been purely rhetorical.

The newfound caution is understandable, given that there are no assurances the rebels will represent an improvement, as well as the chaos that followed the Libyan revolution, but it might also be motivated by fear of antagonizing the Iranians or even the Russians, who have been supplying weapons to the Syrian government and is now dispatching warships to the region. Such sound reasons offer no solace to the victims of Assad’s atrocities, of course, and a reluctance to antagonize the likes of Iran and Russia does little to deter them.

Just because these crises offer no good choices, however, does not mean that the American government has lately been choosing poorly. In retrospect it was a bad decision to demand that Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak step down, for despite his many faults he was a reliable keeper of the peace with Israel, and America could have used its clout to negotiate a deal that would have kept him or a hand-picked successor around long enough to improve the political chances of the pro-western intellectuals who helped to launch the revolution. While there can be no certainty that sterner policies would have succeeded in cowing our adversaries into compliance, the attempts at “resetting” relations with Russia and offering an “open hand” to Iran have completely failed, as have America’s earlier attempts to work with Assad as a “reformer.” Cuts to the American defense budget probably aren’t sending the right signals, either.

Similarly scary situations can be found in every corner of the world, and in most cases there are also legitimate criticisms of America’s response. It’s enough to keep one focused on the domestic news, as bad as that might be, or maybe even limit one’s reading to the sports pages.

— Bud Norman

A Wrong Turn at the Border

President Barack Obama’s recent decision to not enforce the immigration laws in the cases of young people who were brought to the country as children, “do not present a risk to national security or public safety,” and meet certain other criteria is widely assumed to be political ploy intended to shore up support among Hispanic voters. This theory is so widely believed that Obama’s political director, David Plouffe, went on CNN to announce that “this is not a political move.”

The official denial did nothing to allay the suspicions of others, and pretty much confirmed ours, but it is not clear the new policy is a smart political move. There’s a limit to the benefits, and there could very well be a greater cost.

The new policy will likely please some Hispanic voters, but there is no way to calculate how many. Not all Hispanics are eager to open the borders, and those who are probably would have been just as persuaded by the argument that a Republican would likely impose a stricter border security policy than has Obama. What’s more, those Hispanics who do like the new immigration policy might not like it quite enough overcome their disapproval of Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage, his war against the Catholic Church, and of course the many policies that have resulted in an economy so lousy that economy that can’t provide enough jobs for the people already here.

Hispanics aren’t the only segment of America worried about the persistently and extremely high unemployment rate, of course, nor will they be the only ones to wonder how allowing an extra million or young people to join the job will affect that unhappy situation. Even the editors and reporters of the Washington Post, who would much prefer to be writing about Mitt Romney’s high school bully days, are wondering how the extra workers are going to affect the “aspirations of legal Americans.” The high-income, highly educated voters that once supported Obama won’t feel threatened by the cheaper labor of young illegal immigrants, but neither are they so enthusiastic about illegal immigration that the new will policy will provide a reason to ignore their this gives them no reason to overcome their other newfound objections to his tax proposals and other economic ideas. The lower-income voters who previously voted for Obama, especially the black and youth blocs, will have yet another reason to stay home.

Unless the Attorney General can somehow get all those illegal immigrants registered to vote, it’s hard to see how Obama comes out ahead on this move.

— Bud Norman