Monday, October 27, 2014

Obama As Hands-Off Executive: The Case of Dreamers

The Post had an article this morning previewing a speech by Janet Napolitano, who's describing the inside story behind the Administration's delay of deportation for the "Dreamers".

What struck me was, after DHS had developed a proposal:
"She pushed ahead anyway and took the proposal to the White House. Though she never met with Obama about it, Napolitano recalled in the interview how other top officials — especially then-White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler — grilled her about the challenges of implementation and the legal issues of acting without Congress."[emphasis added]
 While I think I've a realistic grasp of the limits of personal Presidential power (having read Neustadt many decades ago), I find this amazing.  Here's a major use of executive power, arguably stretching beyond the limits (though I think not), sure to be a political hot potato, winning plaudits from the Latino community and condemnation from the right and Dems running in red states, and the President never meets with the Cabinet Secretary on it!!

I assume after the White House staff vetted it, they gave a paper to the President and he signed it, but IMHO that's not the way to run the railroad.  Trying to be fair to Obama he probably trusted his staff and liked the policy paper, so why bother meeting with Napolitano?  My answer: even if all that's true, the more involvement DHS feels from the big boss, the more enthusiasm they can muster to handle the nuts and bolts and go out and defend the policy.  If Napolitano can't come back from the White House saying "the President looked me in the eye and said you've got to make this work, it's only fair", her staff has to wonder about her clout and the Prez's commitment.   And so do I.

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