There are some words that, as a writer, I’ve always wanted to use. One of those words is “cadaverous,” which I think is just a lovely, almost Dickensian word. Having attended last night’s delightful PRI Gala dinner, I finally have that chance. But let me start at the beginning….
I don’t usually attend galas. Indeed, I don’t ever attend galas, since I am almost pathologically cheap and, no matter how much I admire the speaker or expect the company to be delightful, I simply cannot make myself pay several hundred dollars for a dinner and speech. Add to that the fact that it’s disrespectful for me to spend huge sums of money on a political cause that my husband finds distasteful, and galas and I are not a common pairing. I only was able to attend the PRI event thanks to the incredible generosity of a local Marin conservative who sponsored a table and invited me to be one of his guests.
The event was held at the Fairmont, atop Nob Hill, which is one of the truly grand dame hotels in the world. The Fairmont was in the process of being built when the ’06 quake struck, causing severe damage. Once the dust cleared, building on the hotel resumed with help from architect Julia Morgan (of Hearst Castle fame), who had all sorts of wonderful ideas about reinforced concrete for structural integrity. In 1945, the Fairmont hosted the meetings that culminated in the United Nation’s creation. The hotel is sufficiently charming and magnificent that I forgive it for being the venue that gave birth to that appalling antisemitic, anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-freedom, and anti-individualism organization. But as I so often do, I digress.
For me, there were only two problems with the evening: First, the table at which I sat was so large, and the volume of conversation so loud, that I was only able to speak to the men (very nice, interesting men) to my immediate left and right, which meant that there was a whole table full of manifestly intriguing people with whom I did not exchange a single word. Second, Steven Hayward, from Power Line, was supposed to speak there, but an attack of bronchitis kept him away. I’m a big admirer and was disappointed that I couldn’t meet him. The fact that those were was my only disappointments tells you that it was a damn fine evening indeed.
The food was exquisite (I love filet mignon), the speeches ranged from interesting to very interesting, and I was delighted to see former California Governor Pete Wilson receive the Sir Antony Fisher Freedom Award. I have a special reason for that delight. You see, just as in the 1980s I was a Democrat who utterly failed to appreciate what an extraordinary man, thinker, and politician Reagan was, I was still a Democrat in the 1990s, and therefore utterly failed to appreciate what an extraordinary man, thinker, and politician Wilson was. I grossly underestimated the measure of the man back then, and was therefore so pleased to stand up and applaud him now. (To appreciate what a great governor he was — a fact that the MSM successfully obscured in the 1990s for unthinking young Democrats like me — check out the Wikipedia article’s incomplete list of his accomplishments.)
After Gov. Wilson received his award and gave a short talk, the mike was turned over to the evening’s featured speaker, Brit Hume — and this is where I get to use the word “cadaverous.” I need to start out by explaining that, since I watch TV only occasionally (to satisfy my low passion for Dancing With the Stars or to see Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey), I had no idea who Brit Hume was sufficient to justify his role as a keynote speaker at a PRI gala. You probably know that he’s a former ABC correspondent and a current Fox News analyst. I did not know that.
My ignorance about Hume extended to his looks. I had no idea what he looked like. When I realized who he was, I went over to introduce myself and shake his hand, which took all of 10 seconds. (At NOUS events, protocol is to greet the speaker, and there are penalties for those who fail to do so. Having become familiar with this requirement, I like it and, if I can, extend it to all events that I attend.) Hume is very tall, and quite thin, and he has a slightly hound-doggish face, with a grayish cast to his complexion. He is a very nice looking man — but he is also somewhat cadaverous looking. (And there’s that word.) He’s not cadaverous in the sense of “corpse-like” but in the sense of “haggard and thin.” You TV watchers also already know what else I discovered about him, which is that he has a deep, lovely voice with a very slight Southern drawl.
Hume spoke about politics; Juan Williams; his start in an old-fashioned newspaper, complete with clattering typewriters and cigar-chomping copy editor; and Obama’s planned amnesty. It was this last that riveted my attention. Hume, whom I would describe as a very centrist Republican, had put together a laundry-list of things that Republicans shouldn’t do once Obama announces his amnesty. It was a comprehensive list. He started by noting that, because Republicans lack a Senate majority, Hume says it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to put together a veto-proof anything to block the amnesty and, failing that ability, any bills the Republican Congress passes will be a waste of time and the media will use any such efforts to paint Republicans as racist and selfish.
Hume also argued strongly that the House most certainly shouldn’t try to use the power of the purse to block Obama from putting the amnesty into effect because doing so will only precipitate another stand-off and shutdown. According to Hume, polls consistently reveal that voters hate shutdowns and, thanks to the media, that they always blame the Republicans, even though the president is arguably the true proximate cause. (I have a different feeling about shutdowns and the accompanying theater. Hume, incidentally, made clear that he has the lowest possible opinion of Cruz and the Tea Party.)
Impeachment, said Hume, is a no-go. The last time Republicans did that, it ended very badly for them. Just as with shutdowns, the public is hostile to this type of thing and, thanks to the media, it’s always the Republicans’ fault.
A lawsuit? Well, it’s true that Obama is acting outside of his Constitutional authority, but Hume believes that Congress will be found to lack standing to sue because it will not have sustained a direct injury as a result of the amnesty.
I’d quibble about this one. While the amnesty itself (that is, stopping all deportations and giving green cards to those who cut the lines and entered this country illegally) doesn’t directly affect Congress, to the extent that Obama’s action is a direct affront to Congress’s legislative authority, insofar as he “stole” Congress’s constitutionally unique authority to legislate the disposition of America’s immigration policy, I would argue that Congress has standing to sue on the ground of usurpation of constitutional power.
Obama will naturally argue that Congress can legislate as it pleases, but that he has the power to enforce as he sees fit, and can do so within the parameters of his constitutional oath of office. Executive discretion, don’t you know! That argument is not a reason to deny Congress its day in court. Still, Hume saw a lawsuit as another no-go.
Having disposed of all possible means by which a Republican Congress can stop Obama’s gross lawlessness, Hume stopped his speech and prepared for questions and answers. I instantly turned to my one of dining companions and asked, “Am I imagining it, or did Hume say everything Republicans can’t do but say nothing about what they can do?” As the speaking started again, my table mate shrugged “yes,” as in “Yes, you are correct and no, you’re not imagining it.”
My belief about Hume’s reticence regarding Republican options was reinforced when someone in the audience asked this question: “You’ve said what Republicans can’t do, but can you tell us what they can do to stop amnesty?” Hume sort of waffled, and launched into an attack against Cruz which, shorn of polite language, boiled down to he’s really bright guy and pretty nice, but no sechel. Or as Hume said, he illustrates the principle that one can be “smart, but not wise.”
What Hume couldn’t bring himself to say is that the Republicans are locked in a box. Faced with a hostile media and the nation’s first sort-of black president (I mean, if George Zimmerman is white-Hispanic, Obama is definitely white-black), the Republicans’ hands are tied. Everything they do will be spun as racist, either against Hispanics or the sort-of black Obama, or as classist, or as mean, or as obstructionist, or as whatever other opprobrious terms the media can use against them.
Republicans are therefore left with only two courses of action: They can appeal to their base — without which they cannot survive politically — and act aggressively by passing bills, withholding money, bringing an impeachment vote in the House, and suing. Alternatively, they can appeal to the lumpen middle — without which they cannot win politically — and fulminate amongst themselves about Obama’s unconstitutional acts without actually doing anything about them. In other words, Obama, who has no more elections to win, has Republicans locked up helplessly in a nice neat little box. And that’s what Hume couldn’t quite bring himself to state explicitly.
Oh, and Hume said one other thing about Obama’s amnesty announcement, which is that Obama’s executive action does nothing more than make official the status quo. Obama has already stopped deporting people who have made it more than a couple of miles from the border, and those who are staying here are already working. In other words, Obama is merely engaged in an act of political theater that puts an official imprimatur on existing administrative reality.
I believe Hume is right that conservative can’t do anything to stop Obama from setting aside the pretense that he’s enforcing the nation’s immigration laws and, instead, grandly announcing for political effect that he doesn’t ever intend to enforce the nation’s immigration laws. The big question, then, isn’t what conservatives and Republicans should do in the near future regarding amnesty; the big question is what Republicans and conservatives — on the ground, in Congress, and in statehouses across America — should do to consolidate and build upon their current, and still rather fragile, political victory. Put another way, sometimes strategic retreat is the best way to win a long war.