President Obama should take a page from Harry Truman in 1948: Prepare the most expansive executive orders on immigration that his attorneys believe is constitutional and call Congress back into session this month to pass a major program to dramatically increase spending to defend our borders.
When the historically unpopular and unproductive Congress left for a five-week vacation, it worsened a border crisis in a state of continuing chaos with funding for a vital patrol, customs and immigration set to run out of money within weeks.
The latest fiasco from House Republicans, again influenced by Cruz, leaves border enforcement programs so strapped for funds they will run out of money between mid-August and mid-September.
Let’s be clear: What Cruz and the rightist factions in the GOP House have promoted is another government shutdown of border patrol, customs and immigration enforcement. And let’s be clear: The big winners of this GOP move to starve and shut down border enforcement are drug lords who peddle narcotics across our borders to poison American communities and coyote human traffickers who peddle human flesh and send illegal immigrants across our borders.
Obama should reject this GOP government shutdown of border protection programs, address the nation to call Congress back into session for one week to provide the urgently needed funding for border enforcement, call for an end to the gridlock and dysfunction in Washington that now aids and abets drug lords and coyote criminals, and announce a bold and sweeping executive order to address the human dimensions of immigration.
Obama should announce this in a presidential and dignified setting, either an address from the Oval Office or a major speech before the National Press Club, using language that is presidential and dignified. He should be forceful and direct about the damage to America of the continuing gridlock in Washington and the damage to our economic and national security from attempts to shut down border security spending, but he should take his share of responsibility to seek fair compromise.
If the president takes this course, he would electrify and mobilize the Democratic base, which would rise to call on Congress to act and vote in larger numbers in the coming midterm elections, while he appeals to independent, moderate and swing voters who want government that functions.
The president would align himself and Democrats with the more than 77 percent of Americans, according to polling summaries from Real Clear Politics, who disapprove of Congress.
The politics of 2014 are very similar to the politics of 1948, when both the president and Congress were highly unpopular. In 1948, when Truman accepted the Democratic nomination and called Congress back into session, he identified himself with the outraged public and tarred Republicans with causing the obstruction that voters deplored.
In 1948, Truman was reelected, but few remember that Democrats gained 9 Senate seats and 75 House seats that year. In 2014, Obama should go big, go bold and call Congress back to do the work that a disapproving nation demands it do.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.