The Lone Ranger rides again.
There’s no Tonto for this solo figure, and the Silver he rides is a big white plane called Air Force One. But President Barack Obama might as well put on the mask and white Stetson as he rides along saving America from its ails.
That image certainly fits a president who continues to go it alone, since he can’t win over opponents in Congress to accomplish important goals, as so many other effective leaders have done. So he has taken the solo path on health care, foreign policy and other vital issues. If you can’t beat ’em, ignore ’em.
It sounds all fine and dandy, if you support his ideas, until you consider our government is set up by a Constitution that provides checks and balances between three branches.
The Supreme Court checked him recently, twice: One over his apparently illegal recess appointments and again in the Hobby Lobby health insurance case.
Congress — specifically the GOP-led House but also the Senate, at times — has butted heads with the president as well, unwilling to bend to his rigid view of governance. So he tries to make it happen without that branch, and it doesn’t work so well.
One of the latest loggerheads is over the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of immigrant children have flooded into the country, sent by their families to escape their violent Central American homelands.
The crisis at the border has no easy solution. No one wants to send thousands of orphans home to an uncertain future. At the same time, the U.S. can’t just take in everyone’s lost souls en masse without incurring a serious burden, in addition to granting special immigration status not offered for others.
A nation can’t open its borders without a trickle turning into a flood. The 60,000 kids at the border now could become hundreds of thousands more if some reasonable policy isn’t enacted to discourage a mass migration our border states can’t handle.
It’s a mess, and part of an immigration problem that keeps getting worse as our leaders in Washington, on both sides of the Capitol and the aisles with in, fail to respond.
On one side are those who just don’t want “those people” here, even when they fill key jobs in the economy (which, honestly, Central American tots don’t provide). On the other are union forces against flooding the agriculture, hospitality and construction industries with cheap labor to the detriment of U.S. workers.
The sensible answer is to secure the border, then streamline the guest worker process to grant legal status to migrant workers. It shouldn’t be that hard, but for some reason, it is.
In the midst of the current maelstrom, the president has decided he needs $3.7 billion in emergency funds from Congress to address the border orphans. He says the money would be used to house the detainees and expedite the immigration court process. But that amount, though not paltry, would be a temporary fix at best to a problem that needs a big-picture solution. It’s another example of Obama trying to move ahead on his own without a comprehensive strategy.
And GOP leaders in the House are balking, both at the amount and the idea of giving the president a free hand in settling the issue. They want to see rapid deportation hearings held to determine which, if any, of the children should be allowed to stay in the U.S., temporarily or otherwise.
Obama says he isn’t trying to go it alone, just that Congress won’t work with him. But that accusation goes both ways. Our warring partisan leaders are like lovers in a spat who blame the other for not picking up the phone first. Truth is, there are serious ideological and substantive divisions between Democrats and Republicans, and finding solutions requires both sides to compromise. That’s not likely to happen in an election year, and with election cycles now never-ending, that now describes every year.
For evidence of that, look at the president’s trip to Texas, which he scheduled not specifically to deal with the border crisis but to attend a big-money Democratic fundraiser. Sure, both parties do that, but the juxtaposition and timing of the event points out where Obama’s priorities lie: Winning elections. He’s clearly good at that. Governing once the election is won is a different matter.
“I don’t expect them to agree with me on everything, but at least agree with me on the things that you used to say you were for before I was for them,” the president said to a friendly crowd in Texas. “Ronald Reagan passed immigration reform, and you love Ronald Reagan. Let’s go ahead and do it.”
True, but many Democrats worked with Reagan, as they did with Eisenhower, Nixon and both Bushes. And Republicans worked at times with Kennedy, Johnson and Clinton. Disagreements persisted, but true statesmen were able to rise above them.
And the man in the Oval Office, rightly or wrongly, needs to be first to offer the olive branch and find common ground. He’s the guy elected to represent the entire nation rather than a district of 700,000 or so people in a legislative body of 435 members.
Presidents in the past have done this. Obama has seldom tried and failed miserably when he has.
Partisanship, like Pennsylvania Avenue, isn’t a one-way street. Until someone can rise above the fray and bring our warring political factions together, Washington will remain a town full of Lone Rangers with no Tontos.
And thousands of abandoned immigrant children will remain in limbo as political pawns with no long-range solution in sight.