Allocating Blame Between a Willing President, and an Unwilling Law

Consider it a metonym for larger questions on the economy, the war on terror, and beyond: if we have a President who’s made his policy position clear, do we blame him, or others, when the law prevents him from making good on a promise?

Here’s the story. Two men married in Massachusetts, one an American, the other an Australian. They’ve lived together as a couple for almost a decade and their marriage, remember, is legal under both state and Australian law. On that basis, the American sought permanent residence for his husband. Earlier this week, the Obama administration denied permanent resident status, citing the Defense of Marriage Act, which establishes that a valid “marriage,” for the purposes of federal law, requires one man and one woman. Functionally, for the purposes of federal benefits (like immigration status, Social Security, etc.), the bigoted federal definition supersedes more enlightened state law.

Oh, to make matters just a billion times worse, the now-deportable Australian is dying of AIDS, and dependent on his husband’s care.

Now here’s the question. Whose “fault” is this undeniable tragedy? It’s true that USCIS may in some cases, as an act of discretion, override the law and grant resident status to this couple, but in so doing they would violate clearly applicable law.

I would hold that blame rests with the jailer, who’s tied the prisoner’s hands, rather than the prisoner, who’s either not creative or not brave enough to slip his bonds. Remember, federal power over domestic matters is an illusion absent a compliant or filibuster-proof Congress. For all intents and purposes, President Obama has never had either.

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9 comments

  1. Didn’t he order the DoJ to quit defending DOMA?

    And honestly, wouldn’t it be easier to just put the big O logo on your blog header? It’s getting to be digusting.

    1. I don’t know. I think it’s sort of refreshing to see someone stick by the President even when everyone else seems to be jumping ship.

      Anyway, I guess the states’ rights defenders will be swarming out to attack this horrible abuse of federal power. Any time, now…

      1. I’m sure you felt the same way about Bush circa 2008.

        1. Well, sort of. At least Bush did something close to the right thing with the Stimulus Act and the TARP, even though he caught a lot of flak for it. So, yeah.

      2. Ah, you see, federal power is only bad when it takes your money. It’s not bad when used to sanitize your personal life for the consumption of white middle-class America.

        Which is to say, it’s not bad when it’s actually invasive.

        1. Isn’t immigration a federal issue?

  2. He ordered main Justice to stop defending it, yes, but that doesn’t mean he’s released from acting as if it’s still the law, for as long as it is. Too bad.

    The point with Obama, you see, is that he’s a practical dude, not an ideological one, and he’s operating within restraints that would drive lesser men insane. Honestly, how many times can you go to Boehner and say “I give in to your demands,” only to have him spit in your face, without just popping the guy in the nose?

    As noted, I do wish Obama had more spine, and the courage of his convictions; and I wish he knew that it’s not really possible to negotiate with hostage-takers. Which honestly is what the Republican Party has become.

    But outside of that, I appreciate that being in government is hard when your goal, which I admire, is to make progress without running roughshod over your opponents, or treating them as subhuman traitors. I had enough of that under Bush.

  3. So if he’s just helpless and has to defend it – then isn’t it really Clinton’s fault since it passed on his watch?

  4. Unfortunately their marriage is not legal or recognized under Australian law. Johnny see, Johnny do was impressed by DOMA.

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