All-Star Panel: Reaction to Obama's handling of immigration

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 14, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


OBAMA:  I'm bound by separation of powers. There's some things we can't do. But I promise you, the American people don't want me to just standing around, twitting my thumbs, and waiting for Congress to get something done. 

AMAN KAPOOR, IMMIGRATION VOICE:  We would believe that. That would be a very strange situation where there are provisions done for undocumented, and somehow legal immigrants are left out.  And if you look at it broadly, it would be looked upon very unfair. 


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR:  You recognize the president, of course, and the second gentleman was part of Carl Cameron's reporting today, someone who is trying to go down the path of legal immigration, very worried about what the president may be about to do with regard to those who have come here illegally. 

Let's talk about it with our panel.  And Chuck, I'll start with you. There's a lot of speculation the president has said he would take some kind of action at some point before the end of the summer.  Are we there yet? What do you think we are going to get? 

CHARLES LANE, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, let's put it this way.  If is he not planning to do anything he certainly raised the expectations way too high that he is going to do something.  A lot of the reports, if you look at them closely, that he is planning to do this 5 million work permits option, do come from kind of the people who want that to happen.  They are trying to feed it by these kinds of leaks to the press, and so on. 

But if he were to do it, I would think it's almost a signal that he's politically, he has written off the 2014 Senate campaign because, in truth, the politics of it for right now seem to me negative for the Democrats.  A lot of red state Democrats would suffer politically if he did that.  It would be his -- almost his signal – like, we are not going to win the Senate this time around and my focus is on the future of the party, 2016 and building up a loyal Latino constituency for the Democrats. 

BREAM:  And you mentioned that, Mark Pryor obviously in a heated race in Arkansas, said "I'm not for government by executive order."  And of course his challenger, Congressman Tom Cotton saying, well, Pryor has voted for amnesty.  It's clearly an issue in these really hot red states races where Democrats are vulnerable. 

I want to look at a couple polls here.  A brand new Fox News poll out tonight, how the president is handling the Central American children illegally crossing the border. 31 percent say they approve, 57 percent say they disapprove, 13 percent unsure. And on the overall issue of immigration, how the president is doing, 33 percent say they approve, 57 percent say they disapprove. 

So, Charles, does he go big or small?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think Chuck's analysis is right, is that to go big right now is certainly going to hurt the Democrats in the states where it counts, which is Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Louisiana, where the Democrats are hanging on by a thread.  I think there was an earlier calculation when there was all this chatter, mostly among Democrats, but among some fringy Republicans of impeachment. And I do think that if the president were to legalize 5 million illegal immigrants by fiat, that is a violation of the Constitution that I think, would reach the level of impeachable. 

Nonetheless, it would be insane for Republicans to go ahead and to do that. And I think the president might have been calculating that this would be impeachment bait. This would be a way to make the Republicans do the one thing that could save them, meaning the Democrats in election, which is a repeat of 1998 where Republicans overreached on impeachment and they blew a winnable election, a rare sixth year win for the incumbent. That never happens. But I think the Republicans have acted responsibly.  I think, we heard the number two Republican in the House say that impeachment is off the table. If so, then it's a loser from beginning to end for Obama.  I think he might restrain himself on this. 

BREAM:  George, do you think the president is doing a double, triple, backwards, cross, as Charles is suggesting, maybe a lot of reverse psychology here? 

WILL:  I don't think so.  I'm not sure what he is up to.  He says he is not going to twiddle his thumbs. And I think the republic is generally safer when presidents twiddle their thumbs in either party. 

But in this case, if he has any residual respect for constitutional niceties, and particularly, for the separation of powers, he will represent and reflect the following distinction.  Everyone admits that presidents have vast discretion in enforcement. Give you just an example.  If a president said terrorism is now much more important than it used to be, so instead of spending 20 percent of our resources on bank robberies we are going to spend five percent.  Fine, that's what presidents are supposed to do. 

If, however, the president says we're not going to devote any resources to bank robberies and essentially decriminalize bank robbing, that would be changing United States policy, which is an Article 1 congressional power. 

So there is a line in there, it's blurry, but it's real.  And the president has to find where his legitimate discretion ends. 

As for waiving deportation for entire categories of people, that clearly is country specific.  That is, you have to say these people are from a particular country with particular circumstances that gives them particular treatment, and that would not satisfy his base at all. 

BREAM:  I want to read something that's just coming across the AP wire, saying the first wave of National Guard troops have taken up observation posts along the Texas-Mexico border.  A potential 2016 contender, Chuck, Governor Rick Perry, is talking a lot about the border, and he's sending his own Texas folks down there too.  Does it work for him?  Does he make hay of it, or does it potentially blow up in his face as looking a little bit of grandstanding? 

LANE:  I think the people, it's one of those the people who like this, this is the sort of thing that will please people who like this sort of thing. You know, I think people who are predisposed to like Rick Perry will be pleased, and the rest probably not.

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BREAM:  All right, we are out of time, unfortunately.  That's it for the panel.  But stay tuned for a look at how a chance meeting led to a very unlikely match.