The speech in full (transcript here):

Chris Cillizza thought the speech “fit more neatly into the Obama of the 2008 campaign and the first term of his presidency — heavy on inspiration and imagery, relatively light on details and depth”:

It’s the sort of address Obama is both best at and most comfortable giving. The idea of what makes America America — particularly in the face of the unique challenges that the 21st century poses for the country on the domestic and international fronts — is something he has quite clearly spent significant time thinking about. The 2008 edition Obama we saw tonight is also, not coincidentally, the version most beloved by the base of the Democratic party. And, in truth, that’s who the speech was really aimed at. The politics of immigration are such that there were no words Obama could (or would be willing to) utter that would drastically reshape the coming fight over the issue.

Beinart argues that Obama “decided once again to trigger the hatred of defenders of the status quo because, I suspect, he knows American history well enough to know that real moral progress doesn’t happen any other way”:

Yes, Obama is a pragmatist. Yes, he is professorial. Yes, he wants to be liked by his ideological opponents and by the powers that be. But he also knows that were he in his twenties today—a young man of color with a foreign parent and a foreign-sounding name—he might be among those activists challenging the vicious injustice of America’s immigration system. When Obama talked about “the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in a country they love,” he wasn’t only comparing them to his daughters. He was comparing them to himself.

For progressives, this was always the real promise of Barack Obama. It was the promise that a black man with a Muslim name who had worked in Chicago’s ghettos—a man who had tasted what it means to a stranger in America—would bring that memory with him when he entered the White House. It’s a promise he fulfilled tonight.

Ramesh Ponnuru feels that, in Obama’s speech, the “policy and the rhetoric are at war with each other”:

Read On

Well, I should confess something up-front. I found the president’s peroration deeply moving as an immigrant myself who has experienced a little of the fear and insecurity that being in some way on the wrong side of the immigration services can incur. The paradox of living somewhere and building a life and knowing that it can all be suddenly swept away; the thought of being separated from those you love – for ever; the stresses within families and marriages that such a shadowy existence can create. We need a full-throated defense of immigration in these cramped and narrow times, and the president was more than eloquent on that tonight – and made his case with a calm assurance and intensity. I’m gladdened by it – and I can only begin to appreciate how his words will have felt to millions of others.

Did he make the case that a mass deferral of deportations was the only option for him? Not so effectively. His strongest point was simply the phrase: “pass a bill.” Saying he is doing this as a temporary measure, that it will be superseded as soon as a law reaches his desk, gives him a stronger position than some suppose. There is more than one actor in our system. The president and the Senate have done their part; the House has resolutely refused to do its – by failing even to take a vote on the matter. Why, many will ask, can’t the Congress come up with a compromise that would forestall and over-rule this maneuver? What prevents the Republicans from acting in return to forestall this?

At the same time, he did not press the Reagan and Bush precedents. And his description of the current mess as a de facto amnesty was not as effective as he might have hoped. His early backing of even more spending on the border, his initial citing of the need for the undocumented to “get right with the law” by coming out of the shadows to pay back taxes, among other responsibilities, was a way to disarm conservative critics. It almost certainly won’t. But it remains a fact that the speech – in classic Obama style – blended conservative stringency with liberal empathy in equal parts.

Objectively, this is surely the moderate middle. Obama’s position on immigration – as on healthcare – has always been that. It’s utterly in line with his predecessor and with the Reagan era when many conservatives were eager for maximal immigration. His political isolation now is a function, first and foremost, of unrelenting Republican opposition and obstructionism. From time to time, then, it is more than good to see him openly challenge the box others want to put him in, to reassert that he has long been the reasonable figure on many of these debates, and to remind us that we have a president whose substantive proposals should, in any sane polity, be the basis for a way forward, for a compromise.

They are not, of course. And this act of presidential doggedness, after so long a wait, may well inflame the divisions further. I still have doubts about the wisdom of this strategy. But I see why this president refuses to give in, to cast his future to fate, to disappoint again a constituency he has pledged to in the past, and why he is re-stating his right as president to be a prime actor rather than a passive observer in the last two years of his term. That’s who many of us voted for. And we do not believe that the election of a Republican Senate in 2014 makes his presidency moot. Au contraire.

The branches are designed to clash and to jostle over public policy. And the Congress has one thing it can do now that it has for so long refused to do. It can act. And it should. The sooner the better.

Why Is Obamacare Unpopular?

Nov 20 2014 @ 7:22pm

ACA Knowledge

Bill Gardner reviews research on the question:

Jon Krosnick, Wendy Gross, and colleagues at Stanford and Kaiser ran large surveys to measure public understanding of the ACA and how it was associated with approval of the law. They found that accurate knowledge about what’s in the bill varied with party identification: Democrats understood the most and liked the law the most, independents less, and Republicans understood still less and liked the law the least.

However, attitudes were not just tribal. Within each party, the more accurate your knowledge of the law, the more you liked it.

Read On

Compared to most other GOP presidential contenders, Christie isn’t well liked by Republicans:

Favorables

Despite such numbers, Mark Leibovich sees the logic of a Christie run:

There is a theory in presidential politics that electorates will gravitate to the candidate who represents the biggest departure from the incumbent, especially if they have grown weary of that incumbent. “That’s the argument people make to me about why I should run,” Christie told me during one of our conversations. “They’re like: ‘No one could be more the opposite of Barack Obama from a personality standpoint than you. Therefore, you’re perfect.’ ” Yet one of the more compelling aspects of a Christie candidacy would be his ability to start an overdue fight within his own party.

Read On

Face Of The Day

Nov 20 2014 @ 6:22pm

Miss World Muslimah 2014.

Ben Guefrache Fatma of Tunisia, a contestant of the Miss World Muslimah 2014, during a practice session before the final round at Prambanan temple in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on November 20, 2014. Around 25 finalists take a part in the 4th Muslim World contest. By Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

The Best Judge Of SCOTUS

Nov 20 2014 @ 5:56pm

He has no formal legal training:

Jacob Berlove, 30, of Queens, is the best human Supreme Court predictor in the world. Actually, forget the qualifier. He’s the best Supreme Court predictor in the world. He won FantasySCOTUS three years running. He correctly predicts cases more than 80 percent of the time. … I told [law professor Theodore] Ruger about Berlove. He said it made a certain amount of sense that the best Supreme Court predictor in the world should be some random guy in Queens. “It’s possible that too much thinking or knowledge about the law could hurt you. If you make your career writing law review articles, like we do, you come up with your own normative baggage and your own preconceptions,” Ruger said. “We can’t be as dispassionate as this guy.”

kathy1

The latest YouGov poll illustrates how quickly Americans have moved on from freaking out about the disease and the government’s response to it, indicating that media sensationalism and partisan politics infected far more Americans than Ebola ever will:

Republicans have exhibited the greatest change. At the end of October, 67% of Republicans said the government wasn’t doing enough to contain the Ebola outbreak. That percentage has dropped 28 points. Just 39% of Republicans now say the government isn’t doing enough. There is also less interest in increasing government spending to deal with the outbreak. Just one in four today would increase government spending on Ebola research, down from 36% at the end of October.

But perhaps the most striking example of public satisfaction with the government’s performance is the change in the way Americans evaluate the President’s performance. For the first time in two months, more Americans approve of the way Barack Obama is handling this situation than disapprove.

Josh Marshall even suspects that Christie has quietly retired his draconian quarantine policy for health workers returning from West Africa, though he can’t seem to get a straight answer out of the state of New Jersey. There’s also some good news on the international front:

Read On

Quotes For The Day

Nov 20 2014 @ 4:43pm

“The framers of our Constitution, wary of the dangers of monarchy, gave the Congress tools to rein in abuses of power. They believed if the president wants to change the law, he cannot act alone; he must work with Congress. He may not get everything he wants, but the Constitution requires compromise between the branches. A monarch, however, does not compromise …” – Ted Cruz, 2014.

“I don’t think what Washington needs is more compromise, I think what Washington needs is more common sense and more principle,” – Ted Cruz, 2012.

Mental Health Break

Nov 20 2014 @ 4:20pm

Taking an old Dusty Springfield tune out for a spin:

Original here.

Yglesias Award Nominee

Nov 20 2014 @ 4:04pm

“The reasons for rethinking the intervention go beyond Libya itself. I had placed a great deal of emphasis on the demonstration effects of an intervention. My hope had been that the intervention would act to restrain other autocrats from unleashing deadly force against protesters and encourage wavering activists to push forward in their demands for change. Unfortunately, this only partially panned out and had unintended negative effects. U.S. cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council states in Libya compelled it to turn a blind eye to the simultaneous crushing of Bahrain’s uprising.

The worst effects were on Syria. The Libya intervention may have imposed a certain level of caution on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, leading him to search for just the right level of repression to stay beneath the threshold for international action. But that didn’t last for long and his violence quickly escalated,” – Marc Lynch, in a bracing reflection on his misjudgments in the fast-moving era of the Arab Spring.

I await the other advocates of the Libya debacle to approach this kind of intellectual honesty. Larison, meanwhile, notes that

the demonstration effect and deterring-dictators arguments never made much sense, as I said many times back in 2011.

What I found the most troubling was the argument that such a major move, with unforeseeable consequences, was justified urgently to avoid a potential massacre. In other words, a humanitarian emergency was used to brush away all the usual weighing of the pros and cons of such a grave decision as to go to war. Which, to my mind, only underlines the necessity of restoring the Congress’s full control of war powers.