Barack Obama returned from his latest vacation yesterday, and promptly announced that Republicans are “crazies.” The Democrats continued the theme with a fundraising email they sent out earlier this afternoon, ostensibly from the President:
A few days ago, the leading candidate to be the other side’s presidential nominee claimed that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was — somehow — unconstitutional.
He is referring to Donald Trump. This was a popular meme on left-wing web sites last week. The headline was often repeated: Trump claims 14th Amendment is unconstitutional! But of course Trump said no such thing. What Trump did say wasn’t crazy at all; in fact, I think it was correct. Trump says he doesn’t think the 14th Amendment requires that children of illegal aliens born in the United States be citizens. I agree. An 1898 case, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, that arguably interpreted the amendment that way should be revisited, much as the Supreme Court revisited prior law under the 14th Amendment when it declared gay marriage a constitutional right.
Trump said further that he doesn’t favor a constitutional amendment to reverse that old Supreme Court case, but rather litigation. Once again I agree. Trump is correct that the constitutional amendment process is hopeless on any controversial topic. But Congress could pass a law defining citizenship in a way that excludes anchor babies. That law would be tested in court. Eventually the Supreme Court would have an opportunity to either overrule or distinguish Wong Kim Ark. (In Wong Kim Ark, the parents were legal residents. The Court could easily hold that that case does not apply to children whose parents reside in the U.S. illegally.) So Obama is wrong: not only did Trump not make the absurd claim that the 14th Amendment is unconstitutional, his comments on the anchor baby issue were both legally correct and in line with public opinion.
Another frontrunner just released a health care plan that would actually take coverage away from millions of Americans and make it harder for folks to buy health insurance.
That would be Scott Walker’s plan to repeal Obamacare and replace with more conservative, market-oriented measures. Obamacare has taken coverage away from millions of Americans, but it is highly doubtful that Walker’s plan would do the same. In any event, Obamacare has been unpopular from the day it was passed, and there is nothing crazy about wanting to repeal it or replace it with something better.
Several Republicans have even lined up behind the idea that some children who are born in this country don’t deserve the right to be American citizens.
Anchor babies again! Obama attempts a twofer; whoever wrote the email must assume that readers won’t know that the Trump reference was to the same issue. Obama’s formulation of the issue leaves out a key fact, of course: we are talking about children who are the offspring of illegal immigrants. Not only is resistance to anchor babies not crazy, it is the majority view among Americans, and has been for a long time, as in this 2011 survey where 61% said they do not believe that children born to women who are here illegally should automatically be citizens.
The Obama email continues in the same vein:
These ideas all sound ridiculous, but don’t be fooled, John. These aren’t slips of the tongue from tired candidates at the end of a long campaign. These are the actual policy positions of Republicans who think they should be our next president — and there’s nothing silly about that.
It’s probably too much to expect either factual accuracy or temperate language in fundraising emails. But it isn’t just fundraising: the Democrats have mostly ceased debating issues at any higher level than misrepresentation and name-calling. Those who have studied climate science enough to understand the weakness of the alarmists’ claims are “deniers.” Those who have read the nuclear agreement with Iran and conclude that it makes our security weaker are “crazies,” as Obama called them yesterday. And those who are unhappy about our immigration situation, both legal and illegal–a substantial majority of Americans–are nativists, bigots, racists and so on. Maybe there are arguments lurking somewhere behind the lies and the name-calling, but I haven’t heard one for a long time. The Democrats should try it sometime.