Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Arizona-style rebellion tests constitutional government

Whatever other differences separate them, George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidentially are brothers bound together by unspeakably demanding calamities.

Bush had 9/11, launched two wars, drove the national treasury deeper into historic debt and Hurricane Katrina. Obama's misery may be even more fraught—the Afghan war demanding more treasure and troops, an angry public smitten by joblessness and personal financial catastrophe, Republicans opposing his every move, an oil spill of cataclysmic dimensions and now the Arizona-spawned "states' rights" revolt against the U.S. Constitution.

Arizona's attempt to write and enforce its own immigration laws not only is arousing copycat politicos in other states, but cocky Arizona politicians are enlarging their attacks on their principal target, Latin Americans.

Times such as these pose the true test of a president's ability—to juggle an impossible number of crises simultaneously with dispatch and aplomb.

Without minimizing other crises, President Obama must decisively put down the nasty "states' rights" rebellion to round up illegal aliens. Apparently encouraged by Washington's struck-dumb reaction, Arizona's law may metastasize. In addition to empowering police to enforce "immigration" laws, the state legislator who concocted this statutory horror is on to more venomous mischief—denying birth certificates to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants even as the Arizona Department of Education plans to investigate accents of teachers.

Haughty Arizona politicians claim their immigration dragnets are colorblind and have nothing to do with racial profiling. Piffle. What else can it be when their justification is the porous U.S.-Mexico border and brown-skinned crossers funneling into the state?

Defiance by state legislators and their governor of the U.S. Constitution, (e.g., stripping U.S.-born children of foreigners of the right to be automatic citizens and enforcement of immigration laws reserved to the federal government) is serious business. This isn't just tea party prattle. Arizona's John McCain, once the champion of citizenship for illegal immigrants, has flip-flopped and given heart to the punitive new law with his endorsement.

Any sign of waffling, indecision or weakness by the Obama administration will only sow more contempt for federal law by legislative rebels who insist out of the other side of their mouths that they're "constitutionalists."

The growing nationwide economic boycott of Arizona by other states, cities and convention groups hasn't had any chastening effect.

If the Obama legal team isn't prepared to act by August when the Arizona law takes effect, the president will face unneeded and unnecessary public debate about his competence during a crisis.

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