By now, I’m sure you’ve seen Saturday Night Live‘s Schoolhouse Rock-themed cold open making fun of President Obama’s use of executive actions to bypass a Congressional deadlock on a rather important subject. But just in case you haven’t:
It’s pretty good, or as good as we can expect Saturday Night Live to be, though things seem to have gotten better now that Seth Meyers is only writing terrible jokes for himself. And, perhaps despite itself, it actually does a decent job of explaining how Obama’s use of executive action compares to the measure’s traditional use. Someone in the writer’s room actually passed high school civics.
Actually, it might have done too good of a job. This morning, the Washington Post, a newspaper of merit as far as newspapers typically go, felt a compuslive need to address SNL’s inaccuracies in regards to the EA, how it “passed,” why it passed and why, goshdarnit, SNL just isn’t being fair at all when it comes to how it treats Barack Obama, you guys.
This skit got a couple of things right, and a couple of things wrong. For starters, Obama didn’t sign an executive order. He is taking executive action, in particular by directing the Department of Homeland Security to expand programs that defer deportation for classes of undocumented immigrants — parents of U.S. citizens or permanent-resident children, as well as undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children…
The cold open got the basic explanation of what the difference is between a law and executive order right. And SNL also is correct that more Americans, even if they support comprehensive immigration reform, don’t believe Obama should do it by fiat.
As to whether the executive action is unconstitutional? That’s a matter of debate, of course. Some House Republicans think so and may add a complaint to a suit they are planning to file challenging Obama’s executive actions on his health-care law.
One thing missing from this explanation of why the SNL skit lacked accuracy is that the SNL skit is designed to be comedy. And, at least ostensibly, it is comedy. Compared to the last four years of SNL, it’s basically brilliant. But let’s all take a moment to marvel that, in response to what is, generally speaking, not supposed to be used as an educational device by which to inform the public about important developments in their Federal legislature, warranted the intervention of the Washington Post policy editor who not only penned the former fact check, but went on for six more paragraphs describing, in detail, an argument for the Constitutionality of Barack Obama’s actions, and then followed that up with an impassioned plea to think of all of those poor children of undocumented immigrants. He can taste their tears, America. He can taste their tears.
The last line of the story is the key, of course. The WaPo policy editor notes that, as time (and potentially litigation) wears on, and other solutions are presented by a more unified Congress, public opinion on the subject of Obama’s extreme solution will matter, and an SNL skit like this matters. Which is probabaly why they’re so worried.