He set the stage by reminding readers that: "Immediately after the election, when John Boehner asked Obama to hold off on unilateral action, reporters asked if he would promise to bring an immigration bill to the House floor. He refused. A senior administration official pinpointed this as the moment when any chance of delay ended."
He further clarifies that "there are no serious legal questions about the administration's plan" and that "the humanitarian and political logic all point in the same direction. . . . The serious questions revolve around political norms." Chait has explored this question and says that
"Immigration law, unlike other kinds of law, is explicitly designed by Congress to delegate authority to the president. . . . The announcement by Obama may go farther than any previous use of presidential discretion, but it is an incremental rather than a revolutionary advance on previous such moves. . . .This is where Boehner's refusal to give an assurance that the House will bring an immigration reform bill to the floor breaks that supposed compromise. And, at the same time, it frees Obama to act as he has done. According to Chait, this will prove a political disadvantage for Republicans.
"The political calculus, on the other hand, is perfectly simple. Obama underwent negotiations with Republicans in Congress planning to trade political advantage for policy gain. In return for a policy accomplishment, he would give Republicans a chance to shore up their standing with immigrant communities and to settle immigration as a live issue."
"The GOP primary will remorselessly drive its candidates rightward and force them to promise to overturn Obama’s reform, and thus to immediately threaten with deportation some 5 million people — none of whom can vote, but nearly all of whom have friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors who can. . . .And, by extension, he articulated the values for the Democratic Party as well: protecting families, compassion and support for the disadvantaged, using government to make ordinary people's lives better.
"Ardent populists are demanding a series of suicidal confrontations, from shutdowns to, potentially, impeachment, as the Party leadership strains desperately to keep them at bay. . . . The emotional momentum in the Republican Party now falls to its most furious, deranged voices. . . . This is the point of contrast [with more moderate conservatives] that Obama drew out clearly and effectively. After years of legislative muddle, he was able to detach himself completely from Congress and articulate his own values."
Some very smart thinking went into that decision -- and especially into the crafting of the president's speech announcing his action. Not getting what he wanted in policy legislation, President Obama deftly painted Republicans into a corner and left them sputtering irrational threats.
It's going to be interesting.