Monday, January 14, 2013

Marco Rubio and Republican desperation on immigration reform

By Michael J.W. Stickings

On Friday, GOP wunderkind Marco Rubio decided to provide us with some hilarity with respect to his signature issue, immigration reform:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a congressional leader on immigration reform and long considered a likely 2016 presidential candidate, criticized President Obama for "poison[ing] the well" on the reform effort in a wide-ranging interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Speaking of Obama's policy shift, launched just months before Election Day, to stop the deportation of young illegal immigrants and start issuing them work permits, Rubio told the newspaper that Obama "may have even set back the cause a bit."

"He's poisoned the well for people willing to take on this issue," he said.

Rubio also expressed skepticism that the president would pursue the issue in his second term, despite the president's frequent proclamations that immigration reform is one of his top priorities for the next four years...

[He] suggested Obama's inaction may be purely political; that the president, coming out of an election in which Hispanic voters overwhelmingly broke for Obama, will see it as politically expedient to delay work on immigration reform to retain it as a winning issue for Democrats.

What a steaming pile of horseshit. Here are some comments:

1) How exactly did the president "poison the well"? By rejecting the anti-immigrant bigotry of the Republican Party? By calling for sensible (as opposed to punitive/vindictive) reform that includes enforcing existing laws while also showing an understanding of the complexity of the issue, with compassion towards the many undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today? By first promoting the DREAM Act, widely popular among Latinos, and then, when Republicans prevented its passing, by issuing an executive order implemening its key component -- halting the deportation of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, and are in school, are high school graduates, or are military veterans, and allowing these people to remain in the country legally?

What, he poisoned the well by showing such conviction, fortitude, and leadership, establishing the groundwork for further reform? 

2) Let us not forget that Rubio is bitter. He sees this as his issue -- and he's seen to be a leader only because most of the rest of his party is so anti-immigrant -- and the president's executive order took the wind out of his sails at a time when he was trying to score some political points. And now he's just positioning himself for a 2016 presidential run. Given all the hand-wringing about demographics, and specificially about how the GOP is way too white and badly losing the "minority" vote, he obviously thinks he can make this a winning issue for him.

3) How does this "set back the cause a bit"? It doesn't, except insofar as Republicans aren't willing to work with the president on anything, including immigration reform, unless they get what they want, no compromise allowed. Republicans once supported the DREAM Act. As they moved to the right and turned into an ever-more-extreme, obstructionist anti-Obama party, they turned on it, just as they've turned on so much else (e.g., market-based health-care reform). The president scored a victory with his executive order, and that pisses Republicans off. If the cause experiences a setback -- whatever he means by "cause" -- it will only be because of his own party. The president, as always, is willing to work to find a meaningful bipartisan compromise.

4) Someone might want to remind the senator that Obama's second term hasn't even started yet, and, besides, he has no idea what the president's agenda is. He's just shooting wildly in the dark, hoping a smear or two will stick. There have been other priorities recently, notably the "fiscal cliff" mess (and soon yet another debt ceiling mess) that was largely the creation of uncompromising Republicans out to push their far-right agenda (and destroy the president) no matter the cost to the country. And there was also the awful tragedy in Newtown, which turned the president's attention to gun violence and the urgent need for serious gun control. He'll get to immigration reform, and Rubio is just trying to tarnish the president's credibility when he claims, without a shred of evidence, that he will do nothing so as to keep the issue alive for Democrats. First, the president has already won re-election. Second, thus far he has shown little regard for playing politics on behalf of his fellow Democrats. And, third, he cares about this issue -- about resolving the problem. He wants to get something done.

5) Rubio knows he has to walk a fine line within his own party: tough on immigrants but also sensible enough to try to secure some of the lost Latino vote, while building up his credibility generally for a presidential run (and/or a veep spot). And so he has to remain short on details, which could cast him as insufficiently conservative, while remaining visible and proving his staunch anti-Obama bona fides on his "signature" issue, all with public opinion generally in the president's favor.

And so we get this steaming pile of horseshit. With much more to come.

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  • One more thing: since when is giving a constituency a gift a bad thing? Both parties are forever doing this for the wealthy. But the moment it is done for the poorer class, it is pandering. Look at most of the reporting on Hugo Chavez: the poor love him because he gave them stuff. Horror! Of course, the rich hate him because he took stuff from them. Why is one reaction valid and the other invalid?

    By Anonymous Frank Moraes, at 3:25 PM  

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