Just as it appears that a bipartisan group of senators could be coming together on immigration reform, President Obama has decided to weigh in. It's hard to determine what he wanted to accomplish with his campaign-style rally and speech in Las Vegas Tuesday. Maybe he was agitated at being left out or maybe he didn't want to appear to be irrelevant — which he is not — to the process.
Other than casting a gratuitous pall from the left, the only practical effect of him chiming in so far appears to have been to chill the consensus that is building in the Senate and to remind both parties of where we disagree. I can't think of what good his speech did.
If the president really wanted to help, why wouldn't he be talking to the Senate Republicans who have stuck their necks out, to consult with them about what his priorities are and how he might be helpful to the process? The fact that four GOP senators have the guts to get out front and lead on this issue is important and should be applauded. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham consistently turn the other cheek and work with Democrats, but the other two are new to this type of high-profile and high-stakes political venture. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) gives all Republicans cover on immigration. If he says that an immigration bill is okay, then it must mean it helps the party with Hispanics. And Sen. Jeff Flake's (R-Ariz.) blessing means that it must be good enough to please most of the party's right wing.
If this group can stay together on this issue then it might mean that Washington can still produce bipartisan solutions. But the president doesn't appear to have an instinct for bigness or see himself outside of a campaign context. He continually reminds Republicans that there won't be any more campaigns against him, but he can't seem to take himself out of campaign mode. In fact, with bipartisanship brewing on immigration, the only thing he could think of to do was to admonish those who are actually working on a solution to hurry up. The president, who hasn't found time to work with his own party to pass a budget in four years — and who won't be submitting one on time this year — wants others who are actually doing something to hurry up. Classic Obama.