A brief recap of immigration politics seems to be in order. Truth be told, Republicans have been far ahead of Democrats in trying to come up with immigration solutions.
President George W. Bush, the last and maybe only president genuinely to care about immigration reform, tried and failed to pass a comprehensive bill in 2007. Exclusionist Republicans and pro-Big Labor Democrats (including the junior senator from Illinois) combined forces to sink the legislation. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama promised comprehensive immigration reform. He never pushed for anything approaching the Bush legislation but backed the Dream Act that Republicans opposed.
Until five months before the next election, President Obama had done nothing to move the ball on immigration reform. With Mitt Romney and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) dragging their feet, he took the extraordinary measure of changing existing law by executive fiat. Rubio first said he’d therefore drop his plans, but later said he might go forward with his own bill. (This is the first time Rubio has appeared like a freshman. This is not a compliment.)
But then a curious thing happened. Although hemmed in by his own base and his statements during the Republican primaries, Mitt Romney came out with his own immigration plan, which was broader than the president’s. It covers many more problems and groups of people than did Obama’s. So the press, following the cues of the White House, was outraged. How dare he roll out something like that and call it a “plan”!
First Democrat talking point: Romney did not address the great mass of illegal immigrants who would remain in the United States despite enforcement measures and who did not fit into one of the categories Romney addressed. (e.g., serving in the military; having high skills or being highly educated; family reunification cases; guest workers).
The hypocrisy is jaw-dropping. Where is Obama’s solution? Well, wink-wink, he wants simply to legalize all of them, his defenders say. Oh really, then why not say so? And would they be citizens? There is a gulf as wide as the Grand Canyon between what Obama has hinted at and what he has done or even articulated in a reelection campaign.
Next Democrat talking point (I thought this argument inexplicable until I learned it had been fed to left-wing bloggers.), as explained by the Wall Street Journal: “Democrats also chided Mr. Romney for not saying flatly whether he would repeal Mr. Obama’s new directive banning deportation of many young illegal immigrants. Mr. Romney has repeatedly deflected queries about how he would handle the president’s order, though he addressed the question Thursday.” But wait, Romney did say what he’d do: “Some people have asked if I will let stand the president’s executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure.” (He apparently was supposed to explain what he’d do if that failed. Huh? What politician presents his plan and then the alternative if his is rejected? The mind reels at the contortions devised by Obama’s media lackeys.)
Why pretend not to understand and why fixate on what Romney would say about Obama’s extra-constitutional action rather than focus on what Romney promised? Well, Romney, you see, came up with far more (although to my dismay, not addressing the illegal immigrants who would remain after enforcement) than Obama did. So it is time for distraction, word games and flat-out misrepresentation of Romney’s views.
This dance between the White House and media spinners is as transparent as it is ineffective. When Romney runs ads, gives speeches and appears in debate, he’ll have his immigration reform plan. It doesn’t do everything, but it does a lot. Obama doesn’t have a plan (or won’t say what he really wants to do), save an illegal executive order on a narrow issue. No amount of spin will disguise that.