This week the Supreme Court will issue a ruling in the Arizona immigration statute case. Betting among the legal gurus who follow this case is that at least some of the Arizona law will be upheld. If so, it will be hard to avoid the impression in both health-care and immigration contexts that Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama are lacking in constitutional awareness or have so politicized the Justice Department that it is no longer a reliable indicator of the law. (And don’t forget unanimous Supreme Court decisions against the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to deprive landowners of court hearings and against the Justice Department’s position that religious institutions lack a “ministerial privilege” to fire personnel as they see fit.)
Aside from the potential meta-message of administration lawlessness, the ruling in the Arizona case will once again highlight the refusal of the administration to pursue comprehensive immigration reform.
The media are doing their best to disguise the unpleasant fact that Mitt Romney has been more forthcoming on immigration than the president has in more than three years in office. Mediaite reports:
[Democrats’] reaction betrays the seriousness of Romney’s speech and the impact it could have on the presidential race if the proposals he advanced on Thursday are sustained and repeated throughout the campaign. Romney’s NALEO speech recaptured the initiative President Barack Obama seized in announcing his immigration directive last Friday. After just one week, Democrats are back on the defensive. . . .
I watched Romney’s address to NALEO live. Immediately afterword, I noted how it was a substantive speech with a number of proposals he had not previously advanced regarding the rewarding of legal immigration as well as those second generation illegal immigrants that either earn an advanced degree or serve in the armed forces. It was all news to me.
But I was then immediately confronted by the mirror image of my impressions as I watched MSNBC’s instant reaction panel. The speech they saw was void of specifics. They felt Romney was simultaneously pandering and disingenuous. His speech was not only thin proposals with no concrete plan as to how to enact them. What’s more, he was “trying too hard” to ingratiate himself to members of the Latino community, as one liberal commentator said.
You can’t win for losing, I suppose.
That reaction has been echoed across the spectrum of liberal political commentary. . . .
What’s more, Romney spoke to them in conciliatory way. He praised the promise that Obama represented in 2008 and telling them that it was not their judgment that failed them in the voting booths four years ago; it was Obama who failed in his charge. It was a pitch-perfect tone. It was the way that one should address a skeptical and betrayed group; with sincerity, genuine concern and compassion.
The point here is not that liberal pundits spin for the Obama team. (There is no doubt they do, with a rigor that conservatives envy.) The real point is that Romney has an immigration agenda to present to voters, which is going to be awfully hard for even the most biased media coverage to conceal from voters. What is more, should Romney get elected, there is now a significant list of reforms on which the parties could find common ground. No, we don’t have agreement on how to deal with millions of illegal immigrants who would remain after enforcement upgrades and other Romney reform were enacted, but the paralysis on immigration reform could finally thaw, beginning an important step-by-step movement toward fixing our immigration system.
The Arizona law, if upheld, makes a powerful point: The complete dereliction by the federal government on this subject has left the states scrambling to come up with their own solutions on immigration. Had Obama presented and pushed through a reform agenda as robust as the one Romney now has proposed (including significant steps in border security and employer verification), Arizona and other states might not have resorted to ad hoc measures. Sometimes “leading from behind” really isn’t a good idea.