Conn Carroll writes:
“Obama is done trying to work with Republicans in 2013 and 2014. He is abandoning any real effort for bipartisan immigration, gun, or energy reform.”
Instead, according to Carroll, Obama will focus on winning back the House in 2014 and, after that, “push forward with a progressive agenda on gun control, immigration, climate change and the economy during his final two years in office.”
Do you believe this? I don’t. I rarely disagree with Carroll’s judgment, but I think it’s obvious Obama is pushing for immigration amnesty in this Congress. Immigration reform is a big deal–especially to Obama’s base. He doesn’t have do-able second term legislative initiatives that are bigger. Does he really want to make this legacy-cementing achievement contingent on a) winning the House in an off-year election, when the “coalition of the ascendant” disproportionately fails to make it to the polls and b) nothing happening for the next two years that would discourage support for amnesty–like a surge in illegal entries prompted by the mere talk of legalization? The longer Obama waits, the more flaws in the various amnesty plans will become known, the more African Americans might split off on the issue, the more GOP presidential candidates like Rubio and Ryan will worry about pissing off the conservative base close to the 2016 primaries, the greater the chance of distraction (war, recession), the lamer a duck Obama will be, the more MSM cheerleading enthusiasm will peter out. … OK, that last thing will never happen. But the others might.
The Obama-wants-the-issue-not-a-bill line plays all too easily into a Democratic strategy of maximizing bargaining leverage–i.e. ‘agree with our version of the bill or we’ll clobber you with Latinos in 2014′–which is inexplicably intimidating some conservatives. Not coincidentally, pro-amnesty Republicans Like Rep. Diaz Balart also take a ‘he-wants-the-issue’/”he doesn’t want to get it done,” stance–it gives them a fake anti-Obama talking point as well as potentially frightening the easily frightened. (If you buy the sensible expectation that amnesty will create more Democrats, it seems especially perverse for Republicans to, in effect, accuse President Obama of refusing to screw them over like he promised.)
The Kausfiles Kabuki Warning System says: don’t buy this leverage-building rhetoric! It will become increasingly implausible once an actual bill is within reach. Unless Obama is dumber than he seems, he wants an amnesty bill and he wants it now. That’s true even for a Jebbish amnesty bill that only legalizes illegals and leaves the creation of a “path to citizenship” to future fights. (The Jeb plan may actually be the best of both worlds for Obama, since it gives him irreversible legalization of the undocumented and a club to keep beating up Republicans with.)
P.S.: Articles claiming Obama is focused on regaining the House in 2014 would be more convincing if they didn’t rely on quotes from Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose job it is to make it seem as if the race for House control is the contest on which everything turns (so give money!). …