Obama at the Border

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Obama on the border of … : Obvious points about Obama’s immigration speech in El Paso today–

 1) Does he really think he’s going to sell us the same old amnesty/enforcement sandwich by saying it will “make America more competitive in the global economy” (or “for America’s 21st century economy,” as his more boilerplate-prone press office tends to put it)? That’s hard to believe.

2) The alternative, CW explanation for his odd talk-to-the-echo-chamber push is politics: he’s trying to energize the “crucial” Hispanic vote two years before the election. But at what point does talking obsessively (big speech, constant White House meetings, etc.) about an issue that has been defeated politically, is going nowhere, and is tangential to the main crises of the day begin to lose Obama the far more numerous votes of independents, non-Hispanic Dems and Hispanics who care about something other than amnesty?  Like a man declaiming at nobody on the streetcorner, he looks a bit disoriented.

3) Swaddling the issue in  “21st century economy” talk could be a savvy acknowledgment of this political peril–designed not to sell the issue to the majority but to at least detoxify it for the majority (while Obama rouses the minority).  But that may be overthinking things. Maybe the White House is just plodding ahead dumbly.  “It does beg the question: ‘Where are we going with this?'” says Angela Kelly of the Center for American Progress in USA Today. When Obama loses CAP … 

 4) “The fence is now basicaly complete.” Huh? Or was there an implicit “as far as I’m concerned” tacked onto the end of this sentence?

5) Obama: “We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement.  All the stuff they asked for, we’ve done.”  Hmm. When did they make E-verify mandatory for all employers? I must have missed that. (If you favor “enforcement first,” of course, you’d in any case want to wait for a robust economy, which predictably pulls in illegal immigrants looking for jobs, to see if any enforcement measures hold. But to do that Obama would have to produce a robust economy.)

6) The audience responses to Obama’s speech, recorded in the WSJ account, are both more interesting and honest than the speech itself. For example:

Then they wanted a fence.  Well, the fence is –


THE PRESIDENT:  The fence is now basically complete.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Tear it down!

That was soon followed by this exchange:

 All the stuff they asked for, we’ve done.  But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I’ve got to say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  They’re racist!

That is, of course, how opposition to amnesty is actually, routinely characterized on the ground here in the Southwest. A real “constructive and civil debate on these issues” would confront that widespread belief.

I don’t think Obama’s under any obligation to contradict or correct his audience. But it would have been easy to do. And if Obama really wanted to win Republican votes and pass his bill, he would have done it, no?

Mickey Kaus