Immigration Double Kabuki

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Maybe there is some Beltway logic to this story that I don’t understand.  Here’s the situation: Obama wants an immigration bill. He knows that if he comes down heavily on one side Republicans might get their backs up and oppose whatever he proposes. So he is giving the Senate “negotiators” space. I understand that much. Never mind that the Senate “Gang of 8” negotiators are seven amnesty-first supporters plus Marco Rubio, who is also an amnesty-first supporter (if he wasn’t he wouldn’t have Cesar Conda as his chief of staff). Let’s assume for now that if these eight Friends of Amnesty can come up with a deal the rest of the Senate can pretend is a “bipartisan compromise,” at least until the public finds out what is in it.

Ah, but Obama has his own bill, waiting in the wings! As a “backup.” If negotiations fail, he just might introduce it! How does that work again? The already pro-amnesty Gang of 8 is unable to reach a deal–but then the President introduces his even more pro-amnesty plan, and the Senate is going to go, “Well, now that the President has introduced a plan it looks like we just have to forget our disagreements and back it.” Is that how the Senate works? I don’t think so. If the President introduces a plan the Senate will say “thank you” and be right back where it was before. The President doesn’t have the power to force the Senate to pass his plan, or even vote for it.

So what’s the purpose of this hollow threat? The only explanation I come up with is that it’s a Double Kabuki play: 1) The President gets to posture as the tough guy demanding a deal (or else he’ll unleash his draft!). Meanwhile the Hispanic caucus and the amnesty lobby can gnaw on all the pro-illegal statutory tweaks they would like to see in the “path to citizenship,” etc.  But more important 2) Republicans like Rubio and Paul Ryan get to posture by denouncing the President’s draft (Rubio: “Dead on Arrival” Ryan: “the wrong direction”) thereby earning themselves seeming-tough-on-illegals street cred that might serve them well when they sell out by endorsing an instant-legalization compromise  (as, in fact, Rubio has already done).  Any relatively unimportant differences with Obama’s plan will seem like concessions wrung from the President by these determined conservatives. …

That would not only explain why the plan exists but why it was leaked by “an Obama administration official” to USA Today. Obama wants to give Rubio and Ryan the opportunity to look like they are fighting him. But it’s a fake fight.

Got a better explanation?

Update: TPM‘s Benjy Sarlin reaches the same conclusion.  He notes that Rubio and Obama basically agree on amnesty, despite Rubio’s “touring indignation act.”

Is it possible this Kabuki is so flimsy it won’t fly–i.e., everyone (except the MSM) will see through it immediately?

Mickey Kaus