MIAMI – According to House Speaker John Boehner, President Obama’s recent executive order to protect several million undocumented immigrants from being deported “poisoned the well,” making it impossible for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. In other words, if there is no comprehensive immigration reform, it’s Obama’s fault.
If there were a Nobel Prize for gall, chutzpah, cynicism, and turning the truth on its head, Boehner would win it hands down. More than a year ago, in June 2003, the U.S. Senate indeed passed such a comprehensive immigration reform bill. It was, moreover, passed on a bipartisan basis. What did Boehner do? He refused to even bring it up in the House. Had he done so, the bill might have passed on the strength of the votes of some moderate Republicans and the overwhelming majority of Democrats. However, Boehner and his troops were not about to let that happen.
Why? For years, House Republicans have not allowed any bill to pass unless it had the support of “the majority of the majority.” And the majority of Boehner’s caucus, House Republicans, hated the proposed legislation. To paraphrase a song by Jimmy Buffet, some people claim that there is a President Obama to blame. But you, John Boehner, know it’s your own damned fault.
The idea that Obama’s action somehow poisoned the well is preposterous. The fact is that the GOP-run House has turned down every immigration reform proposal brought before it. They couldn’t even abide legalizing the “Dreamers.” These are young people who were brought here by their undocumented parents as children, and who remain undocumented even though they are Americans in every way except they lack the right piece of paper. After that, who can doubt that the only well Boehner’s bunch hold out to undocumented immigrants is a bottomless pit of poisonous ill will?
Parenthetically, and beyond the issue of immigration, it takes colossal audacity, contempt for the intelligence of the American people, and a reliance on the public’s collective amnesia for Republicans to charge Obama with poisoning the well.
The Republicans, in the person of then-Minority Leader and soon to be Majority Leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell, poisoned the well on day one of Obama’s first term. McConnell welcomed a president fresh from receiving a ringing endorsement from the voters by infamously proclaiming that the GOP’s main priority in Congress would be ensuring Obama would be a one-term president.
They failed in that mission, but not from lack of trying. Indeed, they tried almost every dirty trick in the book, from political blackmail to vilification to prevent Obama from governing effectively.
From the fury and hysteria that Obama’s new immigration policy has evoked among Republicans, you would think the president is implementing blanket amnesty for all undocumented immigrants, present and future. In fact, the president’s order is fairly narrow and limited, especially when compared with past bipartisan comprehensive immigration proposals that would have afforded a path to citizenship to the majority of undocumented immigrants. In contrast, Obama’s executive order offers only three years of protection from deportation to well under half of all undocumented immigrants.
That hasn’t prevented legions of Republicans from calling the president’s action unconstitutional and imperial – or from putting on the table the one trick they had yet to try, the threat of impeachment.
Ironically, one would be on more solid ground in accusing Obama of following too closely in his Republican predecessor’s footstep on a host of issues, including the conduct of war, the civil liberties of Americans, the impunity of those who authorized torture, and the Cuban embargo.
But who are the Republican supporters of George W. Bush, who waged an illegal and catastrophic war, changed the rules of the game to allow torture, and initiated the shame of Guantanamo and the horror of extraordinary rendition, to impugn Obama on any grounds? Obama has been far from what progressives hoped for but he is not in the same league as George W. Bush or John Boehner.
The president proved that by his immigration executive order last week. Finally, he did the right thing. Obama’s immigration policies often have been disappointing. But this time he had the courage to push the envelope and get in the face of Republicans. It’s no small thing to eliminate the terror of deportation hanging over the head for several million people, even if only temporarily.
It’s possible the GOP’s virulent opposition will succeed in blocking some or all of the president’s initiatives, especially given the dominance of the right in the Supreme Court. But it’s also clear that the more the Republicans wage war on Obama’s executive order, the deeper the grave they are digging for themselves in the future, especially with Latino voters.
Many Republicans are aware and afraid of this reality. Thus Boehner’s lame, ridiculous attempt to shift the blame for the lack of immigration reform onto Obama. That’s a transparent ploy that isn’t going to fool anyone in the Latino community, even a third-grader.
For some time, Latinos had been growing lukewarm about Obama and the Democrats. But Obama’s order and Republican antics against deportation relief are a game changer. Republicans are once again well into the process of shooting themselves not only in the foot but where it really hurts. They have made their bed. Now they must lie on it for decades to come.