In his speech on immigration reform in El Paso last week (video here), President Obama opined: “[W]e’ve seen leaders of both parties who try to work on this issue, but then their efforts fell prey to the usual Washington games.” Michael Barone observes that Obama himself has been a prominent practitioner of these games. Having written a thoughtful book on the subject of immigration, Barone does not stop there. He offers some good ideas for reform.
Barone’s column prompted me to read Obama’s speech. The speech is not just hypocritical, which is the charge that Barone levels against it. It really is worse than that. It is also demagogic and disgusting in the trademark Obama style. Those who disagree with Obama are not credited with respectable views. Obama disparages his opponents as acting in bad faith. In this context, of course, the bad faith amounts to racism.
When Obama discusses the measures he has taken to create the excellent conditions that he seems to believe now prevail on the border with Mexico, he touts the fence that he has in fact abandoned. Consider the passage leading up to the subtle representation of immigration reform critics as advocates of alligators in moats at the border. Here the audience chimes in as a kind of Greek chorus as brought to you by Firesign Theater. Demagoguery can be fun:
THE PRESIDENT: [T]hey wanted a fence. Well, the fence is —
THE PRESIDENT: The fence is now basically complete.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Tear it down!
THE PRESIDENT: Then we’ve gone further. We tripled the number of intelligence analysts working at the border. I’ve deployed unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the skies from Texas to California. We have forged a partnership with Mexico to fight the transnational criminal organizations that have affected both of our countries. (Applause.) And for the first time — for the first time we’re screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments to seize guns and money going south even as we go after drugs that are coming north. (Applause.)
So, here’s the point. I want everybody to listen carefully to this. 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. 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!
Got it. Thank you, audience member, for clearing that up.