Mitt Romney spoke today to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, where he was expected to finally take a position on President Obama’s recent decision not to deport illegal immigrants who were brought here as children and are now seeking an education or serving in the military.
The remarks were much-anticipated. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example, has been saying this week that he didn’t want to take a position on Obama’s move until Romney had done so, explaining that Romney “is the leader of our party from now until November.”
However, Romney’s speech did nothing to clarify his position, as you can see for yourself:
“For two years, this president had huge majorities in the House and Senate – he was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system. Instead, he failed to act until facing a tough re-election and trying to secure your vote.
Last week, the president finally offered a temporary measure that he seems to think will be just enough to get him through the election. After three and a half years of putting every issue from
loan guarantees for his donors to Cash For Clunkers before immigration, now the president has been seized by an overwhelming need to do what he could have done on Day One. I think you deserve better.
Some people have asked if I will let stand the president’s executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure.
As president, I won’t settle for a stop-gap measure. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution. I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier. And I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner.”
I’m sure McConnell and his fellow Republicans appreciate the clear, “resolute” roadmap drawn for them by their party’s nominee.
In the primaries, of course, Romney had no such problem with clarity.
As usual with Romney, it is also necessary to point out that the words in his speech had only the vaguest of relationships to the truth. For example, he claims that for his first three and a half years as president, Obama “did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system.”
In 2010, and at Obama’s insistence, Democrats in both the House and Senate pushed passage of the so-called DREAM Act. The measure passed the House 216-198, although only eight Republicans supported it. It also drew strong majority support in the Senate, 55-41, but because Republicans had invoked the filibuster rule, it fell short of the 60 votes required for passage.
Only three Republican senators dared to vote to override that filibuster. Let’s take a look at their fate, shall we?
– At the time of the vote, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska had just been re-elected as a write-in candidate after being rejected as insufficiently conservative by GOP primary voters in her state.
– Bob Bennett of Utah had also been defeated earlier that year in a GOP primary, again on grounds that he had been insufficiently conservative.
– Richard Lugar of Indiana was defeated this year in a Republican primary, again because he was considered insufficiently conservative.
In other words, there is no chance whatsoever that Republican leaders — terrified of their base — will gather the courage necessary to address this issue. But they are indulging in hypocrisy of the highest order in an attempt to disguise that reality.
For example, House Speaker John Boehner had the gall this week to complain that by taking executive action, Obama had short-circuited any chance of congressional action on the DREAM act:
“It puts everyone in a difficult position. I think we all have concerns for those who are caught in this trap, who through no fault of their own are here. But the president’s actions are going to make it much more difficult for us to work in a bipartisan way to get to a permanent solution.”
Note Boehner’s expression of deep, humane concern “for those who are caught in this trap, who through no fault of their own are here.” Note his yearning for “a bipartisan way to get to a permanent solution.” I tell you, it almost brought tears to my eyes.
Then note the GOP’s overwhelmingly rejection of the DREAM act in 2010, led by Boehner. Note Romney’s promise to veto such legislation should it ever reach his desk as president. Note what happened to Rick Perry in the GOP presidential primaries after he defended a Texas version of the DREAM act.
The truth is, there is no give on this issue among Republicans. None. The party has taken an absolutist position and has badly punished any of its own who has dared to challenge that absolute. And while this predicament may be frustrating for party leaders, it is a predicament of their own making. The animus that they helped to generate within their base as a means of building voter loyalty has now become real and heartfelt, and as a result it is now impossible for them to make the adjustments needed for the long-term health of their party and the long-term health of this country.
– Jay Bookman