This point has been made many, many, many times elsewhere this week, but let me put out a little BOLO of my own just in case attention on our side of the aisle is starting to wander too far from immigration. There are two theories on how Scandalmania might affect O’s second-term agenda. Theory one: It destroys any chance of compromise on legislation by rendering O so politically toxic that congressional Republicans simply can’t be seen to have anything to do with him. To borrow Scarborough’s point from this morning, if you think the IRS is corrupt and/or incompetent in processing tea partiers’ tax-exempt applications, why not also assume that the feds would be corrupt and/or incompetent on gun control — or border security? Whatever shred of trust in government that was left among Republicans is now gone, which means O’s second-term agenda is hopelessly off the rails. See, e.g., DrewM’s post this morning for an example of the post-scandal “shut it down” approach in action.
Theory two: Scandalmania actually makes compromise more likely because it gives congressional Republicans all sorts of exciting new ways to seem tough on Obama while they’re busy making policy deals with him. Have you noticed that Marco Rubio’s been very eager this week to throw roundhouses at Obama and the IRS? There’s a reason for that:
“Rubio has gone full bore on the IRS,” said Republican consultant Keith Appell, who is active in the conservative movement. “Immigration is a tough, tough fight he may not win, and these scandals are giving him a bit of a reprieve to talk about something else.”
Rubio was the first member of Congress to call for the resignation of the IRS chief, pre-empting President Obama’s first public comments on the controversy. Rubio followed up his demand Monday morning with a bill that would make it a crime for IRS employees to target political groups, a fiery speech on the Senate floor, and a flurry of television appearances in which he also condemned the administration’s response to the Benghazi attacks and the Justice Department’s seizure of journalists’ phone records…
The IRS controversy adds to a growing portfolio that will help inoculate Rubio from being pigeonholed as the Hispanic senator who wants to allow 11 million illegal immigrants to earn citizenship.
Yes, it’s true, beating on O for his scandals helps Rubio in 2016, as it would help any prospective Republican candidate, but that’s not the point. The point is that, arguably, being tough on Obama for Benghazi and the IRS actually enables immigration reform because it earns Rubio some extra conservative political cred with the right that he can spend on legislative compromise. How could he be selling out to O on amnesty when he’s on Fox News destroying him for his scandals every night? It’s a strategic move, and one which Obama’s probably happy to tolerate in the name of getting something big passed in his second term. Remember, Obama crony Dan Pfeiffer said plainly three months ago that “As long as Sen. Rubio and the rest of the gang are making real progress on immigration reform, we are happy to be on the sidelines and even serve as a punching bag every once in a while.” That’s exactly how Rubio’s treating him now. Mickey Kaus gazes upon the kabuki before him and calls it (tongue in cheek) Obama’s most fiendish plot yet:
In its most fiendish strategem yet, Team Obama has launched a series of not-quite-devastating but press-obsessing scandals against itself! The confluence of the Internal Revenue Service, Benghazi and AP stories means that dreadful details of the Schumer-Rubio bill will get pushed off the front pages. Reporters who might otherwise cover it will be temporarily sent to Cincinatti to interview IRS whistleblowers. Meanhwile, the scandals give Sen. Rubio and other Republicans a chance to bash Obama about something new, giving them the anti-Obama cred that might allow them to quietly sell out on amnesty and hand Obama his greatest second-term triumph! Similarly, the scandals give conservative activists an alternative, substitute target for their outrage, all the more so because the anger is legitimate. As Greg Sargent put it, the scandals could “distract right wing base for long enough for Graham and Rubio to slip immigration reform past them.” (Dem strategist Joe Trippi tweeted in response: “Shhhhh …”)…
P.S.: The scandals might also prevent Team Obama from launching a campaign of presidential speeches and press events designed to mobilize public support for amnesty–something that didn’t work on Obamacare, or gun control, or on any issue, for that matter, and that in this case would probably only succeed in rousing the opposition. Cunning, I tell you. …
He posted that yesterday afternoon at a little past 4:30 p.m. Two hours later, news broke that the House’s version of the Gang of Eight, which had been at an impasse on immigration reform just two days earlier, had miraculously broken through and reached a deal. Dude?
Exit question: Which theory is correct, the first or the second? I know which one the GOP intelligentsia prefers, but they won’t go to the mat on amnesty if there’s still lots of resistance on the right to the Gang of Eight bill. Is there, or are the IRS and Benghazi scandals the main levers of discontent for the foreseeable future?