Rubio: Obama's lawlessness is the biggest impediment to passing immigration reform

Before we begin, although I think these “he’s being friendly with Obama!” outrages are silly, I can’t resist tossing a little chum to the anti-Rubio sharks out there. I’m titling this one, “Pals.”

Anyway, as the senator was saying:

Rubio said that the “fundamental” problem to passing immigration reform right now is skepticism on the right that the administration would enforce beefed up border security measures.

He said that Obama administration handling of the Internal Revenue Service scandal involving scrutiny of Tea Party groups and revelations about widespread National Security Administration spying have drummed up this skepticism.

“I don’t know if it can happen under this administration given its lack of willingness to enforce the law. It’s a real impediment,” he said. “I think that is the fundamental challenge right now … how do we gain people’s confidence that the enforcement will happen.”

“Where was this guy eight months ago?” wonders Mark Krikorian. When did it dawn on him, precisely, that a Democratic president can’t be trusted to be a hard-ass on the border even if Congress has authorized him to be one? I’ll up the ante by asking another question: When did Obama’s lawlessness become an “impediment” to passing immigration reform, as Rubio says here, rather than the whole reason for passing the bill in the first place? Back in August, he argued that it’s because we can’t trust Obama that Congress needs to act; if Congress stands pat and does nothing, O might turn around and try to amnestize America’s illegals via executive order. Better to have the legislature step up than leave President Powergrab to his own devices. Remember?

“I believe that this president will be tempted, if nothing happens in Congress, he will be tempted to issue an executive order like he did for the DREAM Act kids a year ago, where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen. Now, we won’t get an E-Verify, we won’t get any border security. But he’ll legalize them,” the Florida senator told Tallahassee radio host Preston Scott.

Why was he worried about border security and E-Verify back then if he doesn’t trust Obama to enforce them now? If you can’t trust O to carry out the law then logically it doesn’t much matter what Congress does. O’s going to do what he wants to do. In fact, if you’re worried about a backlash among conservatives against the GOP leadership if they pass a legalization bill, you’re arguably better off letting Obama do that himself via EO so that he takes all the political heat. The GOP can focus on border security instead and then, if Obama refuses to enforce the bill they pass, they can run on that in the midterms. It’d be superb motivation to get grassroots righties to turn out to beat the Democrats.

Ah, but there’s a flaw in that plan: The GOP needs to participate in the legalization process in order to impress Latino voters, right? Can’t let O do it himself. Then he’ll get all the electoral credit. As the head of the RNC put it, “I think you have general consensus that something big has to happen.” Does it, though? A smart conservative-leaning friend who follows politics e-mailed me today after the Ryan post with a provocative question: What if all the Republican blather about passing amnesty to woo Latinos is nonsense that even they don’t believe? Romney did get destroyed in that demographic in 2012, but contrary to popular belief, it didn’t cost him the election. Pushing a middle-class economic agenda would help Republicans with Latinos (and every other kind of voter) in 2016 irrespective of what happens with immigration reform; it’s also an open question whether Latinos, a key part of “the Obama coalition,” will show up in the same numbers two years from now when O’s no longer on the ballot. Republican leaders know all of this, my friend emphasized. So why continue to push the “we can’t win without amnesty!” canard?

His theory: Maybe the Democrats are right about the GOP, at least on this issue. Maybe Boehner and Ryan and the rest of them really are just toadies of the Chamber of Commerce and big business. The “Latinos won’t vote for us without this” might simply be what they feed the base to try to soften opposition among conservatives; after all, even if you hate the idea of amnesty, you’d hate losing to Hillary even more. Once grassroots opposition is sufficiently soft, the big immigration sellout on behalf of business interests can proceed. I don’t know if he’s right or wrong, but keep the possibility in mind as this plays out. All I’ll say is, while I don’t trust O to enforce the border as scrupulously as he could, there are few Republican would-be presidents that I’d trust either. This isn’t an “Obama’s gone rogue” problem. This is something bigger.