Oh, he didn’t come right out and admit that, but White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest communicated his bewilderment perfectly on Monday while on the receiving end of a grilling by Fox News White House Correspondent Ed Henry.
Henry recalled that then candidate Barack Obama guaranteed in an interview with Univision host Jorge Ramos that an immigration reform proposal he would support would be among his accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.
“I cannot guarantee that it is going to be in the first 100 days,” Obama told Ramos in May, 2008. “But what I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support and that I’m promoting. And I want to move that forward as quickly as possible.”
Obama dropped that ball. Even Politifact, which cannot bring itself to label virtually any of the president’s failed promises regarding immigration reform “broken,” has singled out this one as a clear and unequivocal broken promise.
Given the size of Democratic majorities in Congress, the president could have been provided with an immigration bill designed and passed exclusively by Democrats. In the same fashion that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care Act were purely partisan exercises, The American Dream and Apple Pie Betsy Ross Act of 2009 (How could you oppose that?) would have been the dream Democratic reform package.
The president did not act, and now his intensity surrounding the subject of immigration reform is directly proportional to the proximity of the next Election Day.
Earnest was forced to answer for this and the implication that Obama’s latest push for immigration reform is purely political. His performance was… lackluster.
Earnest attempted to brush off the criticism by noting that the president had to address a variety of crises in his first year – particularly the financial crisis. Of course! That is probably why he spent the majority of that year pushing to advance the decades-old liberal dream of reforming the nation’s health care system.
Henry chose not to make that partisan point, but to observe instead that the president’s calendar is also currently marred by a variety of domestic and international crises that also monopolize his time.
Many words were spoken by Earnest, but none of them came close to a satisfactory answer to Henry’s question. The honest answer is that immigration reform simply was not a political priority for the White House in 2009 and, to the extent that the issue can be used to bludgeon Republicans in an election year, it is now.