Monday, November 12, 2012

The Curious Interview in Des Moines

On October 23, President Obama gave an interview to the Des Moines Register. The story goes that the president asked that the interview be off the record, the newspaper questioned why that should be, and the Obama campaign relented and released the transcript.

This background is but a footnote to the presidential election campaign, but the President said something in the interview that struck me at the time as curious. After the jump, the president on immigration reform.

President Obama:
The second thing I'm confident we'll get done next year is immigration reform. And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they're going to have a deep interest in getting that done. And I want to get it done because it's the right thing to do and I've cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.
What I found curious about this at the time is that President Obama seemed to think that the Republicans would change their position on anything. What is he smoking, I wondered. Maybe, I speculated, he is pandering to Hispanic voters, leading them to believe something good will happen if he's re-elected. But he clearly thought the interview was off the record.

This wasn't the first time President Obama talked like this. Listen to what he had to say way back in June:
I believe that If we're successful in this election, when we're successful in this election, that the fever may break, because there's a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that. My hope, my expectation, is that after the election, now that it turns out that the goal of beating Obama doesn't make much sense because I'm not running again, that we can start getting some cooperation again.
What was going on? Did the President really believe the GOP would change their obstructionist tactics? I never did reach a conclusion during the election campaign.

Then, we all saw the election results. Republicans could read the numbers (President Obama won 71% of the Hispanic vote) as well as the President himself could (although why the GOP had such trouble reading the polls *before* the election is still a major mystery to me). Now, after the election, listen to what even the most extreme conservative pundits are saying.

Sean Hannity:
We've got to get rid of the immigration issue altogether. It's simple to me to fix it. I think you control the border first. You create a pathway for those people that are here. You don't say you've got to go home. And that is a position that I've evolved on. Because, you know what, it's got to be resolved. The majority of people here, if some people have criminal records you can send them home, but if people are here, law-abiding, participating for years, their kids are born here, you know, it's first secure the border, pathway to citizenship, done, whatever little penalties you want to put in there, if you want, and it's done.
Source: Sean Hannity.
Charles Krauthammer:
For the party in general, however, the problem is hardly structural. It requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe -- full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement.
I'm gobsmacked. I never expected to hear these two, of all people, to ever accept anything less than full deportation. Maybe President Obama wasn't delusional, maybe he wasn't pandering in that interview in Des Moines. Maybe he meant exactly what he said. Maybe he has a keener understanding of how politics work than I do. He did, after all, win the presidency twice, so it shouldn't be surprising to learn this. He might just be right about how a few cracks in the gridlock in Washington might start appearing. And maybe, just maybe, we can finally look forward to achieving immigration reform. We can hope, anyway, that change is possible. Hope. Change. Back in fashion.

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