New Orleans A couple of times per week more than 40 years ago I would stop at a Walgreens in downtown Little Rock for a cup of coffee with Max Allison, a legendary political operator and campaign manager for powerhouse Congressman Wilbur Mills and other Arkansas big whoop politicos. Enjoyably to me and several others, Max in a circuitous style would prod a discussion about the political “equation” and, while reading the daily papers, dissect whose “fine hand might be behind the news.”
When a half-dozen or so big-time Beltway lobbying groups sign off on a press release that comes out of the blue, dividing the entire immigration reform campaign, by calling on the President to back off of any contemplated changes that might relax the devastating damage being inflicted by the Administration’s record setting deportation efforts, there was no doubt that something was up. I wondered earlier if there had been a deal, but, sadly, it seems in looking for the “fine hand,” these groups were little more than the eager recruits willing to provide cover for the White House. Within days of the press release, President Obama has announced that he has asked his folks to delay until August any more work on determining if he has the authority to operate differently on his deportation initiative and raids.
Clearly, the “fine hands” were full-time employees of the White House. If there was any deal it was not a deal made by a couple of Beltway groups. They essentially gave it up to the White House on a “something for nothing,” wink-and-nod request, likely in the hope of some pay-me-later bit of access, if, and when, there is ever progress on immigration reform. If any of us had the time and interest, it might be more telling at this point to look at the groups that said “NO!” to the White House duck-and-cover ask, rather than scarlet letter group that went along for the White House ride.
Friends listening to the rumor mill in DC say that the White House is hoping to help Speaker Boehner with this stutter step delay. He and the President are whispering back and forth supposedly. He may step down as Speaker after the election goes one tale. Passing something on immigration would be a legacy move for him. Frankly, it all sounds preposterous to me. Next thing you know, I’ll be asked to believe that Lance Stephenson wasn’t blowing in LeBron’s ear to distract him, but asking for a date after the game. Come on, now!
More tragically the timing of the President’s retreat had the puppet strings pulling two ways, not only with the DC groups the White House hoped would give him cover, but also seemingly coordinated with raids in Milwaukee displaying the iron fist of deportation as red meat for the rightwing. But who are we kidding? According to the Times,
House Republican leaders dismissed the president’s offer of a window, saying they would proceed on their own timetable. “This does not open the door to anything,” said an aide to the House Republican leadership. “It just avoids slamming the door, locking it, dead-bolting it and swallowing the key.”
The only thing the Republicans seemed to have agreed on was an amendment from Iowa’s Congressman Steve King, one of the whackiest, mouth-breathers in the body on the need in fact to investigate whether or not any of the undocumented immigrants blocked from deportation might have committed crimes.
Does any of this sound like progress? Too much of it seems to have unfortunately reverted to the standard Obama negotiating posture of giving up something for nothing. The fact that the White House negotiates that way hardly recommends it for any organizations involved in the struggle for immigration reform. The pressure has to be maintained, and it seems, once again, that’s only going to happen from the grassroots reformers, and not surprisingly, that’s also where the pain is felt most dearly in our communities, many miles and seemingly another world away from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and other DC avenues and alphabet lettered streets.