Commentary Magazine


Gibbs Cornered Again

Robert Gibbs declares that immigration reform isn’t happening without a “healthy bipartisan majority.” That sounds like a wonderful standard for governance. Really, passing legislation on strict-party line votes can lead to bad policy and destructive polarization. Oh, but wait. There was no healthy bipartisan majority on the stimulus plan, the omnibus spending bill, or the budget. On cap-and-trade there is a bipartisan majority, most likely, against it. On healthcare there is no healthy bipartisan majority for a “public option” or any other variation on nationalized coverage. If bipartisanship were really the standard, the Obama agenda would be utterly stalled.

So what happened to “I won”? I thought the spinners were out in force telling us bipartisanship is a crock. It seems there is an odd new immigration-only rule at work here.

Behind Gibbs’s clumsy double-talk lies the reality that there is no Democratic majority in favor of immigration reform, at least not one that wouldn’t put at risk numerous seats and induce heartburn in their Big Labor patrons (who helped nix the effort last time). When immigration reform was a club to beat the Republicans with it had some utility, but now it would only spell trouble for the Democrats.

So we shouldn’t get hopeful that Obama’s philosophy of governance has changed. A more candid press secretary quizzed about moving forward with immigration would simply have answered, “It is not at the top of our list.” A really candid one would have said, “You gotta be kidding.”