Obama's Immigration Gamble

Obama's pledge to address illegal immigration in 2010 might be a blunder or a savvy political play.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

President Obama's pledge to take on immigration reform next year has observers asking if he's a glutton for punishment. Given today's nasty health care debate and 2006's ultimately fruitless brawl over immigration, pundits agree Obama is taking on a lot. But they are split on whether he's making a savvy move to alienate conservatives, or has simply been carried away by hubris.

A Deft Political Move  "It's true that immigration reform caused George Bush immense political trouble in 2006," writes the Economist's Democracy in America. "But the reason why it caused him trouble was that it caused a far-right revolt among white conservatives, whose racially tinged invective devastated Republican Party support among Hispanics." The Economist writer said that if a bill is debated it will pit "white nativist[s]" against everyone else.

If Obama can create such a scenario he can "sap the enthusiasm for Republican election efforts that have built in 2009, solidify his hold on the Hispanic vote, and create enough disarray to hold majorities in both chambers of Congress," Ed Morrissey of Hot Air writes. But "Blue Dog" Democrats won't go with Obama months away from Election Day, which is why the strategy will probably fail, according to Morrissey.

No Popularity to Pull It Off  Powerline's Paul Mirengoff writes Obama places his "leftist convictions" and "quest for greatness" above "husbanding his political capital." An immigration fight so close to the congressional elections will be just as bad as today's health care fight. "By this time next here, the chances are good that he will have alienated nearly every non-liberal voter in the America and traumatized every legislator who depends on non-liberal voters."

If Obama doesn't win on immigration, health care, energy, and get people back to work Democrats will "all face hell in November 2010 from the voters," said Marc Pascal of the Moderate Voice.

Reform Not Urgent Now  None other than Obama's Homeland Security secretary said reform isn't immediately needed. The New York Times reported Janet Napolitano defended border protection policies and the U.S. effort to help Mexico destroy drug cartels, which she said are more pressing than reform, although it is needed.

A San Diego Mercury News' editorial agreed with Napolitano, saying the central border issue isn't immigrants but drug runners.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.