When White House press secretary Robert Gibbs excoriated government critics (“the professional left”) for being ungrateful SOB’s considering all that this administration has done for them, he wasn’t acting as a lone wolf. It’s a refrain that has oft been uttered by this White House, from Rahm Emanuel’s “f*#@ing r&#tards” to “top Obama advisors” who vent to Politico about an “elite group of commentators on the left.”
Roger Simon defends Gibbs this morning, and I have no doubt he’s right when he says he believes “the president agrees with Gibbs and was neither angered nor disappointed by Gibbs’s statements, which came not in the heat of his daily briefing but in the cool of his West Wing office.“
But with the public’s approval ratings of Congress at near-historic lows and not budging, it’s hard to see how this could be the fault of a couple of bloggers nobody has heard of. More likely, it’s the result of constituencies who aren’t happy with symbolic gestures while the government’s priority is to battle for the dollars of big corporate donors.
According to Gallup, Obama’s approval ratings among Hispanics has dropped 20 points this year. They note that “the two major drops in Hispanics’ approval of Obama this year — in February and May — coincide with two periods when the president was under fire for not doing enough to promote comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.”
As I wrote in April of this year:
Immigration just might be the issue that breaks through the White House “veal pen” strategy and forces them to deal with an issue — or risk the defection of an important part of the Democratic base in the 2010 elections.
When the White House punted on immigration reform lat year after the Sotomayor confirmation, I started asking members of Congress if they thought immigration would actually come up for a vote this year. They all laughed, as if anyone would expect them to do something so controversial in a midterm election year.
But even before the Arizona law was passed, the standard White House strategy for quelling liberal discontent was already at risk of failure. Captivating community validators, engaging in symbolic gestures and then blaming the GOP for their inability to carry them out has worked well on issues like health care, choice and LGBT rights, but there were signs that those who care about immigration reform were not going to be so easily pacified.
Nobody believed that Luis Gutierrez was actually going to tell Hispanic voters to stay away from the polls in 2010, but the fact that he was already threatening to go nuclear was a sign of the pressure he was already feeling from his constituents.
The Democrats are now on an all-out crusade to blame the Republicans for blocking comprehensive immigration reform. But the truth is, they couldn’t get their own caucus to support it. As Jonathan Martin wrote, “[F]or Democrats to pass immigration reform before November, party leaders would have to force members from conservative-leaning districts to cast yet another tough vote that could raise the ire of swing voters.” There was no way that was going to happen.
And so we have cable news is full of attacks Sharron Angel for shutting out Hispanic media, and Harry Reid saying he doesn’t know “how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican.” With GOP establishment stalwarts like Lindsey Graham talking about repealing the 14th amendment, that’s not without cause.
Meanwhile, Reid reconvened the Senate this morning just to pass the $600 million border security bill that puts National Guard troops and drones on the border.
“It is really unfortunate, misguided and a major political misstep,” as Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, told Politico. “There will need to be a lot of repair work by the Democrat leadership with the immigrant advocacy community.”
America’s Voice reports that deportations have skyrocketed under the Obama administration:
In a 2008 interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos, an anchor on the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network, Obama promised to draft an immigration reform bill during his first year in office. This week, Ramos and other Spanish media are blasting Obama for his failure to fulfill that promise — especially after the Latino vote gave Obama the electoral edge in four key states in 2008:
“If he was able to get 60 votes for financial reform, if he can get 60 votes to extend unemployment benefits, how come he can’t get 60 votes for immigration reform?” Ramos asked. “So many Latinos feel there is a lack of leadership, and he is not fighting for immigration reform with the same intensity that he fought for health care reform.”
In other words, we’ve all seen how the White House can twist arms when it wants to. The White House says it’s behind the DREAM Act. If they were really whipping on it, does anyone think there would only be 138 cosponsors, especially with the Republican cover of support from the likes of Orrin Hatch?
The border security bill is basically Rahm Emanuel’s warmed-over SAVE Act. The fact is, this is what the White House wants to do. They certainly aren’t doing anything to rein in Democrat Joe Donnelly, who is running ads against amnesty “because nobody should ever be awarded for breaking the law.”
Ramos’ critique of Obama has become the dominant message throughout Hispanic media:
“There is a disappointment of a promise that has not been fulfilled,” said Henrik Rehbinder, La Opinion’s editorial page editor. “More than disappointment is some anger, some resentment, over the fact that this administration was going to be sensitive to family separations, and they really are not.” The critique from Ramos could prove particularly damaging to the White House.
The Hispanic vote is absolutely critical to Democratis this fall, but as John Zogby notes, turnout numbers are looking dismal. Adding to the problem: when Obama took office, the jobless rate among Hispanics was 9.7%. It’s 12.1% now.
“The Hispanic vote is probably the No. 1 issue in terms of whether Democrats retain the House,” says Zogby. “Democrats can’t survive if they only get 54 percent of the Hispanic vote.”
It would be interesting to hear from Robert Gibbs — or Rahm Emanuel, or any other “Senior White House Aide” — whether they think these Hispanic journalists are simply ungrateful “elite liberal commentators,” or if the 20% of Hispanics who no longer approve of Obama constitute a faction of “the professional left.”