Kris Kobach is an affable Harvard, Yale and Oxford educated 46-year-old law professor who may single-handedly be costing Mitt Romney and the Republicans the White House.
Since 2010, Mr. Kobach has been the Kansas Secretary of State, a position not generally thought of as a launch pad for national notoriety. His prominence (or infamy) comes from the fact that this highly educated scholar-politician has become the brain of the anti-illegal immigration movement.
Presenting a far more appealing image than, say, former Arizona state senator Russell Pierce, Governor Jan Brewer or Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Secretary (call me Kris) Kobach is the architect of the harsh and ultimately self-defeating plank in the Republican Party platform on illegal immigration.
Devoid of the slightest kindness for the undocumented, the plank calls for strengthening the border fence, escalating crackdowns on illegal immigrants so that their lives here are so miserable that they “self-deport," and for the adoption by other states of Arizona’s draconian and mostly unconstitutional SB1070 “Show Me Your Papers” statute, which Kris also authored.
Additionally, the GOP plank calls for the federal government to withhold funding to universities that allows undocumented students to get in-state tuition; and it provides for the withholding of certain federal funding to “sanctuary cities” like New York and San Francisco, which treat their undocumented residents with respect and compassion.
In sum, the platform plank on undocumented immigration rejects all notions of compromise and appeals to the hard-right of the party.
Here is why this is a problem for Mr. Romney.
Bear in mind how presumptive vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan once considered Missouri congressman and master of disaster Todd Akin a close colleague.
Remember too how Congressmen Ryan and Akin co-authored an uncompromising anti-abortion bill, which also found its way into the Republican Party platform, outlawing all abortion, with no exception for rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
Assume that Republicans are not enjoying the newfound prominence of the abortion issue because it fuels the Democrats’ War on Women rhetoric and could exacerbate and escalate the gender gap in which women surveyed say they favor Obama over Romney by a substantial margin.
Wouldn’t this seem the worse time to focus attention on an immigration plank that seems designed to alienate Latino voters?
But by all accounts, Secretary Kobach held the party platform drafters in thrall in the week leading up to the big convention.
He got every enforcement-only provision he wanted, everyone there agrees.
What is astounding about the Kobach phenomenon is that it comes as the GOP pronounces the importance of the Latino vote.
They have stuffed their convention with a long list of prominent Latino speakers, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz of Texas, and Puerto Rico’s governor Luis Fortuño.
His wife Luisa, the First Lady of Puerto Rico, will introduce Ann Romney on Monday night. New Mexico governor Susana Martinez will also have a prominent speaking role.
With ample justification, Republicans are mounting an all-out attack on President Obama’s hypocrisy and pandering on the immigration issue.
No president has done more to deport undocumented immigrants than Mr. Obama.
Further, his support for the DREAM Act, and his stunning proclamation of “deferred deportation” for those youngsters who entered the country before the age of 16, came three years after it could have, and then only in an election year.
And remember, he promised to present a plan on comprehensive immigration reform within the first 100 days of his presidency.
The GOP has styled a vigorous Spanish-language ad campaign blaming the president for the Latino community’s economic woes. And they have announced a target of 38 percent of the Latino vote, well north of the 31 percent eked out by John McCain in 2008.
They have their work cut out for them -- Governor Romney is currently attracting just 23 percent of Latinos surveyed.
How do Republicans expect to win the hearts and minds of Latino voters when their plank might as well have been drafted by Joe the Plumber?
“Build fences and start shooting,” said Joe, now a newly minted congressional candidate.
Kris would never be so crass.
Geraldo Rivera currently serves as a roaming correspondent-at-large for Fox News Channel. He joined the network in 2001 as a war correspondent.