It was probably a cold political calculation. I can see the president cloistered with his crack team of political advisers, whispering about how Republican senator Marco Rubio was about to do something President Obama and the Democrats have been unable to do, pass at least a watered down version of the DREAM Act.
The president: “Maybe we should let Rubio do his thing, then the Republicans will be on record as supporting illegal aliens.”
David Axelrod: “Mr. President, with all due respect, we can’t let the GOP do something for Hispanics that we’ve been promising since 2007.”
When I heard Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday morning June 15th telegraph the president's intention, my first reaction was 'Bravo Obama.'
The president: “You’re right, what do you have in mind?”
David Axelrod: “Pass the DREAM Act by executive order.”
The president: “But I said last year that I couldn’t do that.”
David Axelrod: “That was then, this is five months before the election and we need these people if we’re going to keep this job.”
Maybe it wasn’t that blatant, but I don’t care.
With his overwhelming support among Hispanics becoming squishy, the president faced a stark choice. He could either let the appealing Mr. Rubio make him look impotent by passing a GOP-authorized, slightly watered down version of the bill sympathetic to the most sympathetic group among the undocumented, namely the innocent children; or the president could move boldly and preempt the Republican’s last chance to make amends to Latinos after a decade of villification.
In what was either a grossly political maneuver and/or a sincere desire to do the right thing, the president made an historic decision. For any unauthorized immigrant brought here before the age of 16, who has been here for five consecutive years, who has committed no serious crime, who is under 30 and who is attending some legitimate school or has served in the military, there will be no deportation.
Why care about motive anyway when between 800,000 to 1.4 million young undocumented immigrants have suddenly been freed from bondage? They have been slaves to the fear of deportation and ruin. To them Obama is Lincoln. To them, this quasi-DREAM Act is the Emancipation Proclamation.
Kids brought here from countries many haven't seen since early childhood, and to which they have had little contact, can stay in the only country many of them really know. Some don't even speak their native language.
When I heard Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday morning, June 15th, telegraph the president's intention, my first reaction was "Bravo Obama."
That doing good was also brilliant politically gradually became clear only after Mitt Romney on Sunday June 17th refused to say he would veto the move if elected president. It makes too much sense to be against.
For the usually ham-handed Democrats, this maneuver was uncharacteristically slick and enormously effective. To summarize:
1-it was morally right;
2-it was legal; and, as crafted, constitutional.
3-it is popular with the American people; 64% saying they approve, according to Bloomberg; and,
4-it beat the Republicans to the draw.
And in so doing re-energized the Latino vote the president needs to win in November. It is a vote that had seemed less than committed in the face of the Obama Administration’s unrelentingly aggressive deportation sweeps.
Perhaps in the next four months the Republicans will gain back some lost ground among those key Latino voters by emphasizing that the president could have done this three years ago.
Maybe the subsequent citation against his Attorney General for contempt of Congress in the "Fast and Furious" scandal will cause voters to forget the president’s grand gesture to immigrant youngsters.
Maybe the president’s invocation of executive privilege in the showdown with Congress over "Fast and Furious" will distract the fickle news media.
Perhaps Republicans can re-emphasize the point that this president has done more to strengthen border security than any other.
Maybe they can highlight that Mr. Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president.
But given those news reports showing utterly innocent, otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrant students rejoicing that they can finish college or join the U.S. Military, it is doubtful any GOP effort to spin this against the incumbent will succeed. Unless he screws something else up, he will win north of 65-70 percent of the Hispanic vote. And he will be re-elected by the strength of that vote, because as I said, Bravo Obama.