*Turns on White House Propaganda Machine, complete with an “enemies list”
*A President more concerned with “Positioning” himself than with Taking a Position ?
In the last three weeks the nation has seen a side of President Obama that people in Chicago saw when he was beginning his rise to the White House: an ambitious, sometimes vindictive politician more concerned with “positioning” himself than with taking a position that would benefit the community he was elected to serve.
Obama’s campaign promise to pass immigration reform in the first 100 days of his administration has haunted him for his entire presidency. Obama was forced into his campaign position by his competition with candidate Hillary Clinton who was sweeping the Latino vote in the primaries. With the nomination under his belt, Obama steadily dropped immigration reform down on his 100 day priority list until, by December, it didn’t appear at all.
The Chicago View
Community leaders were not surprised in Chicago. From the beginning Obama surrounded himself with media consultants instead of policy leadership. When the McCain Kennedy reform legislation was crafted – and ultimately passed the Senate before failing in the House – then Senator Obama at first refused to sign on, seeking to craft his own more conservative bill with Republicans. He did not attempt to justify his position in policy terms, saying only that he needed to “position himself” for his upcoming presidential campaign.
Later, when he had angered the Latino community by his vote for border security, ironically it was Congressman Gutierrez who came to his defence and “squared him” with Latino leadership. Again, Obama explained to community leaders that he was just “positioning” himself to be able to help them later. Moreover Gutierrez was the first, and for a long time only, Latino Congressman to endorse and campaign for Obama. Instead of rewarding Gutierrez for his support, Obama moved even in the early campaign to keep Gutierrez at arms length. Clearly it was immigration reform that Obama wanted to keep at arm’s length in his political “positioning.”
Obama also moved quickly to distance himself from African American leaders in Chicago from whom he had often actively sought and received support – first throwing under the bus Minister Louis Farakhan, then Rev Jesse Jackson and finally his own pastor. In so doing he “immunized” his administration from later criticism that he had saved the banks and wall street brokers while abandoning millions of families who lost their homes and their jobs. The “positioning” was put in place which would allow him to abandon the demands of his African American and Latino political base while holding their political support with the threat of a hostile Republican opposition. His marginalization of potential critics frequently came with efforts to isolate and humiliate them. His persistent efforts to humiliate Rev Jackson and his family was particularly ironic as Jackson had probably done more than any other single individual to make the democratic party nomination of an African American Presidential candidate possible.
In the White House: A Strategy to Justify the Broken Promises
With immigration reform taken off the President’s first 100 days agenda, Congressman Gutierrez led a concerted national “familias unidas” campaign and finally forced a meeting between the President and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Again promises were made – but never kept. The President never presented his own bill and, under strict White House control, not a single hearing on comprehensive immigration reform was held in the House. In the Senate, the White House stalled again and again even the introduction of a bill.
The White House claimed that its priority was Health Care Reform but only angered Latinos more with Obama’s frequent statement that his health care proposal would provide no benefit to “illegals.” Observers recalled that he had changed his language from “undocumented workers” during the campaign to “Illegal aliens” now that he was in the White House.
After Republicans swept control of the House in the midterm elections, Obama belatedly joined his voice to the passage of the “Dream Act” after breaking yet another promise (made to Senator Bob Melendez) to support a last ditch introduction of comprehensive immigration reform in the “lame duck” session of the Congress, the last time in his administration that the Democrats would control the House of Representatives.
The White House felt confident that the “Dream Act” legislation would not pass and that they could then blame his lack of progress on immigration reform on the Republicans. In fact, Senator Dick Durbin, Obama’s political sponsor for the Presidency and his closest ally in the Senate, had originally introduced the Dream Act as an alternative to comprehensive immigration reform – another case of political “positioning.” After Gutierrez virtually forced consideration and passage of the Dream Act in the House, the Senate failed to pass the bill – by five democratic votes.
The White House then loudly announced that the Republicans were to blame for the lack of progress on immigration reform and that Obama would return to the issue after the next Presidential election. The White House believed that the issue had been put to bed and told Latino leaders that “nothing can be done in the next two years but that he would be reelected and then would get something done for them – so let’s all get on the team.”
Anger, Pain and Resentment Rise in the Communities
As Obama’s intensification of deportations, separation of families and federalization of local police into immigration agents expanded however, anger grew steadily in the communities. Deportations reached the highest level in U.S. history and Homeland Security devised a multifaceted program to meet a politically devised quota of 400,000 deportations a year. The attempt to cover the mass assault on the Latino community by claiming that Homeland Security was targeting “criminals” failed the test of the statistics. The vast majority of those deported had no criminal backgrounds. Instead they were moms and dads of U.S. citizens and dream act eligible kids caught in a growing net of racial profiling by local police working with the federal government or “collateral arrests” from ICE raids. The Administration’s legal action against the Arizona law failed to cover over the fact that Homeland Security continues to enable Sherriff Arpao’s infamous racial profiling program through a federal cooperative 287g program
In December of 2010, responding to the pain, suffering and outrage in the communities, Gutierrez and Senator Bob Melendez led the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in sending a letter to the President and requesting a meeting. The letter pointed out that the President has the discretionary authority to grant deferred status or parole in place to undocumented family members of U.S. citizen spouses and children as well as dream act eligible children and their families. The letter cited a memo produced by the Department of Homeland Security to the President which documented his authority.
Gutierrez than began a 30 city tour that gained steady publicity, demonstrating that the Obama administration was deporting thousands of parents of U.S. citizen children with no criminal history. Incredibly, facing three wars and a budget government shutdown, the President himself took two hours out to call 9 congressmen telling them not to attend the press conference announcing the campaign! Finally, with no response from the President, Gutierrez began saying that “he would be unable to support” the President in the next election if he did not use his authority to stop these deportations.
A meeting was scheduled for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to meet with the President in mid April. Alarmed by the overwhelming response to the Gutierrez campaign for “American Children and Families” – and the threat of Latino non-participation in the President’s reelection – the White House postponed the meeting. Their intelligence had shown a united and angry Latino caucus.
The White House Propaganda Machine Unleashed
Instead, the White House initiated a whirlwind high level propaganda campaign of its own. They called in the advocates, then they called in a group of Latino celebrities. They held meetings with Univision corporate leadership – threatening meetings – to stop this important Spanish language outlet from supporting the Gutierrez initiative. Key Univision radio and television personalities,who had previously pressured the President for immigration reform, suddenly became his allies and Gutierrez’s critics.
It seemed for two weeks, previously hidden Latino officials of the White House and the Democratic National Committee were visible everywhere. They had one message: the president does not have the power to stop the deportations but he is “serious about moving reform legislation in the next two years.”
Both statements were without a grain of truth. First, the President did have the authority, documented by his own department heads and legal advisors. Second, the President himself had conceded publically and privately that there was not the smallest chance of passing immigration reform in the next two years, including the dream act, with Tea Party Republicans in control of the House of Representatives. Nevertheless, White House spokesmen continued to put out the propaganda and the White House began speading the money around, hiring consultants to begin their campaign to clean up the President in the Latino community.
In the midst of this propaganda offensive, came an overt campaign of personal attacks on Gutierrez and the claim that he was undermining Obama’s reelection and would be responsible for the election of a Republican President. It was mean and nasty and personal and broadly orchestrated.
When the President finally met with the Hispanic Caucus he had to admit to the truth. He did have the authority but he felt it was “bad politics” for him to use it. He agreed that legislative action would go nowhere in the next two years. Congressman Gutierrez emerged from the meeting saying “the debate about whether the President has the authority to stop the deportations of the families and students is over. He has the authority. The only question is how broadly and how generously he will use it.”
Clearly the President has been stripped of his excuses for the failure of immigration reform and for his greatly intensified assault on the Latino communities. He is not taking it well. He is striking back with all the power of the White House and sadly some people are folding before the pressure.
The President is showing the truth about the failure of immigration reform in the last two years – and the campaign of terror now reigning down on the Latino community: he is more concerned about “positioning himself” as a middle of the road politician who can win the support of white independents than with standing on the position he campaigned on. And as we saw in Chicago years ago, when he is stripped of his excuses and shell games, he gets mean and nasty.
Sadly, Obama failed to learn the age old lesson of Chicago politics: Good Government is Good Politics and Promises Made must be Promises Kept. The President’s effort to intimidate and buy his way back into the Latino community is meeting stiff opposition and angering key Latino leadership. He is fast losing ground in a key constituency that gave him victories in key states across the nation and is only growing in numbers and influence everywhere. More importantly, he is losing the moral high ground he once claimed and is exposing himself as someone more concerned with his political position than with fundamental human rights.
Surrounded by Arrogant, Self-Serving Advisors,
Is the President Self-Destructing?
We can only wonder if we are watching a president self-destruct, even as he revels in the bloodlust of the killing of an unarmed Osama Bin Laden and the long range murder of the innocent grandchildren of Kadafi. He will soon learn that the bloodlust of patriotic white America will quickly turn on its first African American President. Gutierrez has said over and over that he wants desperately to be able to campaign for the President and to help him win reelection. Perhaps, the President still has time to turn back to the people who elected him, who believed in him and who deserve his honest attention and support. Certainly, the movement to demand that he stop the deportations and separation of families will escalate. No amount of propaganda can cover up the daily pain and suffering of families and lives destroyed by a President who has broken his promise.