The Corner

Boehner Says Something About Immigration, Media Freak Out

House speaker John Boehner talked about immigration reform on Thursday, and the media were all over it.

Reform “needs to get done,” Boehner said, but is “going to be difficult” due to the “widespread doubt” among House Republicans that President Obama can be trusted to enforce the law. All he did was accurately describe the reality of the situation. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan made exactly the same argument Sunday on ABC’s This WeekSo did Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Face the Nation. Senator Marco Rubio, who helped write the Gang of Eight legislation in the Senate, has been saying this for months.

But the media reacted as if Boehner had just shattered some long-held conventional wisdom that passing comprehensive immigration reform through a GOP-controlled House would be easy, and that House Republicans were generally very trustful of the Obama administration on most other issues. As Slate’s Dave Weigel put it: “The bias of the news media is to pretend that something new is happening.​”

On Friday, the “story” of Boehner’s remarks and their “significance” was on the front page of the New York Times (“Boehner Doubts Immigration Bill Will Pass in 2014″), Washington Post (“Boehner says Obama must gain GOP trust on immigration”), Washington Times (“Issue of trust puts brakes on immigration reform”), Wall Street Journal (“Immigration Overhaul Stalls”), and Los Angeles Times (“Hopes dim for deal on border reform”), among others. Immigration reform was in “serious danger,” warned MSNBC. Boehner had “hit the brakes,” according to Fox News.

Reporters closely following the immigration debate, such as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, know better than to make a big fuss about Boehner’s remarks. (See here.) As Bloomberg’s Francis Wilkinson wrote in November 2013:

Immigration laws don’t invite smooth sailing. “The ‘86 bill was dead so many times,” recalled Muzaffar Chishti, who runs the New York office of the Migration Policy Institute. “I took my vacation after it was clear Congress was not going to pass a bill.” Chishti was not the only one surprised when a major overhaul passed both houses in mid-October, just weeks before the 1986 midterm election.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic point man on immigration reform, also knows better“I read what Boehner said, he has said it before,” Schumer said. “For all we know, he had to send a message on immigration to help pass the debt ceiling. He has not said ‘I’m not doing it,’ he has not said, ‘It’s over,’ he has said ‘It will be very difficult.’ He’s right. I agree with him.”

A Fox reporter was apparently told that Boehner was ”likely” to scrap immigration reform in 2014. So maybe immigration is dead, or maybe this July 2013 report from the Huffington Post is just as applicable today: “Immigration reform is not dead. The doom and gloom is being fed, at least in part, by GOP leadership, to help position them politically for the coming fight.”

If that’s the case, GOP leaders have successfully established “lack of trust in Obama” as the primary roadblock to reform. It’s possible this is all about messaging heading into the midterm elections, but it could also be an attempt to set up a dramatic “game changing” moment to clear the way for legislation in the House. 

This is precisely what happened in the Senate last year, when Republicans and even some Democrats began grumbling about the lack of border security measures in the Gang of Eight bill. Senators Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R., N.D.) swooped in with an amendment to double the amount of border-patrol agents, an increase that actual border patrol agents thought was ill-advised. But the Corker–Hoeven amendment gave lawmakers an excuse to support the final bill, which passed easily. 

Some opponents of comprehensive reform have suggested that Obama could announce he is appointing a Republican to lead a special task force to secure the border, or something along those lines, which would allow a sufficient number of Republicans to declare “problem solved” and pass legislation out of the House. Maybe that sounds a tad conspiratorial, but it is probably less preposterous than the media’s insistence that what Boehner said Thursday has any bearing on immigration reform’s prospects this year.

Andrew Stiles — Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More