The Corner

Obama: AZ Law ‘Potentially Discriminatory’

President Obama has been somewhat more careful, if no less wrong-headed, than other members of his administration in his criticism of the Arizona law. Which is good because his care reveals his criticisms to be largely baseless. E.g., in a joint presser (if you can call taking two questions a “presser”) with the Mexican president, Obama again offered a vague, wishy-washy worry about the law.

Jake Tapper reports:

Asked if he agrees with President Calderon’s view that the Arizona immigration law “that is forcing our people to face discrimination,” President Obama said in the Rose Garden just now that it “has the potential of being applied in a discriminatory fashion.”

He said a “fair reading” of the law — suggesting that he has read the legislation, unlike his Attorney General as of last week — indicates those who are at risk of being deemed possibly illegal could face “harassment” and that the judgments law enforcement would need to make to apply the law are “troublesome.”

The Justice Department is looking at the legislation, the president said, to make sure it’s consistent with “our core values” and “existing legal precedent.”

Let’s be clear on what this criticism amounts to: The enforcement of existing federal law by state police, made possible by a standing DOJ policy memo, and under the well-established legal standards of reasonable suspicion, could lead to “harassment” and put police in a position to make “troublesome” judgment calls. Well, I suppose this is technically true of the Arizona law. But it’s also true of most or all proactive policing measures. We pay police to make tough judgment calls that balance the imperative of public safety against the daunting civil/criminal rights lawsuit industry. This is no different.

UPDATE: Several readers responded with more generalized versions of my argument, like this one:

Don’t all laws have the POTENTIAL to be discriminatory if they are interpreted, applied or enforced in a way that was not intended?  In President Obama’s perfect world, all risk and all potential risk would be eliminated and chaos would result.

UPDATE: Likewise, a few readers have made this connection:

A year ago, without appropriate basis in fact, President Obama said, “The Cambridge police acted stupidly.”

Now he is saying, quite clearly, “The (AZ) State Police will act stupidly.”

This from the nation’s chief executive officer.

Daniel Foster — Daniel Foster is a former news editor of National Review Online.

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