Barack Obama and the Anti-Neustadt Presidency


Jamelle Bouie is dismayed that President Obama decided this morning to announce that he supports the Gang of Eight immigration bill:

In no way is it an exaggeration to say that President Obama’s speech came at the worst possible time. Later this afternoon, the Senate will take a procedural vote that will determine whether or not chamber decides to begin debate on the Gang of Eight bill.

Insofar that Rubio, Jeff Flake, Lindsay Graham and others were having a hard time bringing conservatives to their side, it’s now even more difficult. And if House Republicans take this as a cue to reflexively oppose reform, it puts Boehner in a tight spot—does he try to build a GOP majority for the bill? Does he abandon the “Hastert rule” and pass a bill with Democratic support! Or does he leave the effort altogether?

If this sounds dramatic, then you are drastically underestimating the anti-Obama furor of the Republican base, which has ended political careers for the sin of being friendly with the president. If Obama wants comprehensive immigration reform to pass, he needs to stay completely out of the way. If he wants to claim some credit, he can do so at the signing.

I don’t disagree with Bouie, quite. It’s not that. But his post made me wonder if this has now congealed into firm conventional wisdom on both sides: Obama needs to stay aloof from any issue he actually cares about, because his public support is always and everywhere unhelpful. Democrats don’t care and Republicans will go running for the exits at the mere prospect of being insufficiently hostile to him.

Is that what we’ve come to? I guess so, but I still can hardly believe it when I see it actually set down in black and white.

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