Fox is baselessly accusing President Obama of deliberately trying to distract the public and shift media attention away from problems with the health care rollout by continuing to push Congress to act on immigration reform. However, in the week leading up to his speech, Obama repeatedly urged Congress to refocus attention on immigration reform, which he has made one of the most pressing issues of his administration.
In Speech, Obama Urged Congress To Finish The Job On Immigration
Obama: "We Should Pass Immigration Reform. ... And We Should Do It This Year." In an October 24 speech at the White House, President Obama urged House Republicans to act on immigration, saying: "Democratic leaders have introduced a bill in the House that is similar to the bipartisan Senate bill. So now it's up to Republicans in the House to decide whether reform becomes a reality or not." From the speech:
OBAMA: Today I'm here with leaders from business, from labor, from faith communities who are united around one goal -- finishing the job of fixing a broken immigration system.
This is not just an idea whose time has come; this is an idea whose time has been around for years now. Leaders like all of you have worked together with Republicans and Democrats in this town in good faith for years to try to get this done. And this is the moment when we should be able to finally get the job done.
OBAMA: Now, how do we move forward? Democratic leaders have introduced a bill in the House that is similar to the bipartisan Senate bill. So now it's up to Republicans in the House to decide whether reform becomes a reality or not.
I do know -- and this is good news -- that many of them agree that we need to fix our broken immigration system across these areas that we've just discussed. And what I've said to them, and I'll repeat today, is if House Republicans have new and different, additional ideas for how we should move forward, then we want to hear them. I'll be listening. I know that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, those who voted for immigration reform already, are eager to hear those additional ideas. But what we can't do is just sweep the problem under the rug one more time, leave it for somebody else to solve sometime in the future.
Rather than create problems, let's prove to the American people that Washington can actually solve some problems. This reform comes as close to anything we've got to a law that will benefit everybody now and far into the future. So let's see if we can get this done. And let's see if we can get it done this year. [White House, 10/24/13]
RNC Chairman Responded By Accusing Obama Of Trying To Shift Attention Away From Health Care Law
In Response, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus Wrote: "Why Did The President Suddenly Decide To Give A Speech On Immigration This Morning? #Obamacare." Following Obama's speech, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus wrote on his Twitter feed: "Why did the President suddenly decide to give a speech on immigration this morning? #Obamacare":
Fox In Turn Charged That Obama Was Deliberately "Changing The Subject"
Chris Wallace: In Talking About Immigration, "The President Was Changing The Subject." On Special Report, guest host Chris Wallace previewed a report about Obama's immigration speech by arguing he "was changing the subject" from the health care website glitches. Chief White House correspondent Ed Henry then stated:
HENRY: Playing defense, as a growing number of his fellow Democrats demand heads should roll and changes should be made to his signature health care law, President Obama tried some counter-programming, talking up immigration reform just moments after the first hearing on the website woes started. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 10/24/13]
Lou Dobbs Claimed Immigration Speech Was A "Diversionary Tactic" From Obamacare Rollout. Claiming that Obama's speech on immigration was a "diversionary tactic" from the problems associated with the health care rollout, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs stated that Obama was "desperate to change the subject from the disastrous Obamacare rollout, he even called on Congress to go to work on the subject of immigration." Dobbs added: "But his diversionary tactics are a little weak to alter public attention and media attention from the healthcare.gov failure." Dobbs' remarks preceded a re-airing of Henry's reporting from Special Report. [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 10/24/13]
Patti Ann Browne Suggested Obama Speech Was "Deliberate" In Trying To Steer Coverage Away From Health Care Hearings. On Happening Now, guest co-host Patti Ann Browne asked: "Was Obama trying to steer media coverage away from yesterday's bare-knuckled House hearing on the botched Obamacare rollout by giving a speech on immigration reform at the White House surrounded by supporters during those proceedings on Capitol Hill?" She later stated: "That had to be deliberate." Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz replied: "I'm willing to say it was pre-meditated. Nothing happens by accident in politics." [Fox News, Happening Now, 10/25/13]
Steve Doocy: "Let's Not Talk About The Health Care Rollout. Let's Talk About Immigration." On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed that Obama "was trying desperately to change the subject" by pushing for action on immigration reform at the same time as a congressional hearing on the health care law's rollout. He stated: "Let's not talk about the health care rollout. Let's talk about immigration." Guest Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large at National Review Online, responded by arguing that Obama is "going to fight very hard on the immigration front, not because he cares so much about immigration policy, but because he wants to put a squeeze on Republicans for 2014." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/25/13]
Fox News Guest: Obama Is Talking About Immigration Because "This Obamacare Policy Is Exploding Around Him." Discussing Obama's immigration speech on America's Newsroom, Tea Party News Network reporter Scottie Nell Hughes argued that the reason Obama is pushing immigration is "because he realizes this Obamacare policy is exploding around him and he has a whole agenda of literally detracting the attention from one failed policy to another." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 10/24/13]
In Fact, Obama Repeatedly Urged Congress To Pass Immigration Reform Leading Up To Speech
Obama Repeatedly Called For Renewed Focus On Immigration Following Government Shutdown. On October 15, Obama brought up immigration during an interview with KMEX, the Los Angeles affiliate of Univision, saying, "[W]e should be passing immigration reform. There's a bill in the Senate that passed on a bipartisan basis; we're waiting for the House of Republicans to pass it." Over the days that followed, he repeatedly urged Congress to take up immigration reform:
- On October 16, following an agreement to reopen the government, Obama renewed his calls to pass immigration reform, saying: "In fact, there are things that we know will help strengthen our economy that we could get done before this year is out. We still need to pass a law to fix our broken immigration system. We still need to pass a farm bill." [White House, 10/16/13]
- On October 17, in fuller remarks about his administration's priorities following the government shutdown, Obama stated: "Number two, we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system." [White House, 10/17/13]
- On October 18, during a speech announcing his pick for Homeland Security secretary, Obama stated: "We've got to fix our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders, and modernizes legal immigration, and makes sure everybody is playing by the same rules." [White House, 10/18/13]
NY Times: "Obama's Remarks On Thursday Were Aimed At Rebooting The Discussion After Months In Which Attention Shifted" To Other Concerns. In a report on Obama's October 24 immigration speech, The New York Times reported: "Mr. Obama's remarks on Thursday were aimed at rebooting the discussion after months in which attention shifted to concerns about Iran and Syria and contentious disputes at home with the House Republicans that led to a government shutdown." From the article:
The Senate passed legislation in June by a vote of 68-32, giving a lift to Mr. Obama's plans to improve border security, require employers to verify the immigration status of their workers, and provide a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. White House strategists hoped that the vote would prompt action in the House, where Republicans had resisted similar calls for an overhaul of the system.
But the effort stalled this summer, with many House Republicans expressing dissatisfaction with the increases in border security and saying they do not support any plan that would allow people in the country illegally to eventually become citizens.
Mr. Obama's remarks on Thursday were aimed at rebooting the discussion after months in which attention shifted to concerns about Iran and Syria and contentious disputes at home with the House Republicans that led to a government shutdown. [The New York Times, 10/24/13]
CS Monitor: With Speech, Obama Intended To Inject Urgency Into House Immigration Negotiations And Put Political Pressure On Republicans. In an article highlighting three reasons why Obama was making another immigration speech, the Christian Science Monitor explained that Obama devoted time to immigration reform in a likely attempt "to inject some urgency into the House's consideration of the subject" and to "put as much political pressure on the House as possible on immigration." The Monitor reported:
With only a few work weeks left in the legislative year it's unlikely the House will make much progress on immigration before 2014. Once things kick into next year, the 2014 midterms draw ever closer, and history shows Congress makes little progress on controversial bills in an election's shadow.
Obama likely is trying to inject some urgency into the House's consideration of the subject, given the limitations of the calendar.
The administration also wants to put as much political pressure on the House as possible on immigration even if lawmakers aren't going to pass a comprehensive bill.
Thus Obama mentioned the recent government shutdown and threat of default in the context of immigration action. He said that polls show the public favors action, and that it's now up to the House to make that a reality.
His clear threat to the House GOP: If you don't move we'll try and make this another example of how a faction of conservatives is making you dysfunctional. [The Christian Science Monitor, 10/24/13]
Since 2009 Election, Obama Has Made Immigration Reform A Priority
The Daily Beast: Within Months Of 2009 Election, Obama Said "He Wanted Comprehensive Immigration Reform To Be A First-Year Issue." As The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky wrote in June 2012, "Obama signaled in April 2009 that he wanted comprehensive immigration reform to be a first-year issue." Tomasky elaborated:
So the White House started holding meetings on the issue, but it came clear that he'd have no GOP support at all. Remember that at that time, Al Franken wasn't yet sworn in, so Obama had only 59 votes in the Senate, not the needed 60.
Plus, Obama ran into some opposition in his own party, in both houses. The idea that Obama "was free to pursue any policy he pleased" assumes that when the president says jump, the legislators of his party say how high. That was true of the Bush-era GOP, because they march in a Politburo kind of lockstep for the sake of political power, but it certainly isn't true of Democrats.
So anyway, Obama didn't have the votes, and he announced in May 2009 that he'd shelve comprehensive reform and start with border enforcement. The border enforcement, as is now well known, has been more aggressive and led to more deportations than any previous administration since immigration became a crisis, but since the idea that Obama could be aggressively enforcing the law just doesn't sound right for someone who's a Kenyan socialist America destroyer, the Republicans have simply dismissed this fact. In other words, he did the only thing he could do to try to win GOP support, and he did it well, and they don't support him anyway. [The Daily Beast, 6/21/12]
Huffington Post's Ryan Grim: For Obama, Immigration Reform Is "A Huge Legacy Piece For Him." Discussing the prospects of immigration reform on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, Huffington Post Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim noted that Obama "wants to get immigration reform done because it's the right thing to do, but also because it's a huge legacy piece for him. This is something that he's been saying since he ran that he wanted to do." [MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/24/13]