Welcome to what I intend to be a new feature on 92510 — fact-checking the Bay Area press. Today’s installment is conservative Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders, whom like many right-wingers, has moved even farther to the right in response to the Obama presidency. Saunders argued in her column yesterday that Obama “reneged on his 2008 campaign pledge to push immigration reform — with a path to citizenship for undocumented aliens — during his first year in office because well, it’s political poison.” But as any observer of the Washington scene knows, that’s not why Obama hasn’t taken up immigration as of yet.
The main reason is that the president made health-care reform his first major policy initiative, as he had vowed to do, after passing a federal stimulus package and keeping the American auto industry from going belly up. Unfortunately, Republicans delayed the passage of health-care reform with wild and false accusations about “death panels” and “socialized medicine.” The conservative demagoguery scared already jittery moderate Democrats, forcing the delay in passage of the health-care reform bill until this spring.
As a practical matter, it would have been impossible for Obama to tackle immigration reform when the health-care reform debate was going on. The president has announced, however, that he intends to get going on immigration reform this year, but some Republicans are already balking at the idea. Moderate Lindsay Graham of South Carolina has pulled out of bipartisan immigration-reform talks because he’s angry that Democrats are moving forward with climate-change legislation — another of the president’s campaign promises. So in truth, Republicans have no one to blame but themselves for the president not completing immigration reform as of yet, and it had nothing to do with Obama being wary of “political poison.”