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John Feehery: Obama’s immigration crisis

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Incompetence breeds contempt.

It’s not easy to alienate black voters, Hispanic voters and conservative white voters all at the same time on the same issue, but that’s exactly what the Obama administration has done by mishandling the humanitarian crisis that has engulfed the southern border. 

It’s no surprise that conservative, white voters dislike how President Obama has handled the influx of unaccompanied children from Central America.  

But it is surprising that African-Americans have the same concerns about this crisis that Republicans have. There is plenty of evidence — on black talk-radio shows, in news reports and in polling — that black voters simply don’t share Obama’s enthusiasm for comprehensive immigration reform and that this latest crisis (as well as the administration’s supplemental request) has stoked anger against the first African-American president. 

Hispanic leaders are similarly angry with the president but for the opposite reason. They want Obama to be more aggressive in allowing undocumented aliens to stay in the country, and they believe he has been too aggressive in deporting those who have either overstayed their visas or never had visas to begin with.  

The president thought the Republicans would bail him out of this political predicament by being overtly nativist and by refusing to pass immigration reform. And had this Central American crisis not become so intense, he probably would have been right. 

But unfortunately for Obama, his incompetence has made a bad situation even worse.  

The Washington Post had a fascinating story over the weekend about how the Obama administration had ample warning about the deteriorating situation in Central America and on our southern border, but chose to ignore it for political reasons. 

“The administration did too little to heed those warnings, according to interviews with former government officials, outside experts and immigrant advocates, leading to an inadequate response that contributed to this summer’s escalating crisis. 

The former official said the agencies primarily in charge of border security, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were “ringing alarm bells” within the administration.  

“Meanwhile, top officials focused much of their attention on political battles, such as Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and the push to win congressional support for a broad immigration overhaul, that would have been made more difficult with the addition of a high-profile border crisis,” the Post reported.  

This is not the first time that political considerations played a dominant role in making the Obama administration look supremely incompetent. The Post again discovered that the president’s team had “systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election, according to documents and interviews with current and former administration officials. Some agency officials were instructed to hold off submitting proposals to the White House for up to a year to ensure that they would not be issued before voters went to the polls, the current and former officials said.”  

A Senate report concluded that these political decisions had a direct impact on the rollout of the president’s ObamaCare website: “The Administration prioritized political success over protecting taxpayer dollars.”  

So in two of the biggest disasters to befall the Obama administration — the rollout of and this border crisis — political decisions from within the White House helped to undermine the administration.  

It is probably no surprise that the president has been struggling in the polls. Indeed, Quinnipiac University recently released a poll that found Obama to be the worst president since the end of World War II. Gallup has his approval rating at 42 percent, which certainly can’t be comforting for vulnerable Democrats.  

Incompetence breeds contempt, and right now, more and more voters have contempt for this president and his administration. 

Feehery is president of QGA Public Affairs and blogs at He served as spokesman to former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as speechwriter to former Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).


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