How the White House Scandals Will Help Immigration Reform

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 17 2013 1:36 PM

Immigration Reform and the Upside of Scandal

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U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks with reporters at the U.S. Capitol on April 11, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Tuesday I made the not-entirely-daring assertion that a stream of White House Scandals would nudge along one of the White House's legislative priorities. Republicans who wanted an immigration compromise wanted it for some reasons of self-preservation. To be really secure, they needed to work without their base accusing them of selling out. Their jobs would be much easier if, while they worked, there was a simultaneous scandal that they could blast the Obama administration over.

I saw this firsthand in Arizona recently, when an audience at a McCain town hall alternated between angry immigration questions and angry Benghazi questions. “What has helped me back home is that people remember the Lindsey from impeachment, they remember the guy who was leading the charge on conservative caucuses,” Graham told Politico last week. “[Benghazi] and the second amendment stuff, that’s where I can throw a punch.”

And here we are. Eight House Republicans had been hashing out their own version of an omnibus immigration bill. Its health was looking poor. But yesterday, while the rest of us were distracted, they "agreed to disagree" on some details about E-Verify and health care and move ahead on a plan. Could that have been possible if they'd been driving the week? Without the Obama scandals, the story of Thursday would have been that of a Bipartisan Group Handing Barack Obama a Possible Victory.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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