The Media Blows It, Says Boehner Is Now Backing Away From Immigration Reform

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 6 2014 3:19 PM

The Media Blows It, Says Boehner Is Now Backing Away From Immigration Reform

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OMG! John Boehner once again held his weekly press conference!

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The bias of the news media is to pretend that something new is happening. Example: Every week that Congress is in session, Speaker of the House John Boehner gives a short on-camera press conference. At today's, in the eyes of reporters, he seemed to be backpedaling on immigration reform. In the LA Times: "Speaker Boehner lowers expectations for immigration reform bill." In MSNBC: "Boehner warns immigration reform is in serious danger." At Fox News: "Boehner hits brakes on immigration overhaul."

What you see here is a mixture of sensationalism and the newness fallacy. What did Boehner actually say? "Listen, there's widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws." Pro tip: For Boehner, "listen" is a sort of verbal tic that commences a line or sentence he's got in the can. He's said the same thing many, many times. And what he was saying there was straight from the current approved talking points.

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Look back just four days to the Sunday shows that came after the House GOP retreat. Eric Cantor: "The president [has] got to demonstrate frankly to the country and the congress can trust him in implementing the laws." Paul Ryan: "Here's the issue that all Republicans agree on—we don't trust the president to enforce the law."

All three of these men think it'd be good for the GOP to pass an immigration bill, and all three know that the bulk of their conference is against it. So they have to couch the proposal in whatever language mollifies the rest of the party. Last summer, it was that (Boehner speaking now) "These big, comprehensive bills, that tend to cause all kinds of problems—the American people get suspicious, members haven't read the bills."

PRI's Todd Zwillich, one of the most perceptive reporters on the Hill, ran this Boehner quote by Chuck Schumer, who's also pretty perceptive. The result:

That's not to say that the Congress will actually pass a bill this year. It's just to prove that Boehner was managing his conference and generating the headlines that would not rouse any anti-reform groups.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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