New York Times congressional correspondent Jonathan Weisman continued his label-happy party-pooping of Republican prospects in Wednesday's "On Immigration, G.O.P. Starts to Embrace Tea Party." The subject was how the rightward shift of the party on immigration was political suicide.
In all, Weisman crammed five "conservative" labels, two references to conservative "hard-liners," and two "right"-wing characterizations into his story, with a "conservative" picture caption thrown in. All those hostile labels were aligned against GOP voices of reason who favor "immigration overhaul" -- the party "elders" (who got two mentions).
Late last month, as members of Congress were poised to leave for their summer recess, the House Republicans’ top policy experts found themselves in a barren conference room in the Capitol’s basement, negotiating with the party’s most ardent opponents of immigration overhaul.
As senior members of the Judiciary Committee looked on, the opponents -- Representatives Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa and Mo Brooks of Alabama -- reshaped two bills to address the rush of unaccompanied children trying to enter the country illegally. Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, was there, too, and she and Mr. King later took to Twitter to post photos of themselves approving the final language.
For the Obama administration, which is considering carrying out broad immigration policy changes by executive decree, the end of the legislative session was potent evidence that Congress could not be a partner on the pressing, delicate policy decisions to come. A legislative year in which Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio set out to publicly marginalize the more vocal right-wing members of his conference ended with them emboldened, and with new leaders ready to bring the right back into the fold.
For party elders pressing for conciliation to attract Hispanic and immigrant votes, that unity has different meaning.
“When you put Raúl Labrador, Steve King and Michele Bachmann together writing an immigration bill, there’s damage done, no question,” said Carlos Gutierrez, a commerce secretary under President George W. Bush who led the failed war room in 2007 trying to get a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws passed.
The Republican Party pumped tens of millions of dollars into defeating Tea Party candidates in the midterm primary season, exerted pressure to cut off funding to conservative Tea Party-affiliated political action committees, and even turned to Democrats to pass crucial laws and neutralize conservative rebels. Mr. Boehner said he went along with a government shutdown in October to show his fractious conference the political cost of intransigence.
Weisman confirmed that the immigration issue is where "Republican elders believe [the Tea Party] have wrought the most political damage."
That has given the Obama administration new ammunition as it presses toward executive actions that Republicans say would precipitate a constitutional crisis and amount to abuse of presidential power. It also points to a new reality for Republican leaders, who brought in a Southern conservative, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, in the wake of the Tea Party’s stunning defeat of the House majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia.
With Democrats united in opposition and Republicans divided, Republican leaders dropped plans to pass a stripped-down border-control spending bill. But most House Republicans did not want to leave Washington without addressing the crisis at the border. During a boisterous, closed-door meeting, mainstream Republicans vented their anger at immigration hard-liners, accusing them of scuttling the leadership’s bills just because they could.
In a surprise move, Mr. Boehner turned to the hard-liners he had sidelined.
Just days after helping write the House’s only immigration policy bill of the year, Mr. Brooks made waves again when he spoke of a “war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party” to the conservative radio show host Laura Ingraham. Mr. King was caught on tape grabbing the arm of a young immigrant who grew up in Arizona and was granted legal status by the president’s order. “You’re very good at English, you know what I’m saying?” he told the immigrant, a graduate of Arizona State University.
Weisman eagerly kept passing the mic to a sober-sounding Carlos Gutierrez (a commerce secretary under the last President Bush who holds no elected office), who lectured actual Republican officeholders who must answer to constituents that are opposed to amnesty for illegals: “We have destroyed tens of thousands of young lives, people who don’t speak Spanish, who have lived their whole lives here, who want to be productive members of society, and now Steve King is rewriting DACA? I just think that is a real shame.”
Weisman has a habit of hostile labeling of Republicans as "far right" or tarring them with other extreme labels.