SAN DIEGO — Just when you think the Obama administration can’t sink any lower, someone puts in a basement. It is terrible at protecting child refugees but has a knack for protecting itself.
It does this by targeting critics. That includes Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who recently stated the obvious: that a civilized nation doesn’t give death sentences to child refugees.
What? How did this guy get into the Democratic Party? On immigration, many Democrats spend a third of their time impersonating Republicans. They spend the rest catering to blue-collar workers who are allergic to competition, and conning Latinos into thinking they’re in their corner. For the past two decades, restrictionist Democrats have competed to see who can be the most cold-blooded toward foreigners.
This was the strategy that Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor who was once an adviser to President Bill Clinton, recommended Clinton use to achieve “parity” with Republicans who demagogue immigration for political gain. In a November 1996 memo, which was made public last month, Emanuel urged Clinton to “achieve record deportations of criminal aliens” and use the National Guard “to secure key metropolitan areas along the border.” Clinton adopted the idea, scribbling on the memo: “This is great.”
Now, as Hillary Clinton plans a likely run for the presidency in 2016, and cobbles together her position on the crisis of thousands of children from Central America crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, she is following Bill’s example. Hillary has said the kids “should be sent back” and that “we have to send a clear message: Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”
Latinos, many of whom are feeling increasingly protective toward the border kids, got the message loud and clear: Hillary is a louse on immigration who will throw supporters under the bus if ambition requires it.
This created an opening for O’Malley, who is also rumored to be interested in running for president. He presented himself as a kinder and gentler Democrat.
Speaking to reporters at a meeting of the National Governors Association in Nashville, Tenn., O’Malley said about the border kids crisis: “We are not a country that should turn children away and send them back to certain death.” Instead, he reminded everyone that “through all of the great world religions we are told that hospitality to strangers is an essential human dignity.” He called upon the administration to treat the children better, describing the holding facilities as “kennels.”
Bravo for O’Malley. Someone had to say it. Democrats have been way too quiet about Obama’s ham-handed treatment of this crisis. The governor obviously has guts and character.
Now he has some new amigos in the Latino community. Cristina Jimenez, managing director of the youth immigrant organization United We Dream, praised O’Malley for providing “leadership by fighting on behalf of the rights and well-being of child refugees from Central America.”
But O’Malley also has the lumps that come with challenging the leader of his party.
He got an angry call from Cecilia Munoz, the administration’s unofficial minister of damage control and propaganda on immigration. Munoz’s official title is director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, but she spends much of her time misrepresenting Obama’s immigration policy on Spanish-language media.
According to CNN, which quoted anonymous sources “familiar with the conversation,” Munoz and O’Malley got into a “heated discussion” about his remarks. At one point, the conversation turned to a proposal under consideration by the Department of Health and Human Services to house some of the border kids at a former Army Reserve Center in Westminster, Md.
Quoting a Democratic source, the network reported that O’Malley pleaded with Munoz: “Please don’t send these kids to Western Maryland.”
The implication is that O’Malley is being hypocritical. But those dots don’t connect. We’re talking about two different things: expressing concern that kids are being sent to their deaths in Central America versus objecting to exactly where they are housed here in the United States.
An official with the O’Malley administration confirmed the conversation but insisted that the governor did not reject the idea of housing the children at another site in Maryland.
The Obama White House is a real prize. It won’t send federal marshals to shield Homeland Security vehicles transporting women and children from angry mobs, but it will try to embarrass detractors by leaking private conversations.
O’Malley should have expected it. Nothing sets off the Obamanistas like seeing others approach a thorny policy issue with the things they lack: honesty, decency and common sense.
Ruben Navarrette is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Reach him at email@example.com.