In presidential circles, if you want historians to remember you as a president who changed a generation and left it better than when you came into office, you must have that signature moment where all Americans rejoice.
This moment, I believe, will be within President Barack Obama's grasp if he handles the immigration issue in a bipartisan manner and does not play politics with it. If comprehensive immigration reform does not address the issue of securing the borders first and foremost before addressing the path to citizenship for those already living here, then there is no sense in having this debate at this time.
A day after a bipartisan group of eight senators agreed on the four key principles that will have to be addressed in order to pass any meaningful legislation, Obama headed to Las Vegas to lay out his version and vision for immigration reform. This time he hopes he will not be the person who kills another immigration bill.
The president seemed to say all the right things, and throughout most of the speech he agreed with the eight senators on the need to get this done now. However, when it came to the part about the path to citizenship and the guest-worker program proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the president seemed to take a different tone and appeared ready to play politics with these key issues. Obama, if you listen to his speech, wants an easier path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants here illegally—what amounts, in the eyes of many, to amnesty—than what Republicans have in mind.
This is the political wedge that the president will try to put between the Latino community and Republicans leading up to the 2014 elections. In my estimation, after having watched how this White House and this administration and in particular this president played politics with other major issues for the past four years, immigration reform will be dragged out until next year, when the president will try to make this an issue about Republicans wanting to keep out immigrants versus a president who is caring and wants open borders and amnesty for everyone here illegally.
Most people forget that when President George W. Bush tried to pass his version of immigration reform in 2007, it was then-Senator Obama along with other top Democrats who, according to Sen. Lindsay Graham, "folded like a cheap suit."
In a recent television interview with Greta Van Susteren, Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, had this to say about the chances of getting immigration reform done this time around with Obama as president:
"Well, there will be no immigration reform unless it's bipartisan. But if you want to talk about the president bringing us together and being a bold leader, in 2007 when we tried to do immigration reform, he folded like a cheap suit when the labor, AFL-CIO got mad at the bill to allow temporary workers. Obama, Senator Obama put a sunset on the temporary worker provision which destroyed the bill for business."
There is an opportunity for Obama to be bold and to be a leader and not succumb to his leftist tendencies or political pressures from unions and the media. This can be the moment when legacies are made, or it can be the moment that makes a president have to live with the fact that when he had a chance to make America rejoice, he folded like a cheap suit.