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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rodriguez, Romney and the Politics of Immigration

Samuel Rodriguez has been back in the news in a big way over the last month. As regular readers will recall, I have quite a history of reporting on and writing about Rev. Rodriguez although I have been away from the topic for some time. I am drawn back to it in light of the recent statement by Rodriguez in which claims Mitt Romney has made a “180 turn” with respect to his relationship with the Hispanic community. This was a striking comment and one that cried out for substantiation given the fact that Romney has not made any public comments that would suggest waffling or backtracking on his stated positions with respect to key Hispanic issues like the DREAM Act, the President’s recent action regarding prosecution of children of undocumented immigrants, or the Arizona law. In the absence of facts such as these to point to, one is left with the impression that Rodriguez is again demonstrating his own loose speech. Here is how Bill Berkowitz weighs Rodriguez’s recent pronouncement on Romney:

Of all the leaders Team Romney has engaged, Samuel Rodriguez takes a back seat to none, although whether Rodriguez actually represents any voters is open to question. "I stand convinced the Governor appreciates the significance of the Hispanic electorate and he refuses to give up the Hispanic vote without a fight. He has made a 180-degree turn and is headed to a significant Hispanic outreach," Rodriguez told Brody.

It is unclear what kind of "outreach" Rodriguez is referring to given Romney's refusal to back the "Dream Act," and his predilection for pushing for the "self-deportation" of immigrants. In addition, a key Romney advisor on immigration issues is Kris Kobach, co-author of the Arizona's SB1070 law that was largely struck down by the Supreme Court, and who is considered "the intellectual architect of the draconian state-by-state approach immigration reform," as Tim Dickinson recently pointed out in Rolling Stone.
According to Brody, Team Romney's "focus now is on getting the conservative evangelical base motivated." The aim of a recent meeting of 70 conservative Christian leaders was "to figure out ways to get the conservative Christian base mobilized and excited about the GOP presidential nominee."

Rachel Tabachnick, drawing on Brody’s reporting for the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), notes that Romney’s outreach to Rodriguez is part of a wider effort to coalesce evangelicals behind his campaign. “Brody also reported that the Romney campaign has been quietly meeting behind the scenes with conservative evangelicals including Rick Warren, Richard Land, Gary Bauer, Samuel Rodriguez, and leaders from Focus on Family and Family Research Council.” All of this attention to Rodriguez is part of a pattern stretching back years in which Rodriguez is viewed as a vital cog in the Hispanic community. Questions about just how significant he really is, such as those raised by noted journalist Frederick Clarkson, are important but seemingly besides the point for writers like Lisa Miller who continue to puff Rodriguez as a “principled conservative” who President Obama would do well to listen to. Of course, this ignores two important facts: 1) Obama has actually given Rodriguez wide access to his administration especially when considering that 2) Rodriguez has been a vicious critic of Obama at times during his first term, especially when accusing Obama of leading “a government [that] has taken over the auto industry, the banking industry, the health industry, soon the energy industry. We have never been in this place before. Our founding fathers are turning in their graves. This is big government on steroids.”

I tire of the Rodriguez story because his standing in religious and mainstream media is so entrenched as to be impervious to hypocrisy and distortion that would have been the downfall of other Christian leaders. But when I see him poised to make another play at presidential kingmaking I must try again to raise the red flag to other media—why are you continuing to report on Rodriguez without even a mention of his scandals and distortions?

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