After seeing this tweet from National Journal reporter Beth Reinhard ...
Rubio says Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigration is not a "model,'' contradicting Romney #njnextamerica
— @bethreinhard via web
... someone in Mitt Romney's campaign rushed to defend their boss:
UPDATE: Romney campaign says he didn't call SB 1070 in AZ a model, was referring to E-Verify, so no air btwn him and Rubio.
— @bethreinhard via web
It turns out that Romney's campaign has a plausible argument to make, but it's important to note that this is the first time they are making it. At issue is Romney's answer to this question from the Feb. 22 Republican debate
KING: Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who's with us tonight from Maricopa County—he's in the audience—he told me this week here in Mesa—these are his words—"it's called political garbage, if you will, to not arrest illegals already in this country."
You've talked, governor, about self-deportation, if businesses do their job, asking for the right documents, the people will leave. But what about arresting? Should there be aggressive, seek them out, find them and arrest them as the Sheriff Arpaio advocates?
The question was clearly about whether Romney supports the policy put in place by SB 1070. His answer began:
ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model here in Arizona.
That seemed like a clear embrace of SB 1070, and when it was reported as such
by no less than Fred Hiatt himself
, Romney's campaign didn't complain. Nor did they complain when Democrats attacked
Romney over the comments. They were involved in a primary battle, and such interpretations benefited them. But now they don't, so they are saying that Romney's was just talking about Arizona's E-Verify law—not SB 1070. To make this case, they point to the continuation of Romney's answer:
They passed a law here that says -- that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on e- verify. This e-verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who's here legally and who's not here legally.
And as a result of e-verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent, where the national average has only gone down 7 percent.
It seems like Romney's campaign as a point, right? Sure, it was sneaky of him to let people think he was talking about SB 1070 with his initial answer, but he added the appropriate caveat, right? Maybe, but he continued:
So going back to the question that was asked, the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn't doing.
And I will drop those lawsuits on day one. I'll also complete the fence. I'll make sure we have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence. And I will make sure we have an E-Verify system and require employers to check the documents of workers, and to check E- Verify. And if an employer hires someone that has not gone through E- Verify, they're going to get sanctioned just like they do for not paying their taxes.
You do that, and just as Arizona is finding out, you can stop illegal immigration. It's time we finally did it.
In that part of the answer, he's clearly talking about SB 1070 and E-Verify as well as federal policy, and things just got murky again. But the important thing to remember is that the murkiness here is merely about what Romney was referring to when he used the word "model," because even if Romney wins that particular parsing game (and it's not clear that he does), Romney is still unambiguously supportive of SB 1070, and not just because he promised on that night to stop the federal lawsuits against it.
Last September, for example, he told an Arizona television station that he favored SB 1070. "I support the efforts on the part of Arizona to have a safe and secure border," he said. "I think that makes sense." Romney told a town hall audience the same thing. "Well, I support the Arizona law by recognizing what Arizona has done—underscored the failure of the federal government to do its job."
So even if you were to accept the campaign's new interpretation, Romney still believes Arizona is a national model for immigration law and still believes SB 1070 "makes sense," and he has still vowed to drop federal lawsuits against it on day one.
As for the the Romney campaign's assertion that there's no difference between Mitt Romney's position and Marco Rubio's? Well, Rubio himself says he would have voted for SB 1070. So no matter how much he might try, Mitt Romney isn't going to be able to Etch-A-Sketch away his support for the law.
Comments are closed on this story.