It would have been easy for the Obama administration to look the other way on Arizona's draconian racial-profiling law. Polls have shown that Arizona's SB 1070 is very popular in some quarters, including white independents that the president needs to win back at least by 2012, if not this year's mid-terms. At the same time, in a strictly poltical sense, Obama's Justice Department probably didn't to file a lawsuit for the purpose of winning Hispanic votes, since thanks to the GOP's ineptiude the Dems may well have a solid Latino voting bloc for the next 100 years, anyway. They seem to be suing simply because it's time for the grown-ups to step in:
As the Justice Department points out in its complaint, the Arizona law will divert resources from the government’s pursuit of dangerous aliens, including terrorists, spies and violent criminals. It will harass authorized immigrants, visitors and citizens who might not be carrying their papers when stopped by the police. It will ignore the country’s cherished protections of asylum and will interfere with national foreign policy interests. (Already several Mexican governors are refusing to meet with their American counterparts in Arizona, a sign of the diplomatic disarray produced by the law.)
Interestingly, the New York Times thinks the feds could go a lot farther:
In the meantime, there are steps President Obama can take. He can deny Arizona access to federal databases of immigration status and refuse to allow the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to cooperate with state officials in handling people detained under the law. The government should end the misguided program allowing local deputies to enforce immigration law after taking an educational course.
I can't imagine those things happening -- regardless of the wisdom of such steps, they would play out badly for Obama in the news cycle. Unfortunately, most of the time, the president's staff cares way too much about what TV's talking heads are saying.
They've been been watching so much cable news, for example, that Team Obama has come to believe that a loud, Fox-fueled minority mob of deficit hawks is more important that the majority of Americans who want to see much, much more done about jobs. Ironically, many things would follow from an improving jobs picture -- including somewhat less public angst over immigration.
That's why it's so frustrating to watch Obama do the right thing in one key area and act so short-sighted in the most important issue of all.