Jonah Goldberg

President Obama seems to get this, sort of: "Indeed, our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. And that includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona."

This is awfully tendentious since he takes it as a given that Arizona's effort to take some responsibility for a problem is best understood as "irresponsible," as if continuing to do nothing at the local level while too little is done at the federal level would be more responsible. Of course, "irresponsible" is lavish praise compared with charges of "apartheid" and "Nazi" coming from some opponents of the law, including Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony.

Regardless, Obama is right insofar as Arizona's effort is the inevitable consequence of Washington's inability to take illegal immigration seriously.

Which is why the Democrats' sudden decision to push for "comprehensive" immigration reform is so disappointing. If this were a sincere effort at reform, it would be laudable. But it's almost impossible to find anyone in Washington not paid to spout Democratic talking points who believes this is anything but a naked political ploy. Even such reliably liberal bloggers as Josh Marshall and the Washington Post's Ezra Klein concede that this is first and foremost a partisan stunt and wedge issue intended to split the GOP and woo Latinos, particularly in Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs a game-changer to avoid crushing defeat in November.

Now, I don't mind wedge issues per se -- though liberals have been decrying them for decades. Still, this is beyond the pale. Ginning up a lot of anger on both sides of the issue without any serious hope of success will in all likelihood send the signal that Washington still thinks it's all a big, unserious game. And that is precisely why we will get more laws like Arizona's and make real immigration reform all the harder, if Washington ever tries to pursue it seriously.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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