How stupid can House leadership be? Just last week, a Republican congressman battling to hold on to a seat recently held by a corrupt Republican colleague in California said he cemented his victory only after publicly siding with the tough House immigration bill.
Insiders have searched for the logic behind Hastert's decision. Some conjectured that he might be immersed in legal problems of his own with regard to issues surrounding the Jack Abramoff "Indian lobbying matter." But take it from me: I've seen firsthand a speaker of the House who had ethics and other front-burner issues to contend with. None of that really impacts the flow of legislation. If anything, a popular position on an important issue can be a welcome distraction. Besides, few seriously believe Hastert is in any trouble.
A more likely scenario might be that the old "play-with-the-team" talk was delivered to Hastert, and so he is protecting Bush and the Senate by blurring the line in the sand drawn by the House for its more popular stand on immigration.
That would be dumb strategy by the White House and the Senate. The upper chamber and the president should be following the lead of the House.
Another possibility is that the Republicans are stalling the issue until the elections get closer. They could then pass an immigration bill to please their base, and do it without providing time for their opponents to react effectively.
But that strategy sounds just too smart for the players involved. It would mean pleasing Republican voters instead of appeasing Republican campaign contributors. I said Bush was rallying in the polls --not that he was readying to pull off a calculated political miracle.