Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador appeared on MSNBC this morning and put on a clinic in effective messaging. He demonstrated how to disagree without being disagreeable, how to reject false premises, and how to turn the tables against critics. Despite being outnumbered four-to-one, a fairly typical liberal-to-conservative ratio on the non-news network, Labrador thrived (the meat of the exchange begins at the three-minute mark):
Host Alex Wagner asks Labrador about the perceived "narrative" of Republican obstructionism on the issue; Labrador flips her challenge on its head by highlighting Chuck Schumer's vow of intransigence. Wagner counters that the Senate bill passed on a bipartisan basis; Labrador points out that only a small minority of the Senate Republican conference voted for it. While periodically circling back to his support for meaningful reform, the Congressman also cites the CBO's estimate that the Senate bill would at best curtail the inflow of illegal immigrants by half, failing to sufficiently resolve the underlying problem. He also underscores the public's clear demand for meaningful border security as a prerequisite for other reforms -- a view shared by most American Hispanics, according to a recent survey. "I don't want to be here in ten years debating this issue again," he concludes. Labrador's strongest answers come toward the end of the discussion, when he adroitly delineates between respectful outreach and pandering. He also says that he's not especially interested in MSNBC's "helpful" advice to the Republican Party -- a point that's well taken.
Regular readers will recall that I've been a fan of Rep. Labrador's for some time. His proposed immigration overhaul proposal is sensible and realistic (I might consider broadening its 'path to citizenship' provisions, as one small quibble), and ought to serve as the basis for any plan the House majority advances. Critically, it reverses the Senate bill's flawed sequencing, which begins mass legalization before any border enforcement enhancements are put in place. As House Republicans huddle to chart a path forward on this issue, they'd be wise to make Labrador -- a former immigration attorney -- a key point man on policy, and a prominent spokesman for their effort. The sophomore from Idaho proved his value on both fronts in decidedly hostile territory today. I'll leave you with a small note to Alex Wagner: For future reference, the US-Mexico border is not "tens of thousands of miles" long.