Protesting Too Much, or Acknowledging Too Little

By Jerry Kammer, August 21, 2009

As President Obama complains that his critics protest too much about his health care plans for illegal immigrants, he appears to be acknowledging too little. Consider his appearance yesterday with radio talk show host Michael Smerconish, specifically his exasperated response to a caller who raised the issue.

Said the president: "This has been an example of just pure misinformation out there. None of the bills that have been voted on in Congress, and none of the proposals coming out of the White House propose giving coverage to illegal immigrants -- none of them," he said. "That has never been on the table; nobody has discussed it. So everybody who is listening out there, when you start hearing that somehow this is all designed to provide health insurance to illegal immigrants, that is simply not true and has never been the case."

True enough, as far as it goes. But the president would have been more candid had he acknowledged that the immigration reform package that he endorsed again yesterday in a private meeting with advocates of comprehensive reform would legalize the status of the 12 million illegal immigrants widely estimated to be in the country.

The president hasn't yet been pressed to close that policy loop by critics who worry about the expense of providing health care coverage to illegal immigrants. But one of his aides was more forthcoming last Sunday on the Spanish-language Univision network, as he tried to ease the concerns of advocates for illegal immigrants.

In an interview on the program "Al Punto," White House Director of Hispanic Media Luis Miranda acknowledged that coverage would not be provided to illegals. Then he immediately added, "Precisely because of that we are working for reform" of immigration laws. Presto-change-o, problem solved, with coverage for all those formerly illegal immigrants.

Meanwhile, Miranda noted, the president is insisting on providing coverage to legal immigrants, just as he did earlier this year when he prevailed -- over Republican objections -- in extending the State Children's Health Insurance Program to the children of legal immigrants who have been in the country for less than five years.