Comic relief

    The U.S. Supreme Court did some serious business yesterday when it struck down most of Arizona’s strict anti-immigrant law, but there were some laughs as well.Second runner-up, as an inadvertent practitioner of comic relief, was Justice Antonin Scalia, whose ranting dissent was short on case law and long on campaign rhetoric. At times he skipped the legal scholarship and simply attacked President Obama on policy grounds – claiming without evidence, in the manner of a right-wing blogger in mom’s basement, that Obama is indulging illegal immigrants because he “desperately wants to avoid upsetting foreign powers.” (Presumably, he’ll trot out his broccoli argument on Thursday, when the court rules on health reform.) Scalia already has a job for life, so it’s a mystery why he feels the need to audition for a gig on Fox News.First runner-up was Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who somehow claimed that the ruling – which decreed that three of the four Arizona provisions were unconstitutional, thus vindicating President Obama – was actually a “victory” for her. The court majority ruled that Obama was right to insist that the federal government trumps the states on immigration policy; that Arizona can’t make it a crime for illegal immigrants to seek employment; that Arizona can’t arrest immigrants for failing to carry registration documents; that Arizona can’t authorize its cops to arrest someone on the belief that the person may have done something that makes him deportable; and that even though the “show me your papers” provision remains in force, the court will be scrutinizing it closely. Despite all that, Brewer claimed “victory” and said she’d been “vindicated,” thus demonstrating that she is in dire need of a course in remedial reading.But the comic relief winner, hands down, was Mitt Romney.The list of things that Romney won’t talk about is ever lengthening – he won’t say what tax loopholes he would close, what federal agencies he would eliminate, whether he would repeal Obama’s directive that halts the deportation of illegal immigrants’ children, whether he’d support fair pay for women, and much more – and now we have a new one. He refuses to say whether he supports the Arizona ruling.It’s easy to see why he dodged reporters all day yesterday. If he applauds the ruling, he ticks off the intolerant nativists in his conservative base. If he condemns the ruling, he ticks off the Hispanic voters who are crucial in a growing number of swing states. And because the “show me your papers” provision has survived, he risks more trouble with Hispanics if he applauds its survival. (Indeed, he’s already trailing Obama among Hispanics by roughly 40 percentage points – as I mentioned in my Sunday newspaper column – in part because he recently hailed the Arizona law as a “model” for the nation, a remark he’d dearly love to Etch a Sketch.)So what Romney did yesterday was the bare minimum. He released a boilerplate statement about how states should have the right to enact immigration policies (that’s not what the U.S. Constitution says, but never mind). The statement did not address the high court ruling at all.Which brings us to the comedy.The reporters covering Romney sought clarity yesterday from Romney spokesman Rick Gorka. Here’s most of what happened (thanks to Politico for the transcript). Gorka: “The governor supports the states’ rights to craft immigration laws when the federal government has failed to do so…”Q: So does he think the high court case was wrongly decided?Gorka: “The governor supports the states’ rights to do this. It’s a 10th Amendment issue….”Q: So he thinks the Arizona law was constitutional?Gorka: “The governor believes the states have the rights to craft their own immigration laws, especially when the federal government has failed to do so.”Q: What does he think about the provisions that were struck down?Gorka: “…The Supreme Court ruling is a direct response of the president failing to address this issue.”Q: Does Romney support the law as it was drafted in Arizona?Gorka: “The governor supports the right of states, that’s all we’re going to say on this issue…”Q: But does the governor have a position on the Arizona law besides supporting the right of states?Gorka: “This debate is sprung from the president failing to address this issue, so each state is left and has the power to draft and enact their own immigration policy.”Q: But the Arizona law does very specific things, does the governor support those things that the Arizona law does?Gorka: “We’ve addressed this.”Q: What is his position on the actual law in Arizona?Gorka: “Again, each state has the right within the Constitution to craft their own immigration laws since the federal government has failed…”Q: You’re not answering. What does he think about the policy in Arizona? Is it fair to say he has no opinion? You’re refusing to give us an answer.Gorka: “Arizona, like many other states in this nation, take it upon themselves to craft policies for their own specific states. Governor has said repeatedly that states are a laboratory of democracy, what one state crafts may not work in others but ultimately this, again, goes back to the president failing to deliver on his campaign promises…”Q: The statement that Mitt Romney released this morning doesn’t say one way or another whether he agrees with the Supreme Court decision. Does he have a reaction as to whether he agrees with this decision?Gorka: “Again, Jim, the states have the right to craft their immigration policy when the federal government has failed to do so.”Q: But the Supreme Court just said that three out of four of those provisions, the states didn’t have the right to do that, so how does that square with the governor’s statement?Gorka: “States have the right to craft their own immigration policies…”Q: So if your statement stands as you expressed it then, you want to remain silent as to whether or not Romney accepts today’s decision.Gorka: “Arizona has the ability under the 10th Amendment to address an issue that the federal government – “Q: But that wasn’t part of – the judges were not ruling whether or not the 10th Amendment exists today. They were ruling on an Arizona statute…Can states do anything, even if it defies the Constitution?Gorka: “That’s not what I was saying…”Q: Why isn’t the governor up here talking about this? He’s not addressed any of this.Gorka: “The governor has issued a statement…”The flak finally said, “We have to get going.” As do I. I’m supposed to be on vacation – at least until the health reform ruling on Thursday.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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