NOW with Alex Wagner | January 29, 2013
>>> joining us today former deputy white house press secretary , executive vice president global strategy group, and former obama money bunny, the man with a very long title bill burton.
>> a lot of hats.
>> a lot of hats. politico congressional reporter jake sherman is making his debut with us. msnbc political analyst and former dnc communications drishgt karen finney is here, and mother jones washington bureau chief david corn . channelling the spirit of rick perry , will the republican party finally have a heart when it comes to immigration? president obama is en route to las vegas where he will outline his immigration priorities just hours from now which comes amid signs of bipart sfwlan agreement on the issue in the senate . for senate leaders it has been a swift path from this attitude --
>> drug and human smuggling , home invasions , murder.
>> we're outmanned. with all the illegals in america, more than half come through arizona.
>> complete the dang fence.
>> to this attitude.
>> we have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve our food, clean our homes, and even watch our children while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.
>> but even if john mccain has changed his tune, getting the house gop to harmonize may not be so easy. michael steel spokesman for john boehner , was decidedly noncommitmental on the issue. "the speaker welcomes the work of leaders like senator rubio on this issue and is looking forward to learning more about the proposal in the coming days. majority leader eric cantor would not comment on a portion of the bill that offers a path to citizenship. congressman raul labrador offered creating a new pathway to citizenship is nott a good day, and lamar smith minced no words. the senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration . anticipating broad outcry from their right wing flank, republican authors began emphasizing just how incredibly difficult it will be to actually become a citizen.
>> let me tell you the path to citizenship is a long and advisone.
>> it would be cheaper and easier for them to done it the legal way than the way they're going to get it now. this is going to cost them penalties. this is going to cost them tax wrshz this is going to cost them a significant weight. after they do all of that, the only thing they're going to have access to is the opportunity to apply for a green card .
>> no word if undocumented immigrants will also need to walk on coals or eat fire before being considered for citizenship. for republicans the road to reform is indeed a long one, and they must start with the very basics. yesterday a top republican super pac, the american action network sent house republicans a memo outlining tonally sensitive language regarding immigration reduce. do use undocumented immigrant . don't use the word illegals .
>> illegals .
>> illegals .
>> illegals .
>> illegals .
>> also, forget that you ever used the phrase anchor baby .
>> it's probably not the case for an anchor baby that gets citizenship.
>> what we refer to as anchor baby .
>> the impact of the anchor baby industry.
>> created this issue of anningor babies.
>> finally, in case you were a fan of the phrase send them all back and electric fence , unlearn them quickly. no mention in the memo of herman cain 's alligator filled moat as a security measure, but we're assuming that's out too. jake , there's a lot of action or maybe no action. you have a great -- you and one of your colleagues have an interesting story about the road ahead for actual immigration reform in congress, and i don't want to be a pessimist here.
>> i do, though.
>> i will paraphrase cuba gooding jr . show me the house basically. the senate seems to be moving on this. the leadership is trying to embrace reform, but what are the chances house republicans can mend their extreme ways ask come around to something like immigration?
>> i'll be even more pessimistic. i think the longer this hang out in the senate , the more of a problem it becomes. this is not legislative language yet. these are broad principles which steve king from iowa, who is the most conservative guy in the house , even agrees with. before we even get to the house , the senate is going to be a problem. the house is a huge problem. i think from what eric cantor said, from what the committee chairs are saying, that is long path which includes going through various committees and john boehner has to protect his speakership. he can't put something on the floor that's going to upset the right. the aides that i talked to on capitol hill think this is all a fantasy at this point.
>> mcconnell said when the president address this is issue tuesday, i hope you will take a bipartisan approach rather than delivering a divisive part sfwlan speech.
>> the fact that mccobble isn't endorsing would undermine boehner 's --
>> mcconnell is up for re-election. so is lindsey graham who is a part of this group. the longer this hangs out there and the harder lindsey gram gets hit. we haven't seen that yet, are the people up in 2014 going to get hit on this.
>> i think there potentially is a better chance. bill, you remember this from 2005 and 2006 . those are basically talking points that we wrote. we didn't have to be told not to say illegals . you have to be told not to say some of those things. some of the friendlier language. it's interesting to see a couple of things. number one, senator rubio, everybody is mentioning him in their statements. that's clearly their tea party cover. they're, like, look, senator rubio is for it. it's got to be okay.
>> there's one fact that will come into play. it's the business community . john boehner that we've seen on the depault and other issues is now caught between his tea party , you know, majority and the business community that funds the republican party , and that they're amenable to it.
>> there's a demographic reality to it.
>> putting that aside --
>> putting commonsense aside for the moment, i guess i should have stipulate lated that at the beginning of my remarks.
>> how long is the path? will they be walking over fiery coal sndz then you realize just houfl -- i mean, the starting gate is probably ten feet ahead of the house republican caucus . if the phrase send them back needs to be exiced from the lexicon.
>> we've had this immigration crisis, but now rbz have a political crisis.
>> if they don't deal with that, then they know they've got problems in 2014 and 2016 and especially 2020 . when you listen to john mccain , you had some of the more kind things that he had to say at that press conference because it's not based in values.
>> it was a contrast. the president will be making his remarks in ray few hours, and we know he is pushing the envelope on this by not coupling immigration reform or a path to citizenship with border skoous security, which will apparently be a big sticking point. that's part of the senate bill . the other piece is he is including same-sex couples in the immigration bill . how much of that -- well, how much of that is tactical, and how much is idealogical?
>> well, i think he has to start to the left of this group no matter what, and i think that was kind of the purpose of this. you saw the problems starting to emerge yesterday. rubio was already talking about how amnesty or what he calls -- he doesn't call it amnesty.
>> you're not supposed to say the word. snoo what he calls a pathway needs to be tied to border security , and the president is saying now. that's going to be a huge sticking point, and that's what republicans are holding out for. they're not that flexible.
>> i think the fact that the president is perceived as starting to the left and i see perceived because i think it's all just good sense, but whatever, actually gives the republicans a little biltmore room to come to the center, and i think that is a very smart strategy. we'll see how it shakes out. in the end it will mean that some of these phrases, like send them all back, will be easier to do away with because we can actually focus on some of the key elements.
>> i think the thing that's next in terms of negotiating, but by sticking to his values, that is a better way to rally support outside than getting stuck in the muck of the negotiations. right now the main negotiations are between the senate , republicans and democrats, who put together this bipartisan bill, and then let them fight it out with the house . the president can stay -- i don't want to say stay above but do what he does to bring pressure to bear and not get into a situation. that worked out in a way in the end. let me say this is your fight. you come up with the details, and i'll be here laying down the markers and the standards, and, you know, and putting my mark on this at some point in time.
>> with the same-sex couples piece, it's a civil rights issue, right? the president that has really done a considerable shift in terms of embracing gay marriage . this is yet another piece of that. it draws republicans out on the issue. unsurprisingly, karen, you think this gives republicans a little bit of a smoke screen to come to the table and bargain. michael from the washington post does not. he says if obama pushes a fast pass to legalization above other reform priorities, he could fracture the coalition which may be the point. the idea that the president wants us to fall apart for republicans for his own political --
>> i think --
>> for his next election campaign ?
>> for hillary in 2016 .
>> that's exactly right. on the equality piece, i think the president has made clear that he is for equality for all citizens. when you are for, it you have to be for it across the board, and that's why it's in the bill. i think it's just -- i know it's cynical to say about washington, but it's just the right policy and the right thing to do, and i think that's why the president comes to it that way. it will be interesting to see what pieces of this get coupled together, though. the security piece, border security and enforcement, the president has already done a lot.
>> yes. to the ayre of many in the latin community.
>> if there were a democratic primary this time around, i think people would have talked a lot about deportations and how much enforcement there was. there's a lot more enforcement on the business side of this. i think that you'll see some of that in there. on individuals it's tough to do much more than the president has already done.
>> this is a thorny and complicated issue on both sides of the aisle because labor will have something to say about this too. that said, you have such a problem in the house among republicans just getting their caucus together. jake , i wonder from your vantage point, who is going to be the person to sort of carry the flag for this in the house ? i mean, does -- do you get the sense that boehner wants to see -- i mean --
>> is it a red flag or white flag ?
>> well, they hope raul labrador, who is a hispanic republican from idaho and was an immigration attorney --
>> he is everything to everyone.
>> he came out yesterday in a phone call with me actually and saying this is nowhere near where he wants to be. he said the principles are fine, but the pathway is not what he wants, but then you have conservatives who say obama hasn't enforced the immigration laws as is, so he should not be trusted with a new set of immigration laws . whatever the reality is, this is what is being said by house republicans .
>> the fight -- a good dynamic here is to let the house republicans fight with the senate republicans . let them go after mccain. let mccain and rube wroe and the others get into this fight and not make it boehner versus obama . i think obama would win that fight, but nothing would happen then.
>> as in 2005 and 2006 , the death nail for republicans is the tone of this. we had evangelical latinos wanting to meet with howard dean at the dnc. i'm just saying, that's a shift, right?
>> it's the beginning of a bad joke.
>> we saw in droves, you know, the latino community moving over to the democratic party largely because of the tone. you have even republicans in the republican party who are latino just disgusted with the tone. these guys have to be very, very careful. the other thing that these guys know is that those, you know, crazy crackers on the right, like if they start with their very hateful language, that is going to kill them in the same way that they learned at their little retreat that let's not talk about rape.
>> or they learned in 2012 that self-deportation and alligator filled moats, keep in mind that herman cain was running for president when he said that. it's at least in the memo.
>> look at the originality of this. if you look at some of the voices on the republican side who are for immigration reform , you have jeff flank, marco rubio . people who are conservatives, but in border areas or --
>> john mccain .
>> or places where there's a lot of hispanic voters. they get the politics of this just like president george w. bush got the politic of this in a way that mitt romney did not. that's why he got 44% much the hispanic vote, and mitt romney got 27%.
>> ah, truth teller, bill burton. nice numbers. we have to leave it there. republicans in key battleground states have come up with another solution for fixing the party. change the electoral college . why making policy changes when you can just fool around with the arithmetic? we'll talk rigging the vote next on "now." so, we