There are a few interesting things about this heckling incident in which President Obama was interrupted by what appears to be a young Latino man demanding that Obama put a stop to deportations by executive fiat.
Not an unreasonable request, since the man probably reads the news and is aware Obama likes to rule by executive fiat.
First, notice that the heckler is positioned in back of Obama; he’s not some renegade shouting from the rear of the auditorium. He was placed their intentionally by the Obama advance people as part of the scenery. And the scenery, by definition, is supposed to shut up and look good.
Second, you’ll note that unlike just about every other time I’ve seen this happen to a president, almost nobody comes to Obama’s rescue. Rather, the crowd begins to join the heckler in chanting, “Stop deportations, yes we can.” Messy.
There must be tremendous anger among at least certain segments of the Hispanic community at Obama for not making progress on immigration.
His unilateral imposition of the Dream Act was enough to pacify everyone for the election. But Obama made a conscious choice during his first term to use his political capital to do health reform instead of immigration – even though he promised immigration reform before the four years were up. And things ain’t looking much better in the second term.
What’s more, even if Latinos are angry, this kind of incident – Obama left to fend for himself against a heckler – never would have happened to a president who still commanded the respect of the nation, which Obama no longer does.
Finally, Obama did a very good job of getting out of a sticky situation. His decision not to throw the guy out was inspired, because it’s not clear whether the crowd would have gone for it. Actually, it’s not clear whom they would rather security ejected, the heckler or Obama.
The president nearly faced one of these type of situations:
Anyway, here’s the transcript of the exchange.
Heckler: I need your help . . . Our families are separated for Thanksgiving. I cannot see my family . . . Mr. President please use your executive order to halt deportations for all 11.5 (million) undocumented immigrants in this country right now. We agree that we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform. At the same time, you have a power to stop deportations for all.
Obama: Actually, I don’t, and that’s why we’re here.
Crowd: Stop deportations, yes we can!
(Security moves in).
Obama: These guys don’t need to go. Let me finish. No, no, no – you can stay there. Hold on a second.
I respect the passion of these young people because they feel deeply about the concerns of their families.
Now, what you need to know, when I’m speaking as president of the United States, and I come to this community, is that, if in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws.
What I’m proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve. But it won’t be as easy as just shouting. It requires us lobbying and getting it done.
Let’s go the videotape.