the national interest

Obama’s Strategic Tarmac Attack

President Barack Obama talks with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer after arriving at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, in Mesa, Ariz.
The perfect foil. Photo: Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

President Obama’s people have portrayed his tarmac confrontation with Arizona’s Jan Brewer as a kind of accidental blowup stemming from his pique that her book allegedly misrepresented a private conversation they had. If it’s an accident, though, it’s a pretty fortuitous one.

Arizona is one of the few states Obama lost in 2008 where his campaign thinks it can compete in 2012. He’s no longer running against a favorite son, and the fast-growing Latino population might give him a shot. But in Arizona, and elsewhere, Obama need to energize Latinos, who tend to vote at low rates.

The Republican strategy is sort of a miniature version of their broader legislative strategy. Republicans, along with a handful of conservative Democrats, blocked comprehensive immigration reform and then blocked even the modest DREAM Act, and their message is that Latinos should vote for them because Obama failed to carry out his campaign promise to pass those bills. It’s actually quite clever.

Since Obama can’t get anything passed through Congress, one option is to simply clarify that he opposes the GOP’s most draconian elements. So: A public shouting match with a governor who’s unpopular with Arizonans in general and despised by Latinos. (Her job approval with Arizona Latinos is minus 40.)

An accident? I doubt it.

Obama’s Strategic Tarmac Attack