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Obama Tried To Shift Foreign Policy Focus Away From Syria


And we have Cokie Roberts on the line. She joins us most Mondays. Cokie, good morning.


GREENE: So one of those last words in Emily piece, tightrope, I mean, that...


GREENE: ...feels like that's where President Obama is on Syria. I mean, he was already in a difficult position, and now we have an American ally we believe bombing Damascus. What sort of position is the White House in?

ROBERTS: An impossible one. There are just no good options here, and the president continues to say that the one option that appears to be off the table is American military intervention, the term of art is boots on the ground.

GREENE: Right.

ROBERTS: And of course, that is where the American people are. People do not want to get our men and women into another war.

But it does provide a foreign policy problem because if you take one option totally off the table, it limits your options. But I think that right now, the administration is not clear at all where to go.

GREENE: Well, the president did try to shift some of his foreign policy focus over the past week to Latin America, calling for immigration reform, which seems like a big topic right now. Where is this immigration bill that we have going?

ROBERTS: It's going to be in Senate committee this week, right coming up. And, in fact, the amendments need to be filed by tomorrow night. The goal here of the supporters of immigration reform is to get it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee as clean as possible. It's already 844 pages long.

GREENE: Wow. That's a read.

ROBERTS: Yes. But it's going to have a lot of potholes along the way. Some expected, some not. Right now, with the arguments going on about green cards for same-sex partners of U.S. citizens, and then there's the question of whether it can get through the Senate without scaring off any of its authors in that shaky coalition of that Gang of Eight. When you have people with presidential ambitions, as Marco Rubio, the Senator from Florida seems to have, that can be a big asset to legislation or it can be big problem.

Now, he had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Friday saying border security needs to be beefed up, that he's heard from people on that subject. Of course, right wing radio hosts are all over this. Rush Limbaugh saying that this is a Democratic trap to get more Democratic voters in. Jim DeMint, former Senator and friend of Marco Rubio, who's gone to the Heritage Foundation, has a big report out saying immigration reform is going to cost a great deal of money.

So all of that could scare him off. On the other hand, if he stays with the bill, that can be a huge asset to its passage because, you know, if it becomes part of his presidential campaign, David, and that's what we're talking about for 2016, that is going to be a big deal.

GREENE: You're giving me heartburn already talking about 2016. This is terrible, but I mean, I guess there are people who are sort of lining up already. I mean, we have some Republicans, you know, Rubio, a Latino presidential possibility, doesn't seem to be making the same calculations at another Republican Hispanic rising star Ted Cruz, we've also been hearing a lot about.

ROBERTS: And we can talk about it because they're talking about it, along with Rand Paul another Tea Partyer. They are now - we've seen them in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina going to the NRA, a variety of places where you launch presidential campaigns. And I think that all three of them are in there. Cruz, apparently deciding immigration reform is soothing to run against.

But also, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey running for reelection has very interesting ads out saying he's the compromiser who can work across party lines. So taking a very different position from these three guys. So we definitely have the campaign going. The real question is how immigration, though, fares in all of this, David. And I think the one big thing here is that President Obama seems really committed to this legislation, unlike guns, for instance, where he didn't seem to be putting a whole lot of effort into it.

Here, this is legacy time for him along with healthcare reform. And I think that you're going to see a lot of push from the White House behind this legislation.

GREENE: This will be a big topic on the agenda for his second term. Of course, Obama does not have to face reelection. Cokie, it's always a pleasure.

ROBERTS: Thank you, David.

GREENE: That's Cokie Roberts. She joins us on the program most Mondays.


GREENE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.
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