The immigration bill and its most prominent Republican supporter are under attack:
Conservative bloggers immediately seized on portions of the bill funding expanded cell phone access along the border as evidence Rubio was supplying free phones to undocumented immigrants. Some commentators connected it to the “Obama phone,” a popular meme on the right last year about a program that provides discounts on phone service to the poor. Despite the moniker, it predated the current administration by decades and rose to prominence last year mostly due to a viral video of a female black Obama supporter talking about the program.
Rubio himself was confronted with the claim on Wednesday in an interview with conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham, who quoted from a blog post that read “Move over Obama phone, this is the amnesty phone.”
In response, Rubio pointed out that the phones are not for illegal immigrants but for US citizens “so they can report illegal crossings because many of them either don’t have phone service or don’t have cell phone service and they have no way of calling.” Waldman bets that the truth won’t matter much:
What folks like Ingraham understand is that when you’re trying to gin up outrage about a big, complex piece of legislation, the way to do it is to find some component of the bill that is weighted with symbolic value and will hit directly on your target audience’s resentments and fears. It doesn’t matter how minor the provision is, or how much you need to distort its actual function and intent. All that matters is that it’ll get people pissed off.
Seth Mandel sees Rubio’s outreach to the talk-radio right as essential:
[E]ven if the bill comes together and passes the Senate, Rubio and the others will have far less influence on what happens to it in the GOP-controlled House. And that is why Rubio is working so hard to dull conservative commentators’ unease with anything that resembles “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Rubio is scheduled to appear on Rush Limbaugh’s show today, and it will be Rubio’s second interview with Limbaugh since the push for immigration reform picked up steam after the November election.