By holding out his explicit endorsement of the Senate's immigration bill until Thursday night, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly figured out how he could play kingmaker on a major national issue. "It is time for the USA to pass immigration reform," O'Reilly said. He pointed to the latest agreement in the immigration negotiations, which calls for spending $30 billion to send 20,000 more agents to secure the border with Mexico. "For years I’ve called for a more secure southern border, you know that. And now it looks like the secure border is in reach. At least somewhat. So I hope this bill does become law." He cited the bill's plan to make undocumented immigrants go through 13 years of purgatory before getting full legal status: "Senator Rubio told me on the phone today that it would be at least 13 years - 13 -- before people in the country illegally right now could gain full legal working status, and even longer to achieve citizenship." Rubio immediately sent out a press release celebrating O'Reilly's endorsement. The news was picked up on conservative blogs like Hot Air, Breitbart.com, The Blaze.
This is decision-making theater. Watching the Republican Party and conservatives talk themselves into backing immigration reform is like watching someone with a cavity talk themselves into going to the dentist. They don't want to do it, but they've already decided they have to do it. Now they're torturing the rest of us with elaborate rituals showing they're finally really for real this time ready to do it. The Republican National Committee has said the party must embrace immigration reform. The Wall Street Journal is solidly behind it. And so is Fox. Fox's Sean Hannity endorsed immigration reform the day after the election, even though he once opposed "amnesty." Fox News head Roger Ailes said recently, "Republicans haven’t used the right language… They keep talking about illegal immigration." Ailes also said: "I don’t have any problem with a path to citizenship." Fox News Latino uses the term "undocumented immigrant" instead of "illegal."
As The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol said of the border security deal on Fox on Thursday night, "It may be enough to give political cover to Republican senators who want to vote for this bill anyway, and are looking for something to be able to say -- when they go back home -- 'Oh we've really toughened up that border security.'" That might go for Fox, too. The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza reported that Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Rubio had privately lobbied O'Reilly, Hannity, and Neil Cavuto:
"God bless Fox," Graham said. "Last time, it was 'amnesty' every ﬁfteen seconds." He said that the change was important for his reëlection, because "eighty per cent of people in my primary get their news from Fox."
O'Reilly denied he'd worked with the Senate's Gang of Eight, saying, "This is a no collusion zone." O'Reilly has his own constituents to worry about.