Friday, March 24, 2006

Ports, Borders, and the Snakes Under the Bed

Many of you will remember that last June, Tom Tancredo, a Republican Congressman from Colorado, opined of immigrants that some of them are “coming to kill you, and you, and me, and my children, and my grandchildren.”

Today, the NYT reports:

WASHINGTON, March 23 — In the days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, immigration policy was going to be President Bush's signature issue. It was central to his thinking as the former governor of a border state, key to his relationship with President Vicente Fox of Mexico and essential in attracting new Hispanic voters to the Republican Party.

Five years later, Mr. Bush has at last realized some momentum on immigration policy, but it is probably not the activity he once anticipated.

He has lost control of his own party on the issue, as many Republicans object to his call for a temporary guest-worker program, insisting instead that the focus be on shutting down the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico. It is not clear how much help he will get from Democrats in an election year.

I never really believed W would follow through with any kind of meaningful immigration reform, but I have hoped that he would anyway. Huge walls and massive budgets for the US Border Patrol look a lot more likely these days, despite W's intentions (supposing he has any and isn't just "courting" (stupid, stupid metaphor) Mexican-American voters).

What happened? The administration has so effectively rooted its operative logic--and the logic of its entire party--in fear, that it has prevented Republicans from making policy decisions based on anything but fear. Helmut has made this point repeatedly, most recently in light of The Port Business, wherein he writes that "This administration has been adept at one thing only: causing greater fear than necessary in the population and then overreacting in response through self-interested means."

But I think the emerging fight--which W will lose to outspoken fraidy-cats in his own party--is a good illustration of the ways in which allowing fear to dictate policy doesn't necessarily always result even in self-interesed means (huge contracting deals for wall-building to political pals notwithstanding). Bush, Cheney, the whole goddamned bunch, have shown their party and the world that they are afraid. We have a National Security Strategy whose central argument rests on our perception that some other country could do us harm; we should, according to the president, lash out in advance when we're scared, even if we're not entirely sure the threat is real.

Helmut's right--the idea in the first place on the part of the Administration was to create rationale for self-interested means. But the rest of the party didn't get the briefing, or something. Most Republicans . . . no, hell, most people in Congress, along with most Americans, are now actually afraid, motivated by fear, writing fear-based policy, failing to recognize any longer (if they ever did) that being scared is itself the ideological framework in which they think and breathe. Republicans fought W over the ports because they thought he was crazy not to be as scared as they were. And they'll fight him--and hard--on immigration for the same reason.

A bigger, more pressing question: will Republicans wet the bed before getting up to pee? Will they dare expose their hairless bare white ankles to those angry, hungry (freedom-hating) serpents lurking beneath the bed? Time will tell. A night-light might help. A really fucking big one. One you can see from space. One that'll turn day into night, that'll make immigrants pine for the darkness of old, when they could steal across our--our!--border and kill us as we lay awake, afraid.


helmut said...

Beautiful. I like the image of Joe Barton's disgruntled Salvadorean maid changing his sheets each morning.

barba de chiva said...

Yes [snickering]. By the way, in the las paragraph there, by "day into night" I think--I think--I meant "night into day." I'm going to leave it the way it is, though . . .