Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Immigration politics

Marc Cooper at Truthdig:
Let’s get a couple of things straight about the immigration speech President George W. Bush unreeled Monday night from the Oval Office.

His address had nothing to do with actual border policy and everything to do with domestic electoral politics.

The real mission of the 6,000 National Guard troops he has called out is to quell the rebellion on the president’s right flank, the flaring mutiny of his own conservative base. Indeed, if the president were being honest, the mobilized troops would be taken off the federal payroll and moved onto the books of the 2006 national Republican campaign...

The truth be told, the totality of Bush’s speech was rather reasonable. Stripping away the political theatrics and the empty phrasing, and putting aside the undue emphasis on deployment of the Guard, the president did endorse the sort of bipartisan reforms proposed by a coalition stretching from John McCain and the Chamber of Commerce to Ted Kennedy and the Service Employees International Union. And he called directly on both houses of Congress to finally agree upon and pass a bill that reflects that consensus. Problem is that Bush should have been speaking out forcefully in favor of these moves ever since he raised comprehensive reform as a priority in his 2004 State of the Union speech. Unfortunately, he hid under his desk on this issue for the last two years. Only after the right wing of his base rebelled and only after the pro-immigrant movement blossomed in the streets—that is, only after the White House was completely overtaken by events—did the president act....

And how did this expensive appeal to the rightwing go over? Glenn Greenwald does the roundup:
Michelle Malkin: "platitudes, non sequiturs, and recycled rhetoric I've been deconstructing the last five years."

John "The Rocket" Hinderaker: "He had his chance and he blew it . . . President Bush is being destroyed by vicious people who hate him. So far, he hasn't seemed to notice. Apparently, he doesn't think he needs any allies. He certainly didn't win any with tonight's speech . . . . President Bush doesn't have many chances left to salvage his second term. After tonight, he might not have any."

(As a bonus, definitely don't miss the unbelievably patronizing summary by The Rocket of his conversation with his "African immigrant" driver last night after the speech, in which Rocket "patiently" tried to explain the real issues to the immigrant driver, only to be "sure he'd forgotten everything I said by the time he left my driveway").

Paul "Deacon" Mirengoff: "President Bush did wimp out, and fatally so I think, on his fourth point, i.e., what to do about illegals who are already here. . . . This means that Bush's proposal taken as a whole is probably self-defeating."

Ankle Biting Pundits: "Whether he likes it or not, the president did not carve out a 'centrist' position at all. He articulated one of the two conflicting positions in this debate. And by pretending to be a 'middle grounder' I believe he cheapened his argument."

Misha at Anti-Idotarian Rottweiler: "long on blather and emotion and amazingly short on actual solutions. . . . Take your 'virtual' fence and your hi-tech vaporware coupled with your amnesty plan and shove them up your ass, Jorge."...

Mark Levin, National Review: "I didn't spend 35 years in the conservative movement for this. . . . This is pure idiocy, and it has the potential of being far more damaging to this nation than any big-government power-grab perpetrated by any previous president and Congress."

Dave Riehl: "Unfortunately, visitors to a Bush '43' Library may have to cross the border into Mexico to take it all in. In a speech which was as much a eulogy for the so-called Reagan Revolution, as it was an unfortunate beginning to a pending political battle on immigration, President Bush all but declared himself irrelevant to the conversation. In essence, the sitting President of the United States through (sic) up his hands and declared, 'No mas.'

John Hawkins, Right Wing News: "After the speech last night, I took a look around the right side of the blogosphere to get a sense of what people thought. The reaction was probably -- oh, let's say somewhere between 75-90% negative and to be truthful, as often as not, I got the impression that the bloggers who said they liked the speech were reading out of the old "root, root, root for the home team playbook" rather than genuinely being enthused about what Bush had to say."


Graeme said...

geez, the right wingers aren't impressed it seems

Jonathan Versen said...

"ankle biting pundits'" argument that Bush,jr has weakened his position only makes sense if you think GW actually HAS a coherent position.

The only thing that is coherent about his immigrations stance(s), that I can see, is his desire to stoke the fires of nativist discontent.

And thank you, for reading those dreary right-wingers for us, so we don't have to!

helmut said...

Fortunately, the rounding up the rightwingers was Greenwald's job.I just cut-'n-pasted. I try to stay away from those places.

This is a funny case. People have relied for so long on presidential rhetoric with little substance. Now that there's actually a substantive proposal - agree with it or not or see it as pure politics or not - the right goes nuts. Bush used a wee bit of the rhetoric of conciliation in the speech. That hurts for righties.

Anonymous said...

Bush is smart enough to know that the GOP can't afford to alienate Latinos to the same extent that they've alienated African-Americans. And I'm sure someone has explained to him why it's not possible to deport 11 million people.

So he was a fool to think that he could satisfy the cross burners. Nothing short of mass deportation will satisfy them.

He probably should have just skipped the part about the high-tech fences, which he acknowledged later in the speech will not work, and focused instead on documenting as many of the illegal immigrants as possible.

The trouble with relying on completely unreasonable people for support is that there will come a time that you will have to do the smart thing. And when that time comes, a lot of those unreasonable people will decide to stay at home on election day.

Jonathan Versen said...


Upon reflection-- I was wrong-- it's not really an incoherent set of positions-- because it's not about alienating latinos, but splitting them; if you can pick off just some of the latino vote, you prevent them from being a political force.

helmut said...

Good point, Jonathan. I hadn't thought of that as a political strategy. I recently came across an article in the WaPo about Rove wanting to appeal to African Americans for the elections. This struck me as pretty wacky. But it makes more sense when you think of their divide-and-conquer techniques. And, remember, anything they say (oh, for example, "uniter not a divider")... the opposite is more likely true.