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May 21, 2006

Nope, the speech still stinks

Well, it's been almost a week since the president's speech on what he'd like to do about illegal immigrants, and -- having slept on it for six nights -- I'm still not satisfied. If anything, it's even less impressive now.

Like Peggy Noonan, I remain mystified by the brain cloud that seems to have enveloped the White House and the Senate; the "Greatest Debating Society" in the world rejected commonsense amendments, one after another, in an unseemly rush to embrace illegal aliens in a warm hug and slip them the tongue.

Noonan offers some possible reasons.

The disinterest in the White House and among congressional Republicans in establishing authority on America's borders is so amazing--the people want it, the age of terror demands it--that great histories will be written about it. Thinking about this has left me contemplating a question that admittedly seems farfetched: Is it possible our flinty president is so committed to protecting the Republican Party from losing, forever, the Hispanic vote, that he's decided to take a blurred and unsatisfying stand on immigration, and sacrifice all personal popularity, in order to keep the party of the future electorally competitive with a growing ethnic group?

This would, I admit, be rather unlike an American political professional. And it speaks of a long-term thinking that has not been the hallmark of this administration. But at least it would render explicable the president's moves.

The other possibility is that the administration's slow and ambivalent action is the result of being lost in some geopolitical-globalist abstract-athon that has left them puffed with the rightness of their superior knowledge, sure in their membership in a higher brotherhood, and looking down on the low concerns of normal Americans living in America.

I find this hard to believe, that an administration that has shown little long-term vision on anything other than attempting to bring democracy to the Muslim world would have the intellectual heft and ideological fervor to attempt such a radical and unpopular move -- and attempt to cloak it in deceptive right-is-wrong, up-is-down language.

But Noonan stumbles upon what I think might really be going on.

I continue to believe the administration's problem is not that the base lately doesn't like it, but that the White House has decided it actually doesn't like the base. That's a worse problem. It's hard to fire a base. Hard to get a new one.

Mickey Kaus, a middle-of-the-road Democrat who hasn't drunk the Kool-Aid (at least, not lately), thinks there's some -- hmm, how do you say it -- prevaricatin' going on, in the post Bush Lies, Base Dies!

WaPo's Weisman and VandeHei recount the successful attempt of Senator Hagel and others to get the Bush White House to scuttle conservatives' attempt to amend the immigration bill

to stipulate that the 200,000 low-skilled immigrants allowed to enter the country under a new temporary-worker visa would have to leave when the visa expired.

According to WaPo, the conservative senators argued, ineffectively, that

Bush has always said he backs a "temporary worker program," not a permanent funnel of immigrants to the United States.

Actually, it's worse than that. In Bush's big May 15 speech, he said flatly:

And temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.

Now it's been made clear that--according to the White House--temporary workers need not return to their home countries after all. Was Bush's speech statement just a lie? Was it a Clintonian weasel (technically accurate in the zen-tautological sense that their "stay" doesn't conclude until it concludes). ...

P.S.: I happen to favor a path to citizenship for legal temporary workers from outside the country. (It's the illegal workers already inside the country I have problems with rewarding.) But if Bush didn't mean what he said, maybe he shouldn't have said it. Or does he have so much contempt for his own base--what Sen. Hagel, in a revealingly snotty outburst, called "the political lowest common denominator"--that he thinks he can con them with impunity?

Well, does he? It's as good an explanation as I've heard.

Posted by Mike Lief at May 21, 2006 06:55 AM | TrackBack


Out of Bush's inherent flaws, I don't think of him as having contempt. But who knows, only his cabinet and family know for sure. He just seems like he follows his own ideas and depends on a tight circle to help him form those ideas.

Noonan: "protecting the Republican Party from losing, forever, the Hispanic vote"

Politics are so fluid now. Nothing lasts forever. Good deeds and bad behavior are all subject to the next media campaign. I don't think GWB is thinking well ahead; it's probably just angling for votes and labor. We can't afford sloppy handling at the borders, but what can be done to stop it. Americans have spoken out and it's clear that migrants are welcome as long as it's legal and/or with time limits.

Posted by: Vermont Neighbor at May 23, 2006 12:09 AM

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