Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Enlightened Self-Interest?

The Kennedy-McCain immigration bill may be dead, or it may be dormant. If the Senate revives and passes it, the House will take it up. Speaker Pelosi has said in the past that she won’t proceed without 70 Republican votes in favor of the bill, but Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told the Washington Post today that the bill can’t pass without 40 Republican votes.

If Democrats really like this bill, Pelosi and Emanuel could pass it in the House on a party-line vote without a single Republican. (There are no cloture votes in the lower chamber.) Their reluctance to do so says something about the politics of immigration.

There are 232 Democrats and 203 Republicans in the House. Republicans need a net gain of 15 seats in the 2008 elections to regain a majority. As Michael Tomasky has pointed out, 62 Democrats represent districts that gave majorities to Bush against Kerry in 2004, while only 8 Republicans represent districts that Kerry won. Many of those 62 Democrats are freshman in districts that have been colored red on the electoral map for a long time.

Emanuel knows, in other words, that many of these Democrats are going to be vulnerable if they vote for McCain-Kennedy and then have to explain their vote next year in a campaign against a secure-the-border-first Republican challenger. Every Republican vote for McCain-Kennedy in the House will let one more vulnerable Democrat off the hook. They can vote against the bill, mollify their conservative constituents, and blame it all on Pres. Bush and Republicans. The Democrats get to have the bill they want, with all the political benefits and none of the political dangers it entails.

House Republicans who enjoy being in the minority have clear reasons to go along with this scheme, as do those who find the policy arguments in favor of the Grand Compromise compelling, or those who lie awake at night worrying about the Bush domestic legacy. If there are 40 such Republicans, than a revived Senate bill could pass the House. If, however, the Stupid Party is not quite stupid enough to sign onto this suicide pact, then Pelosi and Emanuel will either have to gamble their majority on enacting immigration reform with Democratic votes only, or shelve the whole question.

Discussions - 3 Comments

It looks like Bush is going to come back to it.

Let's take a brief look at his foreign policy to understand why he is so insistent on making some domestic big splash.

North Korea has crossed every red line he's drawn for them. And he's done nothing about it. The North Koreans successfully waited him out. And President Bush barely got the Chinese to move on the issue. That's a pretty fair take on all of it.

Venezuela is becoming a nightmare. It's looks to become the new Cuba of South America, but this time with hundreds of billions of dollars worth of crude to back it up. And Bush and Condi have done nothing about it, except criticize Pat Robertson. I think that's a pretty fair take on the situation.

President Bush spoke of "reforming the UN," making it more effective, able, making it live up to its founding idea. And towards that end he appointed John Bolton, who was tasked to clean it up. That went nowhere, so much so that Bush himself turned away from his policy of reform by letting Bolton go, appointing in his stead someone who will make no waves. He capped off this retreat by feting Kofi Anan, {who is up to his neck in the greatest financial scandal in history} at a farewell dinner at the White House. Can you imagine giving that anti-American twirp a farewell dinner, let alone at the White House. And be mindful too, Anan fought Bolton every step of the way in his reform efforts and in his attempts to take on Tehran's Manhattan Project. I think you'll all agree that's a pretty fair take on what happened up at the UN.

In Iraq it's looking like the administration isn't going to give the surge, {the 15% "surge"} the time it will need to work. And with a boost of only 15% in manpower, much lower than the original plan called for, it's debatable whether this administration really gave the idea of Fred Kagan, and that of McCain, ample resources and ample time to prove successful. The White House's support of the surge appears half-hearted. So in answer to McCain's plea to: "Give victory a chance...," it looks like this administration is desperately trying to find someone to deliver Iraq over to. They prefer to open discussions with the foremost destabilizing presence in Iraq, and a presence they refuse to extirpate, that is the Iranians. When the idea of going in and removing Saddam was first broached, the new Iraq was to prove a destabilizing force in the region; it was to send ripples of discontent through every despotic regime in the Mideast. That was the idea. And I supported it, still do in fact. But now we see the administration begging Iran for help, when Iran was the very state that the new Iraq was supposed to destabilize. A working democracy was supposed to be a danger to Mideast despotism. But now we see Iraq reaching out to Mideast despotism for help. Now they try to sell a peaceful democracy to the Iranians by telling them that "it's in their best interest that Iraq be pacified." This is the type of incoherence and lack of seriousness that could only be found in America's State Department.

Which leaves Iran. When the Iraq Study Group announced their findings, their "bipartisan" findings, Conservatives rightly ripped their conclusions. And said their "realism" was naive. The criticism was so intense and so well-informed that Bush was forced to distance himself from those findings, at least publicly. But now months later, we know that Bush intended all along to adhere to their recommendations, which is why he's presently in talks with the Iranians. He previously said he would never talk to the Iranians unless they stopped supporting terror and stopped their nuclear program. They've done neither, but he's talking to them nonetheless. Because that wonderful "bipartisan group" made up of people like Sandra Day O'Connor and Lee Hamilton said that he needed to talk to them. The deployment of surface to air batteries in Southeastern Europe tells us all we need to know about GW's determination to stop Tehran's Manhattan Project. That deployment costs money, probably billions. It destabilizes the relationship we're trying to create with post-Cold War Russia. It's unsettling. So why are they putting it in there? Especially why are they putting it in there when this administration has REPEATEDLY promised that Iran will not be allowed to threaten the world with WMD, NOT just nuclear weapons. And the answer is clear. They've already made up their mind that taking out that regime will prove too difficult, too messy. They couldn't get the Chinese to go along, they couldn't persuade the Russians, they couldn't persuade the Europeans. So this administration that mocked Clinton when he defended his inaction in regards to Saddam by saying he couldn't get the UN to go along, NOW REPEATS Clinton's very policy of inaction, because they can't garner sufficient international support. This represents the supreme repudiation of his own doctrine. Remember we were going to form "coalitions of the willing when we could, but go it alone when we must." It was a policy of "phases." Doesn't anybody remember any of that? Remember when he told the nation "I will not stand idle, I will not allow the world's worst regimes to threaten us with the world's worst weapons." He hasn't any intention of making good on that anymore. It's as Mark Steyn said: "the moment you go to the UN you just proclaimed your lack of seriousness to all the world." And despite the movement of Carrier Battle Groups, which that regime laughs at, because they've seen that so often before, and despite the occasional arrest of Iranians fomenting terror in Iraq, this administration isn't going to do spit about that regime and about their Manhattan Project.

So in light of these foreign policy disasters, we turn to his domestic achievements.

Tax cuts! But those tax cuts were sunsetted, and are due to lapse soon. The Wall Street Journal pronounced his second term agenda "a bust" two years ago. He doesn't have any domestic achievement that will stand the test of time. Bankruptcy reform? That isn't going to cut it.

So what's left for him? What is possible for him at this late date in his administration?

David Frum warned us that this President places as much importance on the establishment of "new tone," as he does any entitlement reform. Remember Bush's "education reform" for instance, which wasn't reform, because he allowed Ted Kennedy to write the whole thing. And Ted Kennedy wasn't interested in real "reform."

What does this immigration "comprehensive reform" afford him but another opportunity to work with his "good friend" Teddy Kennedy.

So for Bush immigration reform represents a twofer. He gets to burnish his "new tone" credentials along with introducing a PERMANENT change to the nation, a TEXAN sized change to the nation. This bill represents about fifty million people. When you add up all the people, not just the twenty million illegals, that's about what we're talking about.

I see a President who is looking failure dead in the eye, and who is trying to offset a TEXAN sized foreign policy debacle, with a TEXAN sized domestic accomplishment.

It's just like LBJ. Isn't it? Is that being unfair? Am I being unfair?

Isn't this a case of "deja vu all over again?"

No, not unfair. While this isn't the entire story of the Bush administration by any means, it's an accurate and persuasive indictment. Bush represents a classic presidential tragedy, like Nixon. (LBJ actually accomplished a lot in domestic policy, even if much of it was bad.)

Bill is right to focus on the House. While this awful bill has been temporarily shelved in the Senate, the blindness and disregard for the base among Senate Republicans is still there. It would not surprise me at all if the Senate passed a bill, and it would then be a matter (primarily) of stiffening Republican resistance in the House.

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