These two articles on the defeat of cloture on the immigration bill make no mention of the wide unpopularity of the proposal, the haste and highhandedness with which proponents were trying to push it through, and the machinations of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid is getting his story line: it’s a defeat for President Bush. I say: it’s a victory for republican self-government, which combines representativeness and deliberation. The immigration proposal embodied neither, discouraging a full and free debate in the Senate (where that sort of thing is supposed to happen) and haughtily dismissing the reasonable concerns of the public, not just about the character of the country, but about the security of the borders.
The press will present it as a victory for nativism and unreason (embodied in two words: "Michael Savage"); there surely were irrational and nativist opponents of the measure, but they were at the margins. Most embrace Peter Schramm’s Americanism of principle, care deeply about the rule of law (which our "elites" clearly want to sacrifice to profits or votes), and worry about border security. They rightly distrust promises made by people who haven’t given any concrete evidence about their concern with border security.
I hope the Bush Administration takes a hint and begins to build that trust by enforcing current immigration law and that Congress takes a hint by appropriating the money to build the fence that was authorized. Should they do so, it might be possible to revisit this vexed question in calmer times.
To repeat: yes, this is a Bush Administration failure, but the responsibility for it goes much further. Anyone who tried to deal quickly and "easily" with this complicated problem, without having established the groundwork in public opinion and having persuaded us that they could be trusted, deserves a share of the blame. Harry Reid and his supporters can’t just point down Pennsylvania Avenue.