Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

No cloture on immigration bill

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.

Discussions - 15 Comments

Surely, part of the blame for allowing things to escalate to the point where the likes of a Michael Savage appeals, must lay at the doorstep of those pusillanimous Republicans who either cannot or will not make an argument based on the kinds of principles Peter raises. When you leave the field open like that, clever and fast-talking fools rush in. It is hard (and very, very wrong when coming from the likes of Trent Lott, etc.) to blame people for joining his bandwagon. The American people sense this problem is deeper than their weak-spirited, milquetoast politicians pretend it is, but (thanks largely to our lack of civic education) they can't articulate a better case on their own. The deals and high-handedness of the politicians were condescending and their rhetoric was hollow, insulting, and utterly unconvincing. They deserve all the contempt they engendered for themselves in this fight. I reserve respect only for John Kyl who, it seems to me, was trying (vainly) to interject some reason into what was a terrible plan from the beginning. I think he was mistaken in thinking it could be done, but I still respect him for the effort. I hope he will see the futility of rounding out the edges on this issue in the future and will work instead on helping all of us to make a better, more worthy case for a real plan.

"Reid is getting his story line: it's a defeat for President Bush."

From a purely political point of view, is that really a bad thing? Some things that come to my mind:


  • Bush is political road kill at this point anyway. Pinning "defeat" on President Bush means nothing. The real question is whether that tarring of Bush extends to Republicans in general. I think not.
  • Is this really a "defeat" in the eyes of the majority public? They didn't want this bill. That it failed is really a "victory," despite what Reid may call it. So Reid's blaming Bush for the "defeat" serves in some way to focus negative attention back on Reid, doesn't it?
  • Reid's fingerprints are all over the pushing of this legislation. He can say it's "Bush's Bill" and to some degree he can get away with that. But I don't think entirely. He's tainted by it as well, don't you think?

Just thoughts. Opinions?

I think Kyl played an honorable role but was naive. Given the overall policy context this awful bill would have created, the good parts -- if they even were adopted in the Democratic House and surprised a Democratic-controlled House-Senate conference -- would have been tied up by liberal bureaucrats, liberal courts, and the general sluggishness of our system. It is long past time for that kind of naivete in our side in the U.S. Senate, let alone among our more capable leaders like Senator Kyl.

Ooops, I meant "survived" the conference, not "surprised."

Our great victory on amnesty has several likely effects:

Bush is absolutely through as a leader of the Republican party. The party is now free to define itself for '08.

At the last minute, the bulk of Republican senators chose to side with the Republican base (as well as the national interest), whether sincerely or not. This has probably prevented a full-scale revolt that, in the short time at least (i.e., in '08) would have been ruinous.

Harry Reid looks as weak as Bush to the general public.

Republican senators and other knowledgeable people now know exactly how arrogant and manipulative Reid really is. This will strengthen the Republican resolve and the Republican position in Congress and elsewhere.

Regular Americans can now see that they still matter politically, when they act. It may encourage more action in upcoming fights, whatever those may be. It may even encourage more action on behalf of the Republican party in '08.

Finally, while Democrats may be more motivated than ever now to shut down conservative talk radio, they will probably realize, thanks to talk radio's big win this week on amnesty, that it might be foolish to provoke such a significant media force to this extent again.

Re: David Frisk's Comment 5 -- I think that's pretty much dead on.

Who thinks that the President will even be invited to the GOP Convention in '08? If you were the nominee, would you invite him? Would you bring this carrier of the political equivalent to the black death to your convention, would you let him show his face? I don't think so.

Dan, lighten up and show some decency. The man has tried, and even in this latest disaster, you can see that he has always tried to do what he thinks is right. An '08 tent that doesn't make an honored place for him and his loyalists, despite all his mistakes and political sins, is an inconceivable and mean-spirited idea.

It's got nothing to do with mean-spiritedness. But everything to do with simple, cold-blooded political reality.

The President's numbers have plummeted because of what he's done, not what I've said about him. He decided to hire second stringers. Such as Gonzales for instance. It was him who delivered over FEMA to Brownie, not me. I didn't want Gonzales for AG, I wanted Giuliani. I didn't want Card as Chief of Staff, and did everything I could to warn the President and the party of what was coming if we allowed Card, and people like Card, to retain such high-powered positions in The White House and around the President.

I wanted the President to slap down Fitzgerald. Instead, The White House allowed that "investigation" to continue, and that "investigation" caused a great deal of damage to this administration's second term agenda.

It wasn't me who asked Reid who would be a good nominee to the Supreme Court. That was Bush.

It was Bush who chose to surround himself with a political and communication staff clearly not up to the job.

I can't recall a Republican President who has surrounded himself with nothing but the junior varsity.

I wanted this President to succeed. I wanted and expected him to enact the platform of the Republican Party. I didn't expect him to declare war against the base of the GOP, and the core values of the Grand Old Party.

HE'S THE ONE that started this brawl. Not me.

I've not a vindictive bone in my body. But if I find myself in a fight, a fight I never wanted, never sought, I'm damn well going to do everything needed to win. The President of the United States, the leader of the Republican Party picked a fight with me, and people like me all across the fruited plain. And that President availed himself of all manner of backroom, squalid measures to impose his will on me, and this country, which I love most of all.

What am I supposed to do, forget about it?. Let his unrepentant wrong go unnoticed? IF HE ASKED FOR FORGIVENESS from the base, that would be one thing. If he came to me and expressed regret for the lies he's spoken of me, of the pain he's caused me, of the measures that he forced upon me in resisting him, and his whifty legislation, that would be one thing. But this President has done no such thing.

The President has been wrong.

The President remains unrepentant.

He started this brawl.

Let him be the first then to start a serious mending of the divisions that HE caused.

So let's see, Dan. You're running a conservative event. By some freak of coincidence, Rudy Guiliani, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Ann Coulter all decide to pay an impromtu visit to check on the 'ol base. Do you let any of them in? Do you shake any of their hands? Why or why not?

Amen to all of the above! As a LEGAL nationalized citizen, my overriding concern about this entire immigration debate has been the fact that the proponents of this legislation were so very ready to condone the breaking of our laws. The rule of law and our insistence on adherence is what keeps our country, in all its melting pot diversity, glued together.

Carl, the fellow that wins the nomination gets a great deal of say over what the Convention will look like, how it will proceed, who gets to speak and for how long. That nominee INTENDS TO WIN. The Convention isn't simply a grand Republican get together, a big ole' BBQ if you will. It's purpose is to select and identify the nominee, and then to provide that nominee the best opportunity possible to prevail.

It's about winning. It isn't about being nice and thoughtful to a President, who by his own actions and inactions succeeded in making himself more disliked than Richard Nixon at the height of Watergate.

Did Ford invite Richard Nixon to his '76 Convention?

Did Reagan invite Nixon to his '80 Convention? What of the '84 Convention? Was Richard Nixon EVER invited to a GOP Convention after his resignation?

What I perceive in your comments is someone who doesn't truly fathom how INTENSELY unpopular this President is.

It's not my doing.

It's ALL his.

Today is a very good day for the American Republic. The People saw sausage-making at its most disgusting, and let out a roar that would've been impossible in the pre-Internet, pre-talk radio days. The People, or at least 85% or so, were united. Not a small thing.
And Bush has lost us, all of us, in the process.
Like Peter, I'm a LEGAL immigrant (as a kid). We LEGALS at times perhaps have a slight edge on the native-born in our profound appreciation of America at its best.

Dan, look, from previous comments I know you’re very wise politically and that you are rightly angry about Bush’s political sins. And they are many, particularly these two attempts to shove the immigration bill down the nation’s throat. They have displayed a rather disturbing level of “I absolutely know what’s the right thing to do,” and an imprudent and ungrateful attitude toward the conservative base.

You say, even though I read the same poll numbers you do, that I do not “truly fathom how intensely unpopular this President is.” Apparently, there’s something about Bush that I “just don’t get,” as they say. It seems as if you regard this is as a great error of political judgment on my part. It seems as if the culmination of conservative common sense in your eyes is to arrive at the understanding that Bush is and has been AWFUL.

Why do you want to sit down with the lefties and say, “Well, at least we can agree about the awfulness of Bush”? Why do you want to hand them that tawdry satisfaction? No president has been so systematically maltreated by the left-leaning media, has been so casually subjected to rhetorical overkill than this one. The man has been awarded more swastikas and f-bombs than virtually any in history. And why?

Because his personality and rhetorical incompetence made him an easy target, sure, but most fundamentally, because of Iraq. Dan, do you agree with those on the left that the decision to invade was mistaken? Not by a retrospective wisdom impossible then, but at the time? Do you further agree that it was a deeply immoral decision, probably involving great deception and despotic impulses?

If you’re the Dan I’ve seen in other posts, I don’t think you do.

Why might one be angry at Bush right now?

First, there’s the categorical judgment, established long ago by Robespierre, Marx, Croly, and FDR, that all conservatives are self-interested bastards, to which has recently been added (in America) the corollary that this is especially the case for Christian ones. The 25% of our nation that believe thusly would have hated Bush even if had he spoken like Lincoln and looked like Obama.

Second, there’s the issue of incompetence, to which we can add the basic stubbornness. For conservatives, it’s awful because it makes them lose, but for many lefties, it’s CRIMINAL! Blah, blah, blah…

Third, there’s the decision about Iraq. Some conservatives hold it was wrong. They have reason to be more intensely angry at Bush than others. There is less shame for them in partially lending their voices to the lefty critiques of Bush.

Fourth, there’s incompetence in handling the occupation, so painful to those who think his decision to invade was basically right or unavoidable. Yes, many dumb things were done. But war is hard and unpredictable. Some slack has to be cut here...and even when it isn’t enough, one is obliged to ask, would Gore or Kerry have done better? Or done anything?

Fifth, there’s the immigration bullet we just dodged. Thank God, thank angry conservatives, thank letter-writers and callers, and shame on Bush and his advisors.

Sixth, there’s the fact that Bush has handed over foreign policy decisions to the Rice and the State Department, so that voices like Cheney’s and Bolton’s are no longer heard, and so that a weak, coddling, and contradictory policy is followed with regard to the Palestinian gang-“states”, to Syria, to rules of engagement for our soliders in Iraq, and worst of all, to the growing likelihood of Iranian nukes.

Different people will hold different of these reasons for disapproving of Bush. Those who hold the third aren’t likely to hold the sixth, and these two sets of persons are likely to intensely disagree with one another. All those different and even opposed reasons for disapproval get added up into one negative poll number. But the MSM is sure to consistently interpret this result as vindicating reason three, and really reason one.

Why are you tempted to toss your political smarts into the mush-pot of Manicheanism, in which the answer to every question becomes, “the opposite of what Bush does” and in which the wise analysis of the present situation always is, “what a mess Bush has gotten us into”?

I know you haven’t gone that far, but many conservatives are already there, or heading there fast. It’s sad. It’s foolish. It’s tiresome.

It’s also unjust. Conservatives put this man, with clear prior evidence of competence challenges, and of unconservative views about immigration, into power. They did so because they coolly calculated that his positives would outweigh those negatives, and because the alternatives were not good(I remain disturbed by the way the 99-00 nominee selection process worked). Such is politics.

It’s also unjust because we owe this man a great deal. Consider the threads on various SC decisions, and go to decisions and link to the opinions of Stevens, etc. Also, you want to talk about incompetence? Imagine what the last few years would have been like with John Kerry in power. Or the last six with Gore. That’s what Bush and his team saved us from. Again, our president has taken unprecedented media fire and unhinged criticism, and in the name of dignity and Christian forbearance he has (probably unwisely, in many cases) not responded. He has met the families of slain soldiers, seen their tears and taken the reproaches of those who chose to give them. He has done all of this with nary a peep of personal complaint.

And now you act as if it’s wise and righteous to pile on. On top of the leader of our party and the president who we have for another year and a half, and who may yet have to face Iran in a showdown or have to deal with another 9/11-level attack. Because you want to vent. Because, boo-hoo and surprise, surprise, his allies called us bigots.

The man is our responsibility. The tone of our political discourse, at least half of it, is also our responsibility. We have to make our cases against his political sins loudly, passionately, but damn it, we owe it to him and to our nation to treat him with respect. He desperately needs our advices, but they will not get to him in the manner many conservatives are falling into.

I refuse to give the lefties the (deluding) satisfaction of seeing my categorical condemnations being belatedly added to theirs. And I refuse to give up on the conviction that our democratic political warfare must always be “limited,” must always strive to be civil, restrained, and adult. It pains me to no end that the majority of Democrats have given up on that, and dismays me to see good men like you follow suit.

Ryan, I wrote it more for you than for Dan

This requires something of a lengthy response. But for now, it's wise to pile on when by doing so you make sure that the President and the RNC will never again find the nerve to attack the base as they have, with this bill, and others. For instance, No Child Left Behind, Education "reform," Dubai Ports Deal, the nomination of that demonstrably unqualified Meirs.

Yesterday in The Washington Times, Senator DeMint described how the President has REPEATEDLY teamed up with Kennedy, allowed him to specify the contents of a piece of legislation, wholly obnoxious to Conservatives, then they rammed it through the Senate, marginalizing Conservative Senators. And that's what the President tried to do here.

Go read that piece.

But more later.

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