A Poor Excuse for an IRS

The Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of numerous conservative groups that had applied for tax-exempt status was quite the scandal a while back, so bad that even the media took notice, the president was obliged to express his outrage, and the government’s more dogged apologists were forced to come up with some sort of explanation. Those bold enough insist there was no scandal at all thought they’d finally come up with the proof, a document indicating that the IRS was also ordered to “Be On the Look Out” for liberal groups, but it now looks as if they’ll have to find another excuse.
Claiming that the agency was mistreating citizens equally was an odd enough defense to begin with, but more information from the Treasury Department’s Inspector General who originally exposed the scandal indicate that it also has the disadvantage of being untrue. In a letter to Rep. Sander Levin, the Michigan Democrat who has been making much of the document, Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George notes that the “BOLO” — in the IRS acronym — did not apply during the years being investigated, and that agency’s treatment of various groups was not equal in any case. In his politely worded slap-down of a letter George further noted that only six groups with “progressive” or “progress” in their names were cited as potential political cases between May 2010 and Mary 2012, while 292 groups with names suggesting a conservative leaning were listed, with 100 percent of the conservative groups subjected to review while only 30 percent of the liberal groups received the same treatment.
As much as some people would hate to believe that anyone in the government might want to punish its law-abiding critics for their exercise of free speech, George’s revelations are hardly surprising. The IRS’ unequal treatment of “tea party” groups followed the President’s expressed opinion that the groups were racist, the Vice President’s likening the groups to terrorists, the Mayor of New York City’s speculation that they were involved in a plot to bomb Times Square which predictably enough turned out to be the work of an Islamist extremist, and vulgar efforts to vilify the anti-tax-and-spend movement by journalists, celebrities, activists, and partisans too numerous to mention. When “tea party” groups are receiving unequal treatment from the IRS in such an atmosphere, it will take more than one document to suggest that it’s mere coincidence.
The latest excuse was better than the previous efforts to blame Republican budget cuts, which became all the more laughable in light of subsequent scandals about the IRS spending habits, but in the end it will only have the effect of getting the scandal briefly back in the news. With so many people willing to overlook this outrageous abuse of government power, the better strategy might be a shrug and hopes that yet another scandal will crowd it out of the news.

— Bud Norman

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Another Boring, Slightly Annoying Marriage Spat

The Supreme Court didn’t go so far as to declare same-sex marriage a constitutional right and strike down all the remaining state laws against it, but the justices went far enough on Wednesday that all the homosexual rights advocates were celebrating. Reaction among those less enthusiastic about the cause seems to have ranged from slightly annoyed to thoroughly bored with the whole topic.
In two separate decisions a five-to-four majority of the Justices struck down the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that denies certain federal benefits such as tax breaks and pension rights to same-sex couples, and declared that the clear majority of Californians who approved a referendum against same-sex marriage have no standing to defend the law against a state court’s decision to overturn the law. The former decision is expected to affect 100,000 couples or so, with Canada’s experience suggesting that same-sex marriages will remain a rarity for many years to come, and the latter overturns a law that would almost certainly be voted down by Californians today anyway, so we’re inclined to the thoroughly bored end of the spectrum.
There’s enough within the decisions to move us toward slightly annoyed, however. As Justice Antonin Scalia rightly noted in an admirably pugnacious dissenting opinion, the majority decision brands anyone who defends the traditional definition of marriage as a gay-hating bigot and “enemies of the human race.” We know enough fine people who oppose same-sex marriage to know that the opinion is not necessarily proof of some gay-bashing hatred, and we hate to see the necessary discussion about the matter limited by an anti-anti-homosexual stigma. The mayors of several large American cities have threatened reprisals against a business whose owners have express dissenting opinions, a once-respected civil rights organization has declared anti-same-sex-marriage advocates “hate groups” and provided a maps for any crazed gun-toting pro-same-sex-marriage nutcases to find them, and the entertainment and news media have piled on to disparage any dissenting opinion on the issue, so we would much prefer that the Supreme Court not take judicial notice of the stigma. The president has stated that he will not force churches to perform same-sex marriage in violation of their belies, but there’s some scary about the fact that he feels obliged to offer such reassurances.
In of those hilarious ironies that characterize modern politics Proposition Eight only passed in ‘08 because Barack Obama’s presidential campaign brought out unprecedented numbers of black and Hispanic who were not up-to-date on the white folks’ latest opinions, but there’s still something unsettling about the Court’s ruling that those voters have no standing in court when their collective opinion is negated by some judge. Given the sorry state of the state of California’s political class, referenda are the only means the beleaguered citizenry has its disposal of setting things right on a number of other issues, so the precedent is troubling. The decision also smacks of the governing class’ contempt for the will of power, so clearly on display in the passage of Obamacare and in the recent debate on illegal immigration, and this is more than slightly annoying.
We don’t begrudge our many homosexual friends their celebration, though, and with our best wishes for their happiness we are also pleased that the Court did not go so far as to declare same-sex marriage a constitutional right and overturn all the remaining laws against it. Some are longing for the day when a judge will bang his gavel and decree that henceforth all Americans will assume a fashionable admiration for homosexuality, but Americans tend to be more independently-minded and such a ruling would only provoke a public backlash of the sort that has lately arisen in such unlikely locations as France. A bored reaction by the pubic is much preferable, as people work out their relationships with a diverse rest of the world without the clumsy bullying of government and tolerance for differing points of view. There’s been a remarkable evolution of opinion between the time President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act and the day he applauded it being declared largely unconstitutional, indeed a dizzying and slightly unsettling pace for more for such Burkean as ourselves, and advocates of same-sex marriage should not presume that it can’t change just as remarkably once again.

— Bud Norman

Obama Saves the Planet

Everyone talks about the weather, Mark Twain famously observed, but nobody does anything about it. The witticism held true until Tuesday, when President Barack Obama proudly announced that he was at last going to get all this unruly weather under control. At the very least, he seems intent on keeping a long-ago campaign promise to cause your electricity rates to skyrocket.
Having already brought peace to the world and prosperity to his nation, and restored the dignity and grooviness of his office, Obama told an adoring audience of empty-headed college students at Georgetown University that he will now single-handedly save the planet from environmental destruction. He’s forced to do it alone because his previous efforts to impose a “cap and trade” scheme on the country have been rebuffed in Congress, where even the Democrats are reluctant to sign on to the dubious scientific claims and obvious economic costs, so the planet’s salvation will be achieved by executive order rather than the democratic process. The powers of the presidency are apparently broader than previously assumed, because Obama has somewhere discovered the authority to impose the first-ever limits on carbon emissions from power plants, dictate new efficiency standards for vehicles, appliances, and homes, as well as handing over vast government resources to favored energy industries, which Obama believes will be sufficient to rescue Earth.
Obama’s announcement featured his characteristic disdain for any opposing opinion, as he told the audience that “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society,” and a number of claims that any reasonable person might question. There’s no doubting that Obama truly believes what he’s saying, though, as there’s no possible political motive for his initiatives. The past 16 years of decline in the warming trends that have defied all the global warming alarmists’ predictions, the leaked e-mails that showed scientists’ efforts to hide that decline, and a slew of dissenting studies have all contributed to a growing public skepticism about the anthropogenic global warming theory, even the true believes aren’t necessarily convinced that American efforts will make much difference on a planet where China and India and the rest of the world are rapidly increasing their carbon emissions, and most people are far more concerned with the sorry state of the economy. Whatever the environmental benefits of Obama’s new regulations, there is no argument that even he could make with a straight face that they will have a beneficial effect on any industry other than the “green energy” sector that has so enthusiastically supported his past campaigns with good wishes and cash.
Anyone who pays for electricity, or pays for things that are manufactured or sold with the use of electricity, will wind up paying more just as Obama once promised. This will surely prove unpopular, but one benefit of doing things by executive order rather than by the popular will expressed through Congress is that members of Obama’s party will be able to plausibly claim they have nothing to do with this nonsense. Look for even the greenest Democrats to distance themselves from these policies, and certainly from the results, but even the feeblest Republicans should be able to derive some benefit.

— Bud Norman

In God We Trust, In Congress Not So Much

Every civic-minded American should be closely following the congressional debate over immigration reform, an issue that will significantly affect the nation’s future, but we spent most of Monday evening watching the Wichita Wingnuts play a minor league baseball contest against the Laredo Lemurs.
At the risk of sounding unambitious as well as unpatriotric, we just can’t muster the willpower to plow through the 1,200 or so pages of the bill currently being considered. In our own defense it should be noted that none of the Senators or Representatives championing the bill have bothered to read it, either, and we suspect that they don’t take what’s in it any more seriously than we do. There will be a lot of new immigrants in it, and that part can be counted on, but all the parts about border security that have been included to make it more palatable to the supposedly Meskin’-hatin’ redneck majority of Americans are unlikely to ever be enforced. Illegal immigration is already illegal, after all, and any law promising to at long last enforce our currently ignored laws will be just as easily ignored.
Law professor William A. Jacobson, a more energetic observer of current events than ourselves, has read enough of the bill to notice that it makes itself easily ignored. He found a provision that grants the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to waive all other provisions at her discretion. Given that the Secretary of Homeland Security is Janet Napolitano, an open borders advocate who has publicly stated her belief that the border is sufficiently secure already, and given that the next person to hold the job might not be any better, these few lines of the bill effectively negate the rest.
Such cynicism about the legislative process is not healthy for the country, of course, but neither is naïve faith in legislators who have repeatedly proved themselves untrustworthy. When Congress proposes a bill that the public can actually read, and is given time to read, and it can be easily understood but circumvented only with great difficulty, we might consider offering our support. Until then we urge resistance, and will spend our time at the old ballpark next to downtown. Sometimes the good guys prevail there, as they did in a lopsided win on Monday, and that’s more than can be said for the country’s politics in recent years.

— Bud Norman

The Snowden Saga Continues

The strange case of Edward Snowden, that unshaven young fellow who created such a fuss by revealing information about the National Security Agency’s ambitious data-mining operations, becomes more compelling by the day. More sober-minded observers have cautioned that his story shouldn’t distract the public’s attention from the more important matter of what he has revealed, and we readily concede the point, but still, it is hard to look away from an improbable adventure with more plot twists and exotic locales than a big-budget James Bond movie.
All of the news media seem to agree that Snowden has somehow slipped away from his recent refuge in Hong Kong to an undisclosed location in Moscow, where his presence provides Vladimir Putin with yet another opportunity for the Russian president to demonstrate contempt for his American counterpart, but the next stop seems to be anybody’s guess. The New York Times’ and the Associated Press’ sources say Snowden will be heading to Ecuador, the Russian news agencies have Snowden en route to Venezuela via Cuba, and Reuters, in a story headlined “Snowden stays out of sight after leaving Hong Kong,” cautiously reports only that the peripatetic leaker “kept people guessing about his whereabouts and plans.” Wherever Snowden might pop up next, we can only assume that a gorgeous femme fatale and a martini that has been shaken and not stirred will await him.
Much of the world’s audience will likely be rooting for him, too, judging by the reaction of most mainstream press outlets around the world. Germany’s Der Spiegel, the definitive voice of conventional continental wisdom, headlined its story about the NSA program revealed by Snowden “Obama’s Soft Totalitarianism: Europe Must Protect Itself from America,” and the president reportedly was lectured about the data-mining by several heads of state during a recent economic summit. The countries that have aided and abetted Snowden’s flight have obviously made their opinions known, as well, and although most of them prefer a harder form of totalitarianism than even Obama aspires to they can’t resist the opportunity to annoy the American government.
Even here in the United States, where Snowden has been charged with espionage and is officially regarded as a fugitive from justice, he seems to have a following. An internet petition demanding a pardon for Snowden has more than 110,000 signatures, and supporters seem to be coming from all directions. The libertarian right has championed his cause, and even many on the right who were comfortable with similar data-mining operations under the previous administration aren’t as enthusiastic about the information being accumulated by a government that is using the Internal Revenue Service to harass conservative groups and the Department of Justice to pursue investigative reporters as criminal conspirators. Despite the left’s past passion for Obama, who once decried such security measures as an assault for civil liberties, many are now embracing Snowden as their new hero.
There’s a similarly strange mix of people defending the program and vilifying Snowden for revealing it, of course. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has robustly defended the NSA’s efforts, embarrassing the president to the point that he’s gone on television to insist that “I’m not Dick Cheney,” while former critics of the Bush-era terrorism protocols such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are now striking a more hawkish tone. Poor Pelosi tried out her new arguments in front of the “Netroots Nation,” a convention of liberal activists and internet writers, and wound up being roundly booed and harshly heckled for her troubles. We take time out to boo Pelosi every day, and would gladly heckle her if she were within earshot, and although we have very different reasons for doing so we’re glad to see her get it from the same audience that once adored her.
More plot twists are almost certain to follow, and it’s possible that one or more of them will reveal some nefarious rather than patriotic motive for Snowden’s choices, so we’re withholding judgment of the leading character until the final reel. In the meantime we’ll be mulling over the advantages and dangers of the NSA’s various programs, and enjoy watching the president being upstaged by a new action adventure hero.

— Bud Norman

Doing the Continental

Everyone who has ventured on a European trip has some embarrassing story to tell about it, but President Barack Obama’s recent continental tour could top them all. The president’s recent trip to Ireland and Germany featured enough gaffes, big and small, to fill two or three sequels to “National Lampoon’s European Vacation.”
One of Obama’s smaller gaffes was repeatedly mistaking United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne for rhythm and blues singer Jeffrey Osborne. The confusion prompted much hilarity among the British press, which seems to believe that the old school rhythm and bluesman would do a better job of managing England’s red-ink-soaked finances than the Oxford-educated bureaucrat, but George Osborne politely laughed it off. Obama’s mistake was also laughed off by the American press, which would likely have been more appalled had a Republican president made the same error, and eventually it will be offered as proof of the president’s up-to-date tastes in music. Had he been more of a heavy metal enthusiast Obama might have called the Chancellor “Ozzy,” arguably a more insulting error, but at least he would have been getting the nationality right.
A more significant and deliberate error occurred when Obama lectured an Irish audience that Catholic schools are “divisive.” The remark offended many Catholics throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom as well as in the United States, and was widely viewed as further proof of Obama’s animus toward religion. Although we are quite Protestant by temperament as well as theological conviction, we also found the claim offensive as well as bizarre. The Catholic church has been in the education business for many centuries and has become quite good at it, judging by the Catholic-educated people we know, and we’ve not noticed any divisive effects. Unless Obama was speaking for the benefit of pubic school teachers’ union members back home, or is still miffed by the church’s obstinate rejection of his views on contraception, or somehow prefers the Islamic madrassas of his own youth, we can not imagine why he should insult Catholic schools while in a majority-Catholic country.
A couple thousand die-hard fans still showed up to cheer Obama while he was in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but like a fading rock star whose biggest hits are in the past he found that at every stop the crowds were conspicuously smaller than on past tours. When he returned to Berlin, where a Woodstock-sized throng of adorers were enrapt by his oratory back in the heady days of ’08, Obama found himself speaking behind a bullet-proof glass wall to a modest 4,500 or so polite listeners. He pulled out all the tried-and-true crowd-pleasers from his repertoire, reaching all the way back to the ‘80s for some nuclear disarmament rhetoric, but the speech was universally panned by a suddenly disgruntled European press and back home the media cheerleader Chris Matthews was reduced to blaming the poor reaction on the sun glaring too harshly on the presidential teleprompter.
All of which is embarrassing, but largely inconsequential. The more significant problem was that the European political leadership seemed just as unimpressed, and as a result Obama failed to achieve much of anything but another round of golf. Germany’s Angela Merkel publicly scolded the president about his National Security Agency’s intelligence-gathering techniques, an issue of personal interest to a woman who grew up in East Germany under Stasi’s constant surveillance, and we expect that in private she also had a few things to say about his economic policies. Russia Vladimir Putin offered no concessions regarding the Syrian civil war, icily explaining to the press that “Our views do not coincide,” and his public encounters with the president demonstrated that Russo-American relations have not been reset to any positive effect.
The trip was bad enough that Obama should be glad to get back to the United States, where the stock market is crashing, scandals are mounting, the Obamacare train is wrecking, but a restful week of vacation in Martha’s Vineyard awaits. All the fading rock stars vacation there, and they could have a good time swapping stories about their European tours.

— Bud Norman

The Cloud in the Silver Lining

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered an upbeat assessment of the economy on Wednesday, and of course the stock markets immediately took a dive. So convoluted is the American economic system that bad news such as the latest jobs report will prompt a stock market rally, while any talk of good news such as the Fed is now peddling will as surely cause a sell-off. Should the country somehow ever again achieve robust growth and anything close to full employment it will surely be the ruination of the economy.
Although counter-intuitive, the stock market’s recent tendencies are easily explained. After the crash of ’08 the Fed started churning out dollars at unprecedented rate, and with interest rates and bond yields being held artificially low those dollars had nowhere to but the stock markets, which have since expanded at a noticeably faster pace than the overall economy. Anything that would ordinarily be considered good economic news will tempt the Fed to take its foot off the metaphorical pedal, which makes it bad news for those invested in stocks.
Investors might find reason to keep buying if the economic news is good enough, but what Bernanke was touting on Wednesday was just good enough to be bad news. The Fed raised its forecast for economic growth to 3 to 3.5 percent in the next year, reduced its outlook for unemployment to 6.5 percent, and although Bernanke left himself ample wiggle room he made it quite clear that such statistics would justify at least a slow-down in the pace of money-printing. Those statistics aren’t good enough to justify a Dow Jones at 15,000, though, and private forecasters think they’re suspiciously rosy anyway, and with Europe in recession and China rapidly slowing and Obamacare offering massive incentives for employers to hire no one for more than 29 hours a week there is plenty of reason to suspect things are going to get worse rather than better. If a precipitous drop in the stock markets occurs, the worry that caused it could easily become self-fulfilling.
All that dollar-printing must eventually come to an end, lest people start using the things to paper their walls, and it is most unlikely that the stock markets can maintain their historic highs while the economy catches up to it, and it is altogether impossible that the government will cease its ever-increasing meddling, so considerable economic turbulence seems likely in the coming months. This should be good for stocks, though, and perhaps we should just have that this somehow makes sense.

— Bud Norman

Talking Peace Talk Blues

“To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war,” according to a famous Winston Churchill quotation, so perhaps we should welcome the news that the United States will soon be sitting down to peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban. With all due respect to Sir Winston, though, negotiating with this particular enemy looks like a mug’s game.
The much-ballyhooed “breakthrough” comes at a time when most Americans have plumb forgotten that there is a war going on in Afghanistan, and only a few months before the date that the United States has already announced it will declare victory and quietly pull its last few troops out of the country, so it is difficult to ascertain what the point of the negotiations might be. An America already on the way out of the country will be in a weak bargaining position, the Taliban will have no incentives to make any concessions, and our nominal partners in the Karzai government will have ample reason to agree to any number of crazy Islamist nutcase ideas that they’ve probably long for all along. There is little reason for hope that the peace talks will yield anything resembling peace and no hope at all that they will result in something that can be considered victory.
After so many years of indecisive battle, and especially after the national media decided to stop paying attention to the casualties because Barack Obama had become the Commander in Chief, it has been largely forgotten that the reason we went in to Afghanistan in the first place was to destroy the Taliban. The Taliban had not only imposed a medieval tyranny on its own people but had given aid and refuge to al-Qaeda in its war against the United States and the rest of the western world, and after the organization’s Afghanistan-based terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killed more than 3,000 Americans the country was unusually unified in its support for a retaliatory war. Even the peacenik Sen. Barack Obama supported the war as necessary and justified, calling it the ball that the inept Bush administration had taken its eyes off of to fight an unnecessary and unjustified in war in Iraq, and as president he kept a campaign promise with a “surge” of troops that were promised to turn the tide.
President Obama then quickly began a draw-down, keeping an implicit campaign promise to be a peacenik president, and at this point it all seems to have accomplished little. The Reuters news service giddily announces in its headline that “Taliban is Ready to Talk Peace,” but paragraphs that follow offer little hope that the peace won’t be on the Taliban’s terms. They note that the Taliban has recently opened a new office in the Qatari capital of Doha, where they made their peace talk announcement in front of a flag for “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” and they can’t seem to muster any pacifistic quotes from Taliban officials. An understandably unnamed official of the United States government is quoted as hoping that the Taliban will at least slow its recent offensive, lest America cease the peace talks.
Winston Churchill was even more famous for saying “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,” and that seems the more appropriate advice regarding the likes of the Afghanistan Taliban. America and the rest of the western world don’t seem to have much stomach for that sort of rhetoric, however, so the likely outcome will be the same as it was for Sir Winston: A lot of jaw-jaw, followed by more and bloodier war-war.

— Bud Norman

Cell Phone Libertarianism

Our faith in the American public has been slightly bolstered by the eight-point drop President Barack Obama has suffered in the latest monthly Gallup poll, although his approval rating remains an unaccountably high 45 percent, and we are particularly heartened to note that the decline is driven largely by a precipitous 17-point drop in the approval of the young folks.
The under-30 cohort’s enthusiasm for Obama has been remarkably stubborn, especially by the dizzying standards of contemporary pop culture crazes, but it is not hard to see why the young generation’s forbearance has at last waned in the past month. All of the most damning facts about the deadly Benghazi fiasco were well known by the time of the election, and the incompetence and dishonesty and disdain for free speech rights apparently made no impression. The revelation of the Internal Revenue Services’ campaign of harassment to stomp out the Tea Party’s dissent was similarly unmoving, as the Tea Party was just a bunch of middle class white people who didn’t want to pay for the young generation’s health care and Obamaphones. News that the Justice Department had treated a Fox News investigation as a criminal conspiracy also failed to trouble the young generation’s conscience, and for some it was a welcome development to have those buzz-kills get pushed around, and the fact that it was also happening to the Associated Press made little impression on people who get their news through Facebook and rarely read newspapers. Even the persistently high youth unemployment rate didn’t seem to faze the young. When word got out that the National Security Agency was snooping through Facebook and cell phone records, though, that was crossing a generational Rubicon.
If you are ever so unfortunate as to find yourself in one of the nightspots favored by the young folks, you’ll immediately note the strange regard they have for their cell phones and tablets and other electronic gizmos. They’ll contantly caress these damnable devices in the palms of their hands, enrapt by the faint light of the high-resolution screens, texting shorthand witticisms to their most beloved hundred or so friends, “googling” the answer to some trivia question about a Saturday morning cartoon from their childhoods, buying over-priced tickets to some second-rate rock ‘n’ roll band’s concert, or God and the National Security Agency only knows what else. Whatever it is that they’re doing on those things seems to be more important than flirting with the nubile and needy-looking young hipster chicks sitting across the booth, and the latest Gallup poll suggests that young folks don’t seem to believe it’s any of the government’s business.
Some conservatives are hoping that this understandable outrage suggests a libertarian streak that the Republican party might appeal to in future elections, but our experience of young people suggests this is wishful thinking. The young people of our acquaintance are mostly inclined to hold very permissive social views on issues ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage to the right to post photos of their cats on Facebook or “tweet” a misspelling of an obscenity, but they do not embrace the red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism and rugged individualism that define libertarianism. They certainly don’t subscribe to the notions of individual responsibility that are just as essential to the libertarian ethic, and they’ve never stopped to consider how economic freedom is essential to social freedom, so they much prefer the goodies provided by an ever-bigger government.
So long as the government can keep the goodies coming, especially during a period of persistently high youth unemployment, the young folks will likely be satisfied with some assurance that the government isn’t keeping a record of their most embarrassing internet searches or awkward post-hook up phone chats. Obama has taken to the airwaves to offer his word that he isn’t Dick Cheney, even as Dick Cheney is taking to the airwaves to defend Obama’s policies, and that might placate the youngsters for a while. Using Dick Cheney as a slur is so five years ago, though, and perhaps the young have grown tired of it. Many of them, we suspect, won’t recognize the reference at all. If the sweet talk to the youngsters doesn’t work, they might even start to notice the persistently high unemployment rates for the young, but unless the Republicans are offering more generous unemployment benefits it probably won’t make difference.

— Bud Norman

Illegal Immigration on the Front Lawn

Liberalism can be a lonely philosophy in Kansas, where the office-holders usually run the gamut from moderate Republican to conservative Republican, and even the Democratic politicians feel obliged to pretend that they’re not liberals, but the psychic rewards of liberalism are therefore even greater here than elsewhere. There are more people for a liberal to feel morally and intellectually superior to, one of the primary appeals of liberalism, and the state also provides an ample supply of people that a good-hearted liberal can happily hate.
Half of the Koch brothers live in the state, which should be sufficient to keep a Kansas liberal constantly seething with a satisfying scorn, but it also has Gov. Sam Brownback, an abortion-hating budget-cutter whose squeaky-clean small town persona drives the local Democrats to a state of self-righteous hysteria, and adding to the embarrassment of right-wing riches is Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Kansas Secretaries of State usually keep a low profile and inspire little passion in either their supporters or opponents, and they’ve never had the slightest bit of fame outside the state, but Kobach has become a nationally-loathed figure because of his outspoken opposition to illegal immigration. Before winning office he had served as an immigration adviser to Attorney General John Ashcroft, which was more than enough to earn the enduring enmity of liberals everywhere, and then he had the audacity to write tough immigration laws for Arizona and Alabama and the help defend them as a lawyer and essayist. Since taking office he has persuaded the legislature to pass a law requiring photo identification for voting, which the local liberals regard as far more frightening assault on civil liberties than anything the National Security Agency or Internal Revenue Service might be up to, and otherwise taken steps to ensure that only eligible voters are allowed to vote.
The only explanation the liberal imagination can conjure for this bizarre stand is that Kobach must really hate Mexicans, a theory that also handily justifies the local liberals’ red-hot hatred for Kobach. So it was that on Saturday a group of about 300 protestors from something called Sunflower Community Action, sending out the call on the Tweeter “hashtag” of “#KingOfHate,” descended on Kobach’s home to drop a bunch of old shoes on his lawn. The protestors wore t-shirts proclaiming their “Kansas Values,” and chanted for “Kris Kobach come on down, see what Kansans are all about,” and generally seemed to think it the very height of Kansasness to for an angry mob to trespass on someone’s front porch.
Although the tactic has been employed from time to time by some of Kansas’ more militant anti-abortion activists, we can assure you that it is not characteristic of the state’s politics. The state’s media seemed to take it in stride, though, certainly with less indignation than was discernible in the reports of those gatherings on the front lawns of abortionists, and no one seemed to find anything hateful about it. Over at The Kansas City Star our erstwhile newspaper colleague Judy L. Thomas, usually an even-handed sort, even accepted the protestors’ claim that “the majority of Kansas support immigration reform” without question. We would certainly question it, based on our wide sampling of Kansas opinion as well as Kobach’s comfortable margin of victory in the last election, and even if it were true it would not justify a mob trespassing on a person’s home.
Illegal immigration is a vexing issue, and requires an honest debate. Beginning with the assumption that anyone who believes that Mexican nationals should not be allowed to vote in American elections is hateful does not further the dialogue, and it certainly does not excuse the hateful tactics employed by the likes of Sunflower Community Action no matter how good it feels. The protestors are no doubt pleased with themselves, but if the opposition starts showing up at their doors things could become ugly.

— Bud Norman