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Why Not Call it Treason, and Other Negotiating Ploys

The cable news networks and the big newspapers’ internet sites will soon start running their countdown-to-a-government-shutdown clocks again, with the latest deadline looming tomorrow, and all the savvy negotiators in Congress are reportedly trying to work out some sort of cockamamie deal to keep the government running for at least another couple of weeks. At a meeting ostensibly about immigration reform, President Donald Trump did his part by telling the gathered television cameras and microphones that “I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of. If the Democrats don’t want safety, let’s shut it down.”
This might be one of those masterful three-dimensional chess moves that Trump’s fans always figure he’s making, but our guess is it’s just another one of those ill-advised things he all too frequently blurts out.
Trump is apparently hoping that the Democrats will be so frightened by the prospect of being blamed for a government shutdown that they’ll agree to whatever draconian measures he thinks necessary to get that immigration stuff taken care of, and after their quick capitulations during last month’s government shutdown he has reason for such hope. There was so much Republican gloating and Democratic gnashing of teeth about it that the Democrats are likely to be in a less accommodating mood this time around, though, and they’re probably less worried about being blamed for a government shutdown the Republican president has told the nation he’d love to see.
Trump is also apparently calculating that his draconian immigration measures are are so popular that the public will blame the Democrats for allowing a partial but painful government rather than enact them, and given how unpopularity permissive some of the Democrats’ demands are he has good reason to think so. That stupid idea of a big, beautiful wall across the entire southern polls poorly, though, and those illegal immigrants who were brought here as children and have since proved upright semi-citizens poll so well that Trump is dangling an amnesty offer even more generous than anything President Barack Obama ever dared.
The die-hard Trump defenders are furious about the generous amnesty offer he’s dangling for the so-called “dreamers” who are illegal immigrants through no fault of their own, with some now calling him “Amnesty Don,” and Trump tried to placate them with stalk in his now-forgotten State of the Union address about how native-born Americans are “dreamers” too, and his Chief of Staff blurted out an ill-advised about remark about how they amnesty was being offered even to those “dreamers” who were “too lazy to get off their asses” and apply for it. All of which is so infuriating to those die-hard Democrats that it makes them all the less likely to concede even to the many reasonable and popular immigration reform proposals Trump is holding out for, and it’s hard to see how it will all be worked out by tomorrow night.
We can’t resist a nostalgic hope that Democrats and Republicans alike are working into the night to find something between a too-soft and too-hard immigration policy that at least keeps the government up and running for another couple of weeks, but that’s hard to sustain when the president is accusing the opposition of treason for failing to applaud at his long-forgotten State of the Union address. He was just kidding, of course, saying “Hey why not call it (treason)” in much the same way some street corner bully might just be kidding about your sister being a whore, but it doesn’t bode well for that spirt of bipartisan cooperation that Trump called for in that long-forgotten State of the Union address.
Maybe it’s just another one of Trump’s moves in that masterful three-dimensional chess game that never seems to reveal itself, and he did have “The Art of the Deal” ghost-written for him, but unless this mess somehow makes America great again the more likely explanation is that it’s all just those ill-advised things that he all too frequently blurts out.

— Bud Norman

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Bluntness is Not the Best Policy

President Donald Trump has a penchant for frankly blurting out whatever is on his mind at the moment, and he became president largely by persuading a plurality of the electorate  that’s somehow a good thing. What served him well enough as a presidential candidate has often proved a problem during his presidency,however,  as happened several times on Thursday.
The biggest headlines were about Trump telling a bipartisan gathering of congress members that he objected to allowing immigration from such “shit-holes” as Haiti and El Salvador various African countries, and then opining we should be bringing in more immigrants from countries such as Norway. Relatively little attention was paid to the barnyard epithet, and at this point Trump has so degraded the level of political discourse with his cussing that we no longer bother to bowdlerize it with those pointless asterisks that much of the mainstream media still quaintly use, and by now we even relish rubbing the wayward Trump apologists among our evangelical brothers’ and sisters’ noses in it, but the apparent prejudice of the remark was more widely noticed.
There are perfectly valid and not at all racist arguments to be made for favoring immigration from some countries rather than others, and for perfectly valid and not at all racist reasons Haiti and El Salvador and several African countries are among the less desirable and Norway is among the more desirable, and we would have preferred that Trump make that case. He’s not much good at that kind of rhetoric, though, and what we he wound up blurting out instead was not only vulgar but clearly suggested a prejudiced state of mind. All the Democrats from districts with large hispanic and Caribbean and African-American populations were entitled to their outraged comments, the Republicans from Florida and the impeccably conservative yet ethnically Haitian Utah Rep. Mia Love joined in the denunciations, and no one in the remaining respectable precincts of Republican opinion defended the remark.
The talk radio talkers and the rest of the Trump apologists in the less respectable precincts Republican opinion will try to wed the remark to those perfectly valid and not at all racist arguments for immigration reform, and they’ll rightly note that none of those offended Democrats plan to spend any vacation time in Haiti or El Salvador or several African countries, and the true die-hards will continue to love Trump for saying out loud what they’re thinking. Their chances of persuading the rest of the country have been severely diminished, though, and the arguments that Trump isn’t a racist are even harder to make. We’d also note that there are bound to be a few impeccably conservative Republicans such as Love coming from even the most shit-hole countries, that few Norwegians and people from other first world countries are yearning immigrate anywhere, for obvious reasons, and that Trump isn’t lately doing much to make America a more attractive alternative.
Trump also “tweeted” his objections to the routine re-authorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, apparently in response to an earlier “Fox & Friends” report about how the act had authorized part of the ongoing probe into the “Russia thing,” which was followed by a phone call from House Speaker Paul Ryan explaining the respectable Republican opinion on the matter, and 101 minutes after the initial “tweet” Trump followed by another blurting of whatever was then on his mind by saying that “Today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get Smart!” By all accounts, things grew testy when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to explain that to the smarty-ass press corps.
There was also the expected late-night comedy show guffawing about Trump’s boasts that his earlier profanity-free and not at all racist 53 minutes of televised meeting about immigration had gone so well that the network anchors had sent him letters calling it the best meeting ever, which was obviously and laughably untrue, especially after he wound up promising to sign whatever those congressional swamp creatures passed, and some other ridiculous blurting out of whatever of was on his mind at the time which we can’t quite recall now.
There’s a reasonable and not at all racist argument to be made that Trump is doing some things right, and that insisting on a more restrictive immigration policy is among them, and at the very least he hasn’t kept the stock market from soaring the unemployment rate from dropping at the same steady rate of the past few years. The election year argument that Trump should keep blurting out whatever’s on his mind without a moment’s consideration of  the consequence of a president’s word, though, is looking more stupid than ever.

— Bud Norman

A Short Cut to the Invasion

Let us suppose, quite hypothetically, that your country has lately been invaded by many tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have hopped a train through Mexico from Central America. Further suppose, hypothetically again, that your country is $17 trillion in debt and another $100 trillion or so short of what it has promised the citizens that are already here, that your social service agencies are already straining under the burden of a moribund economy, and that the country’s inability to cope with the influx of adorable youngsters with adorable gang tattoos that has piled up in makeshift detention centers or been transported through angry protest barricades to a town near you has resulted in what everyone agrees is a humanitarian crisis. What would you do in such in an unlikely scenario?
If some vestige of common sense inclines to you to suggest sending the youngsters back home to their families as quickly as possible, and making it clear to any potential future invaders that no matter what nonsense they’ve heard about imminent amnesty and the welcoming arms of a generous welfare state they are not going to get in, then you are clearly unfit for public service. The more enlightened savants of the federal government have suggested that we allow the youngsters to skip the unpleasant train-hopping through Mexico and come directly and at our expense to the imminent amnesty and the welcoming arms of a generous welfare state.
Our source is The New York Times, and we hope that all the “Dr. Strangelove” aficionados will recognize the allusion to a line from that absurdist masterpiece about the “doomsday machine.” “Hoping to stem the recent surge of migrants at the southwest border,” the plucky Timesmen hopefully report, “the Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico…” How such generosity would stem the recent surge of migrants at the southwest border is never explained, no doubt an oversight due to deadline pressures, but we are assured of its good intentions. The children are fleeing gang violence in their native lands, we are told by the Times’ administration and activist group sources, and thus are entitled to refugee status.
Some 70,000 or so gang members are believed by the always-reliable United Nations to be active in the Central American countries that have lately been shipping their children northward to the United States, the Times helpfully adds, but that seems a dangerously low standard of peril to be granting refugee status to their compatriots. The world is ringed by slums from Calcutta to Johannesburg to Rio de Janeiro to Shanghai to Belgrade that are menaced by similar numbers of gangsters, and such communities as the one on the south side of Chicago that our current president once organized have similarly dangerous streets, so housing and feeding and educating all of them and imprisoning the predictable portion of them will likely prove more costly than America can afford. The same people who scoff at the notion of American exceptionalism are apparently convinced that America is exceptional enough to care for all of the world’s needy people, but they are willing to share the costs of the attempt.
Public opinion and its cussed common sense might yet scuttle the plan, which is so far just another one of the proposals that the savants of the federal government routinely come up with, but the Times warns that “the plan would be similar to a recent bill proposed by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who proposed increasing the number of refugee visas to the three Central American countries by 5,000 each,” so there’s still the chance of a bipartisan nonsensical solution. Some Republican opposition is already rearing itself, and could effectively prevent the proposal from becoming policy, but hat option of sending the youngsters back home to their families as soon as possible and issuing a meaningful warning to the rest to stay home also seems unlikely. Whatever compromise is eventually adopted, America might as well get ready to start housing and educating and feeding a few billion new arrivals.

— Bud Norman

Not Dead Yet

Two of the biggest stories in this week full of big news are little-known economics professor Dave Brat’s upset victory of Rep. Eric Cantor in a Virginia Republican congressional primary and the humanitarian crisis occurring inside the squalid makeshift detention camps in Arizona and Texas that are housing a recent flood of youthful illegal immigrants from Central America. Although separated by a couple thousand miles of America, the two stories are not unrelated.
Brat’s unprecedented primary victory over a House majority leader was caused by a number of factors, including a growing sense among the Republican’s conservative that its Congressional leadership has been too timid in resisting the president’s agenda and an occasionally successful insurgency by the “tea party” to make the GOP more conservative, but the issue of illegal immigration seems to have been the most important. Cantor had long been popular in the district, and was once a darling of the conservatives and a favored villain of the liberals for helping to maintain the party discipline that kept Obamacare from getting so much as a single Republican vote even at the height of the president’s popularity, and his occasional heresies and frequent caution since then would not ordinarily send such a high-ranking incumbent to defeat. Cantor had gone wobbly enough on the immigration issue to endorse amnesty for children, however, and although it wasn’t enough to placate the pro-immigration activists who stormed his headquarters after the race it was enough to lose a majority of his district’s Republican primary voters to a shoe-string campaign by a political novice who relentlessly stressed his longstanding call for strict border enforcement.
Several days of distressing headlines about the flood of children lured across the porous southwest border by that promise of amnesty to squalid, disease-ridden camps probably didn’t help Cantor’s cause. The fiasco hasn’t helped the broader pro-illegal immigration cause, either, and the conventional wisdom know holds that Cantor’s defeat will scare enough wobbly Republicans into line that the the slim chances of a “comprehensive immigration reform” bill being passed in the next two years have vanished. One can only hope this is true, but “comprehensive immigration reform” has more lives than movie monsters that keep crawling out of the grave and wobbly Republicans can just as easily be scared by the prospect of bad press and being called a racist by somebody. There won’t be any meaningful border enforcement for the next two years, no matter how successful Prof. Brat might prove, and the open borders faction won’t quit until those makeshift detention camps are popping up everywhere. They’re already spreading as far northeast as Massachusetts, and the issue already resonates as far east as central Virginia, but it’s nice to see a stiffening of the Republican spine.
The big upset also proves that there’s still some life left in that much-maligned “Tea Party” that has all the respectable folk riled up. This is good news, as the Republican spine needs stiffening on all the fiscal and economic and individual liberty issues that the movement espouses. They’ve taken their share of losses in the primaries thus far, but their winning percentage against far better-funded incumbents is nudging a lot of incumbents to the right and such a high-ranking scalp as Cantor’s will increase that salutary influence. This time around they also seem to be running better candidates who won’t make the rookie mistakes that cost winnable elections in the past, and Brat seems a particularly impressive nominee who should do well in the general election if the state and national party professionals are smart enough to donate a few extra shoestrings.

— Bud Norman

Compassion and Its Consequences

Compassion is an admirable quality, most of the time, but should always be administered with a commensurate amount of common sense and a careful calculation of the possible consequences. Otherwise, you wind up with something like the humanitarian crisis now unfolding on the southwest border of the United States.
A recent surge of illegal immigration in that region has left more than 47,000 unaccompanied children in federal custody since October, with another 60,000  expected to arrive within a year, and most are currently being held among thousands more adults of all sorts in overcrowded and under-supplied make-shift facilities in Texas and Arizona. The White House acknowledges this is a humanitarian crisis, calling for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to take charge and asking Congress for $1.4 billion to pay for it, but insists that that it has nothing to do with the executive order issued in 2012 that allowed minor illegal aliens to delay deportation for two years. Two weeks ago the administration the rolled out guidelines allowing an extra two years, which was also explained in terms of compassion for those unfortunate children who happen to find themselves illegally in the United States of America.
That those unfortunate children who happened to find themselves illegally in the United States were there because their parents thought it would put them at the front of the line for citizenship after word got out about the executive order is not at all a compassionate theory, but it’s hard to think of a more plausible explanation. The administration is claiming the influx is due to the recent unrest in Central America, but the unrest there is not recent. American media are notoriously indifferent to Central America and might well have have ignored the social upheaval there until tens of thousands of refugee child wound up in over-crowded and under-supplied make-shift detention accounts in the southwestern United States, but even the administration’s State Department has failed to issue any alarmed statements about the developments there. Press accounts suggest that most of the recent arrivals have come from Guatemala and Honduras, and the only recent advisories to be found at the State Department’s web site warn that Honduras has had the world’s highest murder rate since 2010. Life is tough all over Latin America, and in rain-soaked and strife-torn Venezuela the celebrated compassion of the socialist government has even resulted in a shortage of drinking water, but it’s odd that those make-shift camps in the southwestern United States didn’t start filling up with children until after the executive orders had been made to give them at least four years in the government’s care.
Perhaps the recent influx is due to word getting out across Central America that the United States economy is chugging along so well that a record number of people have stopped looking for work, and the ambitious parents figured that their children could snatch up all the jobs that are being created, but not even the White House seems willing to venture this theory.
Even with the handy and ever-present excuse of Latin American political and economic dysfunction, the White House is likely to have yet another public relations problem with situation. The state of Arizona, which was blocked by the federal courts from enforcing the federal laws that White House had decided the federal government would not enforce, is complaining loudly about the “dumping” of thousands of illegals in their state and in conditions they cannot condone. The city of El Paso, Texas, will likely be none too pleased that thousands of other illegal immigrants are being released on the their own recognizance in that city. In Tennessee, the destination for at least one of the illegals being released in El Paso, according to an interview with the local newspaper, might also find fault in the administration policy. Republicans everywhere who have become convinced that no immigration reform should be negotiated with this president because he cannot be trusted to enforce any law passed will likely become more resolute in the conviction, more compassionate Republicans who bought into this nonsense, such as House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor will find themselves all the more vulnerable in their already-close primary races against more rock-ribbed challengers, and Democrats will have to explain what they’re going to do about tens of thousands illegal urchins without being so heartless as to send them back to their parents and home.
Yet another executive order has now been issued requiring that all of the children be appointed legal representation, which seems not only a compassionate but probably necessary thing to do, and when word gets out in Central America that the four free years in the United States come with a lawyer we’ll deal with the increased arrivals. It’s more work for those unemployed law school grads, and more government will be required, so at least for the Democrats there is some upside. Still, the White House has been sending out word that it will be willing to work with such compassionate Republicans as Cantor on some sort of compromise, which should be annoying to the likes of White House domestic policy director Cecilia Munoz, who was previously the the head of the Latino rights organization La Raza, which for the remaining majority of Americans who don’t habla Espanol translates as “The Race,” which basically sums up its racialist ideology. It is not clear what sort of compromise these two sides of the compassionate coin will arrive at, but we expect it will sound very compassionate.
The idea of telling desperate Central American families that they could give their children a shot at the American dream by dumping in the harsh deserts along the borders of Texas and Arizona sounded very compassionate, too, and has created a humanitarian crisis. There are still political pressures being exerted on an already sympathetic administration to end all deportations, with arguments even more compassionate about the poor souls merely seeking a better life in the land of opportunity, and when the word gets out and the make-shift camps proliferate even more compassionate remedies will be required. A better policy would be to tell those desperate Central American families that their children are best of at home, and they should force their own governments to address the socialistic causes of their poverty rather than exporting the human misery to a United States that is now reeling from its own socialistic policies and cannot competently manage the problems its indebted government faces, but that won’t sound very compassionate in the inevitable attack ads against any candidate who takes such a stand. The results that have followed those executive aren’t at all humane, as the administration is forced to acknowledge, yet to argue against these policies is thought heartless.

— Bud Norman

What They’re Thinking, If Anything

All the talk on conservative talk radio lately has been about immigration reform, and mostly it concerns an expected capitulation on some sort of euphemized amnesty by the Republican congressional leadership. The most discussed issue, of course, is about what in the world the Republican congressional leadership is thinking.
Although the expected capitulation is not yet a done deal, and some reliable sources are reporting that cooler heads in the Republican caucus might yet prevail, there is ample reason for concern. Enough Senate Republicans have already gone wobbly to help pass a bill so awful that it has been endorsed by President Barack Obama, several prominent House Republicans have been making worrisome pronouncements in recent months, and last week the party’s leaders issued a statement of principles on the immigration issue that strikes the more rock-ribbed rank-and-file of the GOP as insufficiently principled. Given the leadership’s spotty track record of acting according to its constituents’ will, conservatives can be forgiven for already cussing the as-yet-unannounced deal.
Also understandable is the confusion about what could possibly cause the leadership to act so stupidly. Perhaps they have a sincere belief that a path to citizenship for the industrious undocumented workers who have been forced to live in the shadows as they have contributed so much to our country is the best and fairest economic policy for America, but sincere beliefs are a far-fetched explanation for any politician’s actions, and especially so if it is a self-proclaimed Republican sincerely believing that flooding an already depressed labor market with millions more unskilled laborers flouting the law is either fair or good for the economy. Politics is usually a plausible reason for a politician’s actions, but in this case the leadership’s reported stand would provide the opposition with millions of additional voters while further enraging its own base of support. With neither of these usual explanations at hand, many conservatives have sought to explain the Republican leadership’s inexplicable behavior with strange theories that it’s all part of a plan to limit the party’s widely expected gains in the upcoming mid-term elections and thereby set up a more favorable political climate in the 2016 presidential race or some similarly convoluted scheme.
A more likely explanation is that the leadership is more concerned with the potential donations of the party’s big business wing that is eager for a wage-depressing flood of cheap new labor, but even if that is the case they’re still making the wrong political calculations. After running a series of exceedingly immigrant-friendly presidential candidates who lost the Latino vote by landslide margins it should be clear that the party won’t benefit from further immigration any time soon, and the costs of the full-scale conservative revolt that a capitulation will provoke cannot be paid by any amount of corporate donations. The expense of fending off primary challenges against every single Republican who goes along with this nonsense will eat up most of the money, and when disgruntled conservatives stay home in the general elections the price will be higher yet.
Should the Republicans stand fast against any sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants it would likely bolster their chances in the mid-terms and several elections beyond. Much of the opposition to unfettered immigration comes from such traditional Democratic voting blocs as African-Americans, low-wage workers, and union members, and although it’s unlikely any of them could be persuaded to vote for a Republican the issue could keep many of them at home and safely away from the polls. Even the big business wing of the party might be persuaded to continue contributing the big bucks against a party that wants to flood the market with cheap unskilled labor but simultaneously make it more expensive with a rise in the minimum wage, and the Republicans could truly make the compelling claim that they are a party of competitive free market capitalism and not crony corporatism.

— Bud Norman

The State of the Union and Other ‘Shockers

A dear old friend has kindly offered us a ticket to a basketball game pitting the third-ranked and undefeated Wichita State University Wheatshockers against a lightly-regarded Loyola of Illinois Ramblers squad with a losing record, so we’ll have far more important things to do tonight than watch the State of the Union address. We probably would have skipped the speech in any case, however, and expect that most of our countrymen will do the same.
Article II and Section 3 of the constitution require that the president “shall from time give to congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge the necessary,” and we are far fussier sticklers about the constitution than the current president has been, but the practice of an annual oration to a joint session of Congress is a relatively new custom and one whose time has clearly passed. For all the fuss that the networks and the newspapers make about it the speeches have become a drearily predictable affair, as quickly forgotten as a New Year’s resolution, and there is no reason to believe that this year’s edition will be any different. Even without the benefit of leaked transcripts from highly-placed sources we are certain of what will be said, how the chattering classes will react, and what the political consequences will be.
There will be much somber reflection by the networks’ most familiar faces about the earth-shaking importance of the speech, followed by footage of every Democrat and a few forlorn Republicans from purplish districts jockeying for handshake position as the president proceeds with a royal swagger down the aisle toward the podium, along with all the other pomp and circumcision that attends these events. The president will then begin by declaring that the state of the union is sound, without any of the derisive laughter that such a ridiculous claim would ordinarily provoke, and then launch into an over-written, over-long, obviously self-serving account of the nation’s woes. He will briefly touch on the ongoing debacle of Obamacare, touting the few million who have signed on without mentioning that most of them previously had better plans that they liked and were promised they could keep, and he will spend the rest of it blathering endlessly about income inequality and proposing various fanciful solutions to this ineradicable fact of a free society.
All the talking heads on all the news stations save Fox will love it, and do their own endless blathering about how eloquently it was stated, but nothing will become of it but a bunch of ineffectual executive orders. Even the squishiest Republicans from the most purplish districts will not be persuaded, nor will the voters in any of the contested jurisdictions, and every item on the president’s ponderously explained agenda will be soon be a mere bargaining chip in the next round of debt ceiling negotiations. The only thing the president will talk about that might actually occur is immigration reform, as there seems to be some enthusiasm in both parties for flooding an historically weak labor market with millions more unskilled laborers, but the main interest will be in seeing which Republicans applaud and thereby invite a bruising primary challenge.
There will be the usual inspiring baritone delivery, and the gospel music cadences that have long wowed the pundits, but nothing that amounts to must-see TV. We’ll check a post-speech transcript to see what we missed, and it might be worth commenting on, but we’re confident it won’t be anything worth missing a ‘Shocker game.

— Bud Norman

Zimmerman and the Immigration Issue

We’ve been scouring the internet all day in search of something to write about other than the George Zimmerman trial, partly because we’ve already had our say on this open-and-shut case of self-defense and the racial hysteria that has been whipped up in its aftermath, and partly because we can’t shake a nagging worry that we’re falling for an ingeniously contrived distraction from more important issues, but it’s proving inescapable. Now seemed a good time to check back in on that pesky immigration bill, which is still winding its way through the House of Representatives and might yet become law, but even that seemed to somehow tie to the Zimmerman trial.
As we understand the argument being advanced by the anti-Zimmerman lynch mob, America is an irredeemably racist land where the average citizen is a gun-toting redneck whose murderous rage against “the other” can only be restrained by the tireless activism of such enlightened souls as can be found among the anti-Zimmerman lynch mob. The claim is familiar from every previous racial morality play that has played itself out in the media in the past few decades, from Tawana Brawley to the Duke lacrosse team to the latest headlines, and somehow persists even after the narrative is betrayed by the facts of each case. Usually spoken with the chin upraised to emphasize the speaker’s morality superiority to the average American, the argument almost always works itself into any discussion of racial or ethnic issues.
Which is why we couldn’t help noticing that the immigration reform debate is a conspicuous exception. In this peculiar case many of the same people who are insisting that the federal government revoke Zimmerman’s constitutional protection against double jeopardy, lest the murderous racism of the average American be emboldened, are now assuring us that many millions of foreigners can be introduced into America’s communities without any worry of uncomfortable cultural conflicts. The very same average Americans thought to be itching for a pot-shot at some random black teenager wandering through the neighborhood, we are told, will embrace their newfound brown brothers and sisters with all the multi-cultural zeal of a conflict-resolution major college student fresh from diversity indoctrination.
Those largely unskilled and uneducated millions of immigrants, we are further assured, will be just as eager to embrace American cultural values. Not too eager, of course, as we wouldn’t want them turning into gun-toting racists like the average American, and of course we’ll want them to retain their own cultural values so that they might add them to the rich cultural tapestry that is gun-toting racist America, but eager enough that it will all work out like on one of those precisely diverse sit-coms. That many of them will be young, single, rootless males, and that young, single, rootless males of all races and ethnic categories tend to be troublesome, are facts that only a racist would take into consideration.
Being average Americans ourselves we have no snobbish concerns about how average Americans might cope with a sudden infusion of millions of people from starkly different cultures, and we eagerly anticipate the culinary choices that will inevitably result, but the below-average Americans raise the worry that a stubborn human nature will make such a transformation of the country’s ethnic make-up problematic. It can be assumed that there will be some below-average immigrants among those millions, too, and at the risk of sounding racist we think it should be taken into account what problems they might cause. Those immigrants will also be encountering Americans of all hues, too, and it’s not just the white folks who are toting guns and racial animosities. Drawn inexorably back to that darned Zimmerman trial story, we note that a Hispanic man suffered a vicious beating from some people in Baltimore who were apparently upset by the verdict, an unhappy reminder that racial tensions are already too high.
The average American is not a gun-toting racist eager for racial war, not in our experience, but in times of high unemployment and heightened racial division he might not be up to the high expectations of his newfound liberal fans.

— Bud Norman

A Break to the Border

So far as we can tell there were no new political scandals revealed on Wednesday, a sort of cool breeze of news to temporarily break the summer heat, so it seemed a good opportunity to look around at what else is going in Washington. There is apparently an immigration reform bill being considered in Congress, and the people pushing it are probably hoping the public is too distracted to notice, but all those scandals might wind up hurting the legislation’s chances of passage.
Immigration is one of those issues that defy the usual partisan and ideological categories, so the politics are complicated enough to begin with. The business wing of the Republican party has long championed unfettered immigration because it expands the supply of labor and thereby lowers its cost, while the working stiff wing of the party has opposed it for precisely the same reason. The union dues-paying working stiffs of the Democrat party once opposed illegal immigration with identical motives, and although their party loyalty has lately seemed to trump their economic self-interest there is still plenty of resistance in the ranks, while the professional politicians of the party have been eager to register a few million more voters that can be relied on to vote a straight big-government ticket. The multi-cultural liberals have also favored illegal immigration because they think it would be racist not to, and because they’re confident that they won’t be facing new competition for their sensitivity-training businesses and queer studies professorships, while the mostly white nativists of the Republican party and the mostly black nativists among the Democrats have been opposed.
A similarly mixed-up coalition of Senators has cooked up the current proposal, and they’ve tried to offer something for everyone. The bill would provide a “pathway to citizenship” for most of the illegal immigrants already in the country, but supporters are quick to insist that it’s not the same as amnesty, a word which tests badly in all the polls and focus groups, and they cross their hearts and hope to die as they pinky swear that this time it will be accompanied by the long-awaited crackdown that finally secures the border. Those tough-on-illegal-immigration provisions of a bill that would essentially legalize illegal immigration are the ones being touted by the bill’s Republican proponents, most prominently the former rising conservative star Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and an advertising campaign running on all the right-wing talk radio shows touts the bill as a severely right-wing program.
There are plenty of reasons for conservatives to be skeptical, however, and they seem to increase as the bill winds its way through the labyrinthine processes of the Congress. The Democratic-controlled Senate is intent on having their favored parts of the bill enacted before the country gets around to the messy business of enforcing the border, and the conventional wisdom of the moment is that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will show the necessary backbone — or cussed stubbornness, depending on your point of view — to kill the bill unless the border is secured first. Some wavering by the waver-prone Speaker of the House has many conservatives nervous that the Republicans will cave, but the representatives in his caucus are almost certain to hear from a compelling number of their constituents.
Although the tough-on-illegal-immigration provisions are appealing to the average conservative, and the “pathway to citizenship” not especially abhorrent is combined with border security, there is little trust in the promises being made. The past several decades of illegal immigration have justified this doubt, and the past months of revelations about governmental perfidy have only increased it. Democrats pushing the bill have reportedly asked President Barack Obama to keep his distance from the debate, lest his scandal-tainted brand tarnish their efforts, but at this point their entire party is being regarded with a heightened suspicion. The entire government, for the matter, is suddenly in position to argue “Trust us.”

— Bud Norman

Cockiness in the Face of Scandal

All those pesky scandals seem to be taking their toll on the president’s popularity, judging by the latest round of opinion polls, but he remains confident. Cocksure might be the more apt word, in fact, given his recent actions.
The president is so little affected by the Benghazi fiasco that he has appointed as his new national security advisor the woman who played the lead role in peddling by the administration’s lies about it. Although the president has expressed his dismay that the Internal Revenue Service was singling out conservative groups for extraordinary scrutiny, yet the woman who ran the office where it was happening remains on her new job administering the vast Obamacare bureaucracy. The president’s Attorney General, meanwhile, remains in charge of a Justice Department that has been snooping through the phone records of reporters and millions of ordinary American citizens.
Having won re-election despite such scandals as the crony-capitalism Solyndra deal, the deadly Fast and Furious program, and the early revelations about the four deaths in Benghazi, and despite a weak economic recovery and the early warning signs that the Obamacare program was going to be a disaster, the administration’s cockiness is understandable. The president can safely assume that a significant portion of the country isn’t paying any attention, being too engrossed by the celebrity news programs where the president occasionally shows up as a much-fawned-over personage, and that another significant portion is so enamored of him and so hostile to his opponents that it will gladly forgive him any misdeed. Let the headlines inevitably recede, he can plausibly predict, and the more independent-minded voters will return to his cause just in time for the mid-term congressional and allow him to finish out his term with the unrestrained power that he enjoyed in his first two years.
It might work, but there is reason is to hope that it will not. The national media have at long last begun to notice the president’s fallibility, perhaps because the Justice Department’s probe of the Associated Press was one too many assaults on their profession, and although the media still haven’t reached the same levels of hysteria they displayed throughout the Bush administration they are at least more feisty than in the recent past. All the coverage seems to have dented the administration’s reputation for honesty, which never had any basis in reality to begin with, and once trust is lost it is rarely regained. Much of the public will begin look at the administration’s claims on a number of issues with a newfound skepticism, and when they take another look at the economy and Obamacare they’ll be harder to convince that things are going well.
There is no way of knowing how much the scandals have to do with it, but the president has not been successful lately in foisting his agenda on the country. He was routed on his pet gun control proposals, despite the emotional atmosphere that prevailed after the tragic Newtown shootings, and the immigration reforms that he has championed are stalled in Congress despite a bi-partisan effort to push them through while the scandals provide a smoke screen. The president was also forced to accept the “sequester” cuts in the rate of growth in the federal budget, with his efforts to blame every new misfortune on the slight decline failing to persuade anyone but the true believers, and if he has any economic program it doesn’t seem to be getting any attention.
This could all redound to the president’s benefit in the mid-terms, when the Democrats’ battle cry will be that everything is going to hell because the Republicans were too obsessed with insignificant scandals and failed to enact the president’s brilliant plan, whatever it was, but he shouldn’t be too cocky about it. The scandalous headlines will have receded a year from now, but they’ll have left a lingering sense of distrust and washed away the messianic image the president once enjoyed with the help of a partisan press, and they’ll be replaced by stories about health insurance rate hikes and the economic fallout of the Fed’s eventual realization that it can’t keep printing money forever, and the opposition will be both outraged and emboldened.

— Bud Norman