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Distraction and Desperation

With less than six days before the midterm election polls close the news is even busier than usual.
Some lost and lonely loser in Florida stands accused of sending mail bombs to at last a dozen prominent Democratic politicians and activists, and another lost and lonely loser is in a Pennsylvania jail awaiting charges of slaughtering 11 Jews as they worshipped God in a Pittsburgh synagogue. An hilariously inept plot to frame the special counsel investigating the “Russia thing” for ’70s-era sexual harassment has fallen apart, and is now the subject of a federal investigation of its own. There are the usual campaign issues, too, such an ongoing debate about mandating that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions which the Democrats seem to be winning and the Republicans are reduced to lying about. The economy continues to chug along well enough, but lately the stock markets have been up and down and mostly down.
Given all that, we’re not surprised that President Donald Trump is mostly talking about the impending invasion of Middle Eastern terrorists and Central American lepers who are marching the last 900 miles or so of their journey to America’s southern border, along with the rest of the invading army of dark-hued others who are already here. Trump is promising to send as many as 15,000 American troops to join the thousands of National Guardsmen and Border Patrol agents currently in place to turn back a few thousand unarmed and no doubt worn out asylum-seekers, and threatening to repeal the 14th amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship with an executive order. All the die-hard fans are cheering it on at Trump’s non-stop rallies and on certain conservative media, but to most of the rest of us it smacks of desperation.
The last invasion of the southern border by thousands of walking and unarmed asylum-seekers mostly petered out by the time it arrived at the border, with the usual Border Patrol contingent well able to handle the resulting 14 arrests for illegal immigration, and this one looks no scarier. Trump freely admits he has no proof that it’s being organized and funded some of those prominent Democratic politicians and activists who recently received pipe bombs in the mail, and none of those certain conservative media have yet to document any Middle Eastern terrorists or lepers, so more military power than we’re currently deploying against the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State combined seems an overreaction. We still like to think ourselves law-and-order conservatives, but we hail from a more hopeful era when even the most rock-ribbed Republicans thought that the border laws could be enforced without violating the Posse Comitatus Act or America’s treaty obligations to grant due process to the claims of asylum-seekers, and without building tent cities and orphaning children and all the other cruelties that today’s law-and-order crowd seem to crave.
Back in that more hopeful era the law-and-order sorts of rock-ribbed Republicans used to venerate the Constitution and insist it be interpreted according to its plain language, and to disdain the use of executive orders by power-grabbing presidents, but that’s no longer the case. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution plainly states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the state wherein they reside,” and way back in 1895, when there was a “Yellow Peril” that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act and long before the damned liberals infested the judicial system, the Supreme Court ruled that plain language meant that even though a impoverished cook named Wong Kim Ark was born to Chinese parents his birth on American soil had conferred him American citizenship. House Speaker Paul Ryan and the legal scholar who’s married to Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway and numerous other old-fashioned Republican types agree, and even many of the Republicans who think we would well be rid of birthright citizenship say that it shouldn’t be accomplished by the stroke of a presidential pen.
Trump in turn “tweeted” back that “Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!” The entirely autodidactic constitutional scholar then laid out his argument in two separate “tweets.”
“So-called Birthright Citizenship, which costs our country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens, will be ended one way or the other. It is not covered by the 14th Amendment because of the words ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof.’ Many legal scholars agree …
“Harry Reid was right in 1993, before he and the Democrats went insane and started with the Open Borders (which brings massive Crime) “stuff.” Don’t forget the nasty term Anchor Babies. I will keep our Country safe. This case will be decided by the Supreme Court!”
Such elegant English prose is hard to argue with, but we’ll take a stab at it. Birthright citizenship might well be ended some day, and perhaps for good reason, but surely it makes some difference if it happens the constitutional way or or some other way. We have no more idea what “subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ than Trump does, but we suspect the Supreme Court of 1895 had a grasp of the concept, and we’ll dare Trump to say that only the citizens in the United States are subject to its jurisdiction. We’ll also note that White House press secretary couldn’t name of those legal scholars who agreed with Trump, and that don’t consider former Senator Harry Reid any sort of constitutional authority. The nasty term “Anchor Babies” refers to immigrants who bring their family into the country through the nastily-termed “chain migration,” and although that’s also a fair debate we’re disappointed that Trump prefers to discuss it in admittedly nasty terms. We’ll take Trump’s word for it that he’ll keep us safe, and we’ve little doubt that any executive-ordered alterations to the previous understanding of the 14th Amendment will be settled in the Supreme Court, and we’ll be interested to see how those plain-text originalists that Trump appointed rule on that.
In the meantime, Trump will have trouble distracting attention from all the rest of the news, little of which currently benefits his Republican party. The pipe bomber and the Synagogue shooter can’t credibly be blamed on the damned Democrats, as all the mail bombs were sent to his most frequent “tweet” targets, and he was snubbed by both Republican and Democratic public officials and some of the grieving families when he paid a consolatory visit to Philadelphia. The “Russia thing” chugs along, Obamacare is somehow polling better than the Trump tax cut, the stock market goes up and down, and that slow-walking invasion is still a thousand long miles away and the midterm elections are just five short days hence.

— Bud Norman

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The Fissure at the Border

The president and his supporters in the press are trying their best to portray the Republicans as the villains in the ongoing border crisis, but it’s looking like more of a problem for the Democrats. All those unaccompanied minors who have illegally entered the country in the past months have unified the Republican opposition, annoyed the politically unaffiliated, and at long last exposed some dangerous fault lines in the Democratic coalition.
After so many years of successfully vilifying the Republicans as a bunch of stingy racist xenophobes eager to harass any brown-skinned people who innocently if illegally wander across the border it is now hard for the Democrats to argue that it was the GOP who lured all those unaccompanied minors across the border with promises of amnesty and ample social services. There have been some Republicans from the big business wing who were tolerant of an insecure border and willing to tolerate those who crossed it, but House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor lost to an under-funded unknown because of his welcoming attitude toward illegal immigrant even before the current mess started to dominate the headlines, and it’s a certainty that the next Republican majority in Congress will be almost entirely rid of such heretics. The smart people have long warned the Republicans that this stance will forever doom them to a demographic disaster, but it now seems likely to win the support of a lot of otherwise apolitical people who are suddenly being asked to pick up the tab for the education and health care and eventual imprisonment of tens of thousands of unskilled and non-English-speaking youngsters who hopped the freight trains across Mexico.
Worse yet for the Democrats, those demanding the immediate repatriation of the invaders include many voters they’ve come to depend on. “Every economist agrees” that importing a few million more unskilled and non-English-speaking people into a country already suffering high unemployment and declining wages is just the thing to get the economy booming, according to a president who is fond of spouting such obvious nonsense, but a lot of high school drop-outs and a Harvard economist have already noticed the damage being done by unfettered immigration to financial prospects of those at the bottom rung. The law of supply and demand are more ruthlessly enforced than immigration, after all, and is hard for the most unsophisticated worker not to notice when the fines show up in a paycheck. A perpetually unkept promise to redistribute some wealth their way has kept the lower working class in the Democratic column for more decades than anyone alive could remember, but the immigration issue offers Republicans a rare opportunity to peel off a few votes with their own naked appeal to economic self-interest.
A disproportionate share of those low-wage workers are minorities, too, and their displeasure with the invasion is making hard to pretend that the opposition is comprised solely of ¬†Gadsen-flag-waving and tricornered hat-wearing white folks. Some videos that have “gone viral” over at the much-watched YouTube site belie the press accounts that protestors who blocked the entrance of a convoy of Homeland Security buses full of the recent illegal arrivals in the California town of Murrieta were a lily-white mob, and feature African-Americans offering full-throated rants against admitting the youngsters. Our favorite of the videos show a couple of impassioned black men, one of them in Rastafarian garb, arguing with the pro-illegal immigration counter-protestors who had flocked the barricades. The counter-protestors are waving signs about how America stole the land from the Indians and Mexicans, but even the Native American in the “Vietnam Veteran” ball cap seems unable to articulate and argument about how the arrival of tens of thousands of unskilled and non-English-speaking youths is going to benefit his people. Illegal immigration not only gives black Americans competition for jobs, but also the political racial spoils that suffice in lieu of a job, and it will be difficult to keep the black political leadership on board with the Democrats’ agenda. It will be interesting to see if they’ll be able to keep Rep. Charles Rangel, who has been re-elected in Harlem since Reconstruction, but barely survived a primary challenge earlier this year in a district that is now majority Hispanic.
Sooner or later the homosexual community might consider if it is in their interest to welcome a massive immigration from a more macho part of the world that still taunts its soccer opponents with the Spanish equivalent of “faggot,” and then another loyal Democratic constituency could be in revolt. Those limo-driven one per centers who needn’t worry that their children will be seated next to any of the recent arrivals at their swank boarding schools will still be loyal to the cause, as will those idealists who believe that America should be caring for all of the world’s many billion needy, but the rest of the Democratic coalition will be vulnerable to doubts.
The overwhelming ublic sentiment for secure borders is so apparent that even the president is talking tough about sending the invaders back home, and he’s attempting to blame the Republicans for his failure to do so because they won’t authorize his request for $3.7 billion to deal with the situation. The request is tough enough to offend such open borders advocates as La Raza, the radical and revanchist and explicitly racialist organization from whence the president’s top policy advisor on immigration came, but it’s pork-laden and mostly spent on caring for rather than repatriating the aliens and will likely continue a policy of setting the invaders free with a pointless of promise of show up at a far-off deportation hearing. It’s calculatedly too soft to win the vote of any self-respecting Republican, and the president is already griping that the Republicans are too interested in playing politics to vote for it. We suspect the president would be more comfortable vilifying the Republicans as stingy racist xenophobes, and is eager to get back to that as soon the headlines fade and the negotiations on “comprehensive immigration reform” begin with whatever wobbly Republicans are left in the Congress, but the border crisis is causing all sorts of trouble for the Democrats.

— Bud Norman

Every Picture Tells a Story

Perhaps it’s just our skewed right-wing perspective, but President Barack Obama seems to be losing his once unerring knack for public relations.
Consider that carefully posed and widely disseminated photograph of the president with his sleeves rolled up and his tie loosened as he shares a beer and a game of pool with the governor of Colorado. The image is obviously calculated to portray the President of the United States as a regular sort of guy and easy-going fellow you’d like to have a drink with, which is just the sort of thing that helped him win the presidency in the first place, but it seems to us not quite right for a moment so far into a second term. Especially at a moment when tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors are pouring over the nation’s relatively nearby southwestern border and even the local Democrats are noisily clamoring for some presidential attention. One of the rare Democratic congressmen from Texas described the photo-op as “bizarre,” “aloof,” and “detached,” and we’re inclined to agree.
The President did fly down to Texas to meet with the state’s Republican governor, who controversially considered forgoing the usual handshake-on-the-tarmac photo-op, but the visit to the Lone Star State was devoted mostly to fund-raisers and did not include a visit to any of the makeshift detention camps where the Central American urchins are being piled up. The oversight is being widely described as Obama’s “Katrina moment,” an allusion to that long-ago time when his predecessor was pilloried in the press and buried in the polls for a perceived indifference to the human toll of a hurricane that had battered the Gulf Coast after he flew over the wreckage rather than land and interfere with the rescue efforts. The press was more eager to seize the moment against Bush, and would have been just as happy to lambaste him for landing and interfering with the rescue efforts, but even the most sympathetic media have lately had a hard time spinning the invasion of unaccompanied minor illegal aliens as a good news story.
Over at The New York Times’ the loyal scribes gave prominence in their coverage to the president’s predictable gripe that the Republicans were out to get him and wouldn’t set aside their petty political ploys to cough the few billion dollars that he expects will solve the problem, but even there it was impossible to pretend that the president hadn’t invited the invasion when he signed an executive order that promised two years without deportation to any kid who could hop a freight to the United States and that the Republicans have always been a bunch of soft-on-border-security sissies. There’s still some faint hope that the President will still win the amnesty-by-euphism “comprehensive immigration reform” that he’s been pining for the past six years, and the press doesn’t seem quite sure how to portray Obama’s sudden role reversal as a tough-talking border enforcer, especially when they can reasonably anticipate that he’ll eventually revert to his former compassionate self.
We suspect that the White House itself hasn’t yet decided how to spin this disaster, except for the usual play of blaming it all on the Republicans. Just as they thought that alleged-deserter-for-five-ferocious-terrorists swap was going to be a public relations boon, and even trotted out the alleged deserter’s Taliban-bearded and Koran-quoting crazy-pants dad for a photo-op in the Rose Garden, they probably thought an influx of adorably sad-eyed waifs would tug at the heartstrings of a weepy American and nudge that amnesty-by-euphemism bill over the line. With most of the arrivals being scary-looking teenagers, and the younger ones in such unpleasant circumstances that both the press and Congress haven’t been allowed a look, which is such bad publicity that one can only assume the pictures and interviews would be far worse, this is looking like just another recent public relations plan that hasn’t worked out.
Maybe that’s just our skewed right-wing perspective, though. No doubt many Americans are still unaware of being invaded by unaccompanied minor illegal immigrants, and thought Obama looked pretty cool hanging out with that regular guy-looking governor. Eventually the invasion will fade from the news, just as those kidnapped Nigerian girls and the shoddy treatment at the Veterans Administration and the illegal harassment of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service have been relegated to the inside pages or dropped from the news altogether, and the image of that cool dude at the pool table will linger.

— Bud Norman