Advertisements

A DREAM Deferred, and Other Raisins in the Sun of a Political Stalemate

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would offer a path to citizenship for an estimated two million people who were illegally brought to the United States as children, which for better or worse would resolve a pressing problem that has been hotly debated for more than a decade, but unless you were paying attention to the back pages of the papers or the bottom of the hourly news broadcasts you might not have heard about it. That’s because it really doesn’t matter.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has already made clear the bill won’t be brought up for a vote in the upper chamber of Congress, and even if it does the narrow Republican majority in the Senate probably wouldn’t pass it, and even if a few Republican members did buck the party line there wouldn’t be enough of them to override the inevitable veto of President Donald Trump. Such is the state of play, as well, with all the other pressing problems that have been been hotly debated for more than a decade.
Which might be for the best, as both parties have some damned dumb ideas and for more than a decade have used a two-year window of opportunity of one-party control of both the Congress and the White House to enact some of them into law. There are some especially damned dumb ideas afoot in the Democratic House we’ll be mercifully spared — for the time being — because of that slight Republican majority in the Senate and the Republican president’s veto power, and some similarly damned dumb ideas proposed by the President and the Senate that won’t happen because of the overwhelming Democratic majority in the House. Our old-fashioned conservative souls give thanks to God for our founding fathers’ wisdom in devising such a convoluted system.
Even so, sooner or later we mere mortals and our elected officials will have to come to some agreement on issues that are hotly debated for good reason, and the current state of play suggests it will be for the worse rather than the better. Some members of both parties also have a few pretty darned good ideas, and in some cases they aren’t so very far apart, but too many members of both parties are unwilling to sit down and hammer out the details with the hated other side.
This inconsequential yet grandiosely named American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 that the House passed on Tuesday strikes us as something that could be negotiated into a good deal for everyone all around in a better state of American politics. We considered ourselves rock ribbed Republican hard-liners up until Trump won the nomination and the new standard was family separations and wholesale treaty violations and maximum cruelty and unabashed xenophobia, and we retain our disdain for many of the Democrats’ enthusiasm for wide open borders and all the rape and rapine and heroin-pushing and Democratic voting that would surely follow, but the bill that passed the House Tuesday with a few Republican votes strikes us a rather modest proposal.
The proposed law would grant the so-called “dreamers” who have been living here most of their lives through no fault of their own 10 years of legal residence so long as they could demonstrate they hadn’t been raping or robbing or pushing heroin or otherwise being a bother to the public, then “green cards” that allow them to work for a living in this country if they could show they were in the military or pursuing a higher education or had already been gainfully employed for at least three years, and after that a chance to apply for American citizenship. As rock ribbedly Republican and hard-line anti-immigration as we remain, we’re not so hardhearted that we want to throw soldiers and college kids and working stiffs out of the only country they’ve ever known. If we could gain a few concessions from the Democrats on a few miles of border wall where it’s actually needed and other immigration debates, as any skilled negotiator probably could, we’d take the deal.
Both Trump and pretty much all of the damned Democrats are itching to spend buttloads of money on America’s roads and bridges and levees and electrical grids and all the rest of our expensive infrastructure, which do indeed need tending, but at this point that also seems unlikely to happen. The Democrats want to shovel all those buttloads of money to their bureaucratic and labor union buddies, Trump envisions something that would benefit his corporate buddies and and campaign contributors, and there’s still an old-fashioned rump faction of the Republican party that objects to spending buttloads of federal money on projects and would prefer to pass the problem along to local local governments closer to the problem.
For now, in our sorry state of politics, neither party has any incentive to reach any agreements that might work out for everyone all around and thus redound to the benefit of the hated other side. That House bill that passed Tuesday strikes us a chance for the Republicans to prove that they’re not hardhearted sorts who hate hate even the most law-abiding brown-skinned people, and for the Democrats to show that they’re not committed to opening the borders to raping and robbing and heroin-pushing miscreants, but neither side can abide that the other might benefit. The Republicans spent six bipartisan years of President Barack Obama’s administration futilely trying to repeal Obamacare, which heartened the party base even if they couldn’t take advantage of of the two years of one-party rule that followed, and the Democrats will resist Trump with similarly futile attempts to Trump even if they won’t be able to do much with the two years of Democratic rule that might well follow. The crazier elements of both parties are awaiting the next inevitable two-year window of one-party rule opportunity when they can impose their craziest ideals, and for now the saner members of both parties who’d like to hammer out the details of those things they’re not that far apart on seem outvoted. Until the next election, and probably beyond, we expect most of the news will be about investigations into the other side’s perfidy, of which both sides have plenty.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

On the Folly of Either Opening or Closing America’s Southern Border

There’s no good argument for the “open borders” policy that some Democrats advocate, but President Donald Trump is having a hard time making the case for his recent threat to close the southern border completely. By Tuesday Trump seemed to be backing away from the threat, with numerous White House advisors and congressional Republicans and important industries urging him to do so, and we hope he’ll once again abandon a bad idea without admitting it.
By now no one denies that there’s a problem on the southern border, where there’s lately been a surge in refugees from several impoverished and violent Central American countries seeking asylum. but no one other than Trump thinks a complete closure of all traffic from the border wouldn’t create bigger problems. Mexico is America’s third-largest trading partner, and we do an estimated $1.5 billion dollars of business with it every day, and a lot of the traffic going in and out of the Mexico on a daily basis eventually results in hundreds of billions of dollars for the automotive and agricultural and other industries, and there are a lot of Americans accustomed to crossing the nearby border to purchase lower-cost goods, and a lot of Mexicans accustomed to crossing the nearby border to earn a living cleaning houses and mowing lawns and purchase goods not available in Mexico.
You can hate those Spanish-speaking and drug-smuggling and raping people from those south-of-the-border “shit-hole countries” all you want, but even Trump’s White House advisors and congressional Republican allies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agree that the economy would take a hit if we stopped doing any business with them. The Mexican economy would also take hit, so the Mexican government might oblige Trump by shooting any Central American migrants on sight, which would likely ease America’s current bureaucratic burdens at the southern border, but given the economic impact that’s unlikely to make America great again.
We’ve even seen reports that America would run out of avocados three weeks after a border shutdown, meaning we wouldn’t be able to order the delicious carne asada chips from the drive-thru at Tacos Lopez over on West Street, and that’s not the America we’ve long loved.
Despite the institutional power of all those White House advisors and congressional Republican allies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and basic common sense, Trump might yet carry out his threat to shut down the border. He was still saying on Tuesday that he really wanted to, and he prides himself on never backing away from even his dumbest ideas, and his aversion to those Spanish-speaking and drug-smuggling rapists from “shit-hole countries” seems to supersede even his business instincts. On Tuesday Trump seemed to struggle making any sort of argument for anything, grousing about the “oranges” or the Special Counsel investigation rather than its “origins,” and misremembered that his New York City-born father was born in a “very beautiful” part of Germany, and announced that he wouldn’t present his perfect health care policy until after he and the congressional Republicans win the 2020 election.
Between Trump and those crazy “open borders” Democrats there’s no telling what might happen, but we hold out hope we’ll still be able to get those delicious and guacamole-laden carne asada chips from Tacos Lopez three weeks from now.

— Bud Norman

The Borders Flare as the Center Collapses

The politics of illegal immigration has long been thorny, and a solution has eluded the past several presidents and congresses, but it suddenly seems even thornier in the age of President Donald and his Republican party’s slim and fissiparous majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives.
All of the usual tricky questions about how to properly enforce current immigration laws in an effective yet humane and constitutional way, and what to do about the illegal immigrants who are already here, are still awaiting an definitive answer, and there’s still a wide chasm between the most welcoming Democrats and the most exclusionary Republicans. Trump’s longtime rhetoric and recent policies, of course, are making some sort of compromise solution all the more difficult.
Trump’s executive order to rescind President Barack Obama’s executive order for Delayed Action on Childhood Arrivals has made a pressing issue about the fate of the so-called “dreamers,” who were brought here as children and have since lived provably productive and tax-paying lives that have little troubled the American populace, which raises complicated political as well as policy and legal questions. Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy has resulted in a couple thousand children separated from their parents and held in circumstances that administration can’t fully account for, and which the Trump administration has denied and blamed on Democrats and insisted is necessary to save the country from imminent invasion, and although he’s since signed an executive order to undo his policy that’s further complicated the debate. His rhetoric about “animals” “infesting” the country and warning of an “invasion” by “millions” of raping and drug-dealing types has brought a long-heated debate to a boiling point.
Trump and his spokespeople have lately taken a dizzying number of stands on these issues — we can’t resist re-telling our joke that he’s got more positions than Stormy Daniels — but he’s always consistently made it clear that he’s not at all fond of those brown-skinned people from “shit-hole countries” who keep showing up at the southern border seeking asylum. He’s spoken sympathetically of a “loving bill” for the “dreamers,” revved up his rallies with talk about the Democrats don’t think a Trump voter’s children are also dreamers, and he made a big show of reversing his family separation policy but not the the “zero tolerance” that he admits will continue to separate families. All those photos and video and audio of crying children and their unaccounted-for whereabouts might have cowed Trump into reversing the policy that 58 percent of Republicans supported, but now Trump is calling it all “phony stories” by the “open-borders” Democrats and their allies in the “fake news” media, who of course are enthralled by the murderous MS-13 street gang and want only the very worst for America.
To show that Trump is very, very strong on border enforcement, and perhaps to demonstrate that they’re not all racist about it, the Border Patrol recently caught a French woman who was visiting her mother in southern Canada and inadvertently jogged a bit out south of the American border, and was detained for two weeks.
There’s at least a kernel of truth to most of it, we must admit. A large influx of human beings from anywhere on the earth will inevitably include some highly undesirable people, and that MS-13 gang from El Salvador truly is a particularly gruesome example, and that suspiciously French 19-year-old did indeed jog into American territory. There are indeed some “open borders” Democrats out there, and we’ve read enough of Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” that we don’t need Trump to tell us how it would work out for America if they somehow got their way. A certain strictness of border enforcement will always be necessary for every country, but it remains if Trump’s will prevail as politics or policy or a legal matter.
Trump is clearly cocky that he will prevail on all three fronts, or at least the all-important political one. Even as he accused the Democrats of using the immigration issue for political advantage he told a group of Nevada Republicans that “Our issue is strong borders, no crime. Their issue is open borders, get MS-13 all over the country.” The Republicans in the House were scheduled to vote on a couple of hard-line and compromise bills, but Trump “tweeted” his advice they “stop wasting their time” and await his predicted “red wave” that would give the Republicans’ true one-party rule. He also “tweeted” that America was no longer obligated to fulfill its duly passed and signed treaty obligations regarding asylum-seekers or comply with the legal precedents that had followed, which is a bit more hard-line than even our rock-ribbed but tender-hearted and constitutionally conservative Republican selves can go along with.
The damned Democrats have all that undeniably heart-breaking photography and video and audio from the southern border, where the Trump administration is having a hard time getting its story straight on what’s happening there, although we’re assured it’s tougher but more tender than anybody has ever seen, so it might take more than a kernel of truth for Trump and his Republican loyalists to triumph. We begrudgingly acknowledge that most Democrats don’t believe in “open borders,” and that includes President Barack Obama, who made a priority of deporting MS-13 gang members and other felonious illegal immigrants rather than breaking up the families of possibly legal asylum-seekers, and even that horrible Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. They’re all far more lax about these matters than even our pre-Trump Republican selves, but for the moment they seem closer to the political center than all thousands at the on-going campaign rallies still chanting “Build that wall!”
By now even the faithful at the rallies don’t expect that Mexico will pay for the wall, and Trump is expecting the Democrats to pay it for as ransom for all the “dreamers” and the kids he got placed God knows where. Which further complicates matters. Pretty much no one but Trump and the faithful at the rallies believe the solution to the thorny illegal immigration problem is a “big, beautiful” and translucent and solar-generating wall across the entirety of the Mexican border, and all the Republican congressional districts along the proposed route think it’s a horrible idea and are threatening all sorts of eminent domain court challenges, and despite the chants at the rallies we don’t think Trump should be cocky about it.
Even at the Nevada rally Trump shared the stage with a far more moderate-on-immigration incumbent who’s facing a tough reelection race, and in Nevada as most of the country the Democrats are nominating candidates who aren’t “open borders” but advocate a more legal and humane means of border enforcement. Trump’s bet that he’ll get an end to some stupid immigration as well as his equally stupid border after a “red wave” might prove as disastrous as his bet on the Atlantic City Trump Taj Mahal.
Nor do we expect that good policy will somehow result. The border must be enforced, international treaty obligations and constitutional law and basic human decency must be respected, and at this point in this long and drawn-out game that seems a long shot.

— Bud Norman

Of Islam, Anti-Islam, and Other Extremisms

Both of the apparent front-runners for the nominations of America’s two major political parties have now weighed in on the latest deadly instance of radical Islamic terrorism, and a long-dreaded clash of civilizations suddenly becomes all the more inevitable. One party continues to insist there is no such thing as radical Islamic terrorism, at least a daunting plurality of the other party is willing to embrace the most extreme measures to combat it, and no one is getting noticed by advocating a more hopeful path down the middle.
Although former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and current Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton still steadfastly refuses to utter the words “radical Islamic terrorism,” and prefers to more politely speak of a “perverted form of Islam” and “jihadism,” she and her party have lately been talking some tougher talk. Her former boss has acknowledged that the recent massacre in San Bernardino was an act of some sort of unspecific terrorism, and even went so far as to hint it had something to do with that perverted sort of Islam, his Attorney General is walking back talk about prosecuting any criticism of even the perverted sort of Islam that might cross over from First Amendment bounds to “edging toward violence,” there’s an effort to get everyone on the “no fly list” from buying a gun, and Clinton wants to crack down on the politely-named movement’s internet communications. All of which seems calculated to postpone that clash of civilizations until the most inopportune moment for the west.
A begrudging presidential acknowledgement that what happened in San Bernardino was terrorism heartening, as was the long awaited acknowledgement that what happened in Fort Hood was as well, and it’s nice to hear an Attorney General affirm her commitment to the First Amendment, although we still wish her earlier statements hadn’t made it necessary, and we expect that with pressure from recently terrorized France and Russia that the bombing of the Islamic State will soon become more effective, but they’re only going so far as their dreadful poll numbers will push them. That talk of a “perverted form of Islam” ignores the apparent meaning of more than 100 Koranic scriptures commanding jihad, or “jihadism” if Clinton prefers, as well as the past 1,400 years of Islamic clashes with the west, which predate global warming or George W. Bush or the statehood of Israel or western imperialism or any of the Democratic party’s usual excuses, and it raises understandable doubts about their ability to combat that which they dare not name.
The tough talk about denying guns to those on the “no-fly list,” which all the up-to-date Democrats were rightly decrying as a ridiculous abuse of due process for any innocent sucker that happened to land up there, including former Sen. Ten Kennedy and some conservative journalists and 70-some employees of the Homeland Security Department, an agency which we’re assured is efficiently protecting us, is transparently part of a broader effort to deny guns to all law-abiding citizens. Clinton’s call for a crackdown on the Islamic State’s use of “social media” makes a certain amount of sense, but there’s also a certain suspicion that it’s part of her party’s publicly stated broader plans for regulating the internet, and there’s even a vague worry on our part that our own electronically published worries about the past 1,400 years of clashes between Islam and the west might be considered “edging toward violence.”
In any case, we are not all reassured that the Democratic party or any of its potential leaders are able to frankly confront the current crisis. Their continued insistence on an unprecedented flow of immigration from the Middle East, including tens of thousands of refugees from Syria, most of whom are fighting-age young men who are neither Syrian nor refugees from any war, along with their general preference for open borders, along with all that blather about beginning to start to commence a dialogue that will lead to a process that will lead to a framework for a potential understanding that will someday result in an agreement to solve this mess, suggests they are not serious about any of it. Their unwillingness in every issue, both foreign and domestic, to stand up for core western values, save its tolerance for Islam in all forms, only compounds an unavoidable mistrust.
Such cowardly obfuscations and willful blindness to harsh reality creates an opportunity for any politician shrewd enough to speak more bluntly, and of course Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is both shrewd and blunt enough to seize it. In front of a typically large crowd of adoring fans in South Carolina Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” which goes beyond any of his rivals’ principled stand against that influx of supposed refugees, beyond even our own steadfastly Christian and rooting-for-western-civilization position, and into a realm that the more squishy moderate middle of America is likely to find uncomfortable. We expect that most of America will find Trump’s position the more sensible and comfortable of two extremes that have been offered, as we reluctantly admit we do, but we hold out hope that a more sensible solution can be found somewhere in between. All that blather about the majority of Muslims preferring peace and prosperity to war and poverty can’t be all wrong, given how human nature prevails in every corner of the world, and we’ll surely need some of their help as we’re forced to wade into the chaotic Muslim world, but Trump’s rhetoric cannot help in enlisting their essential support.
If you’re willing to listen to the entirety of Trump’s interminable South Carolina speech, you’ll notice that there’s little reference to to the history of western civilization and its longstanding clash with Islam, or the superior nature the Judeo-Christian west and its tradition of religious tolerance and careful democratic deliberation, but mostly an appeal to the public’s understandable outrage, and some self-regarding revisionist history about the Iraq War that does not jibe with his newfound bellicosity, and a whole lot about how very rich and successful and popular and utterly awesome is Donald Trump, and that none of it is at all Churchillian. The crowd goes wild, just as those Obama crowds used to go wild hearing about very special he is, with the same unquestioning approval of how his unique awesomeness will surely solve that 1,400-year-old squabble between the west and Islam, but we are left with the same lingering doubt.
The only possible Democratic nominee other than Clinton is a self-described socialist who thinks climate change is the bigger problem, but at least the entirety of the Republican field, even the most squishy establishment of them, is taking a more clear-eyed view of the matter than that. None of those challengers will get nearly as much media attention as Trump, who has reaped the benefits of being the hated press’ favorite target, but we hope their more carefully considered positions will be given some consideration by the Republican party’s primary voters.

— Bud Norman