Readers of my blog know that I love Peggy Noonan’s column in the Wall Street Journal. She took a break from writing her column in 2004 in order to help President Bush get re-elected. I really think that he could use her advice again now.
Noonan hits another homerun in her commentary today on President Bush’s immigration speech, and I hope that the President and his administration are listening. Her main critique is that the President didn’t really address the issue with the seriousness that his base is calling for. She writes:
What was needed was a definitive statement: “As of this moment we will control our borders, I’m sending in the men, I’m giving this the attention I’ve given to the Mideast.”
Once that is done, all else follows. “Comprehensive solution” seems like code for “some day we may do something”. No one believes in comprehensive solutions. They believe in action they can see. No one believes in the wisdom of government, but they do believe it has a certain brute power (source).
Noonan is exactly right. Any effort at immigration reform must begin with enforcing our borders. If this is not done, all other reform proposals will be and should be non-starters. If the President really wanted to do the right thing and shore up his political base, he should support legislation aimed at sealing our southern border.
The real question is why is the President so reticent to take border enforcement seriously. Noonan suggests the reason may be political:
Is it possible our flinty president is so committed to protecting the Republican Party from losing, forever, the Hispanic vote, that he’s decided to take a blurred and unsatisfying stand on immigration, and sacrifice all personal popularity, in order to keep the party of the future electorally competitive with a growing ethnic group (source)?
I am afraid this is precisely what is happening. Both parties are jockeying for the Hispanic vote. They know that the Hispanic constituency is the fastest growing minority among the American electorate. To offend them would mean political suicide in the long run for one’s political party.
I happen to think, nevertheless, that doing the right thing is more important than preserving a partisan advantage. In this case, it is unforgivably selfish and short-sighted for a politician to make the best interests of his political party more important than the best interests of America. In the long run, our national security depends on getting border enforcement right.
It’s amazing to me that President Bush cannot see this. It seems like the President has once again donned the blinders that he was wearing when he nominated Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. He just doesn’t seem to get it when it comes to immigration. He’s losing popular support, he’s losing his base’s support, and he doesn’t appear to be making any kind of a serious course-correction.
If I could offer my advice to President Bush, it would be this. Don’t tip your hat to border enforcement. Do border enforcement. It’s the right thing, and your base will love you for it.