Thursday, February 7, 2008

A bad re-run

In preparing my book on George Bush I am finding fascinating information about Bush the candidate (in 2000). Although he was careful with his words, the fix was in on immigration even then.

For example, Bush talked about reorganizing the INS to separate it into an enforcement arm and a separate arm for processing immigration documents. We sometimes believe the restructuring was a result of 9/11, but actually it was in the works before that.

The INS has a rather sordid past, including fraudulent dog-and-pony shows for Congressmen, cooking the books to make themselves look good, and giving away citizenship to ineligible people as part of the 1995 Citizenship America campaign.

Bush also spoke out against Proposition 187 in California, saying it was unfair to children who deserved an education. In his political parsing, he was silent on the other public benefits.

He often touted his expertise as the governor of a border state.

He was talking in vague terms about guest worker programs as early as April of 2000. And he wanted a strong border to keep illegals out in the first place.

From his 2000 candidate website: “Governor Bush believes that immigration is not a problem to be solved, but the sign of a successful nation. As Governor of a border state, he knows first-hand the benefits legal immigrants bring to America. While he is strongly opposed to illegal immigration, he believes more should be done to welcome legal immigrants. Therefore, he will establish a 6-month standard for processing immigration applications, encourage family reunification, and split the INS into two agencies: one focused on enforcement, and one focused on naturalization and immigration services.”

Now, here’s John McCain’s website:

"Immigration is one of those challenging issues that touch on many aspects of American life.

"I have always believed that our border must be secure and that the federal government has utterly failed in its responsibility to ensure that it is secure. If we have learned anything from the recent immigration debate, it is that Americans have little trust that their government will honor a pledge to do the things necessary to make the border secure.

"As president, I will secure the border. I will restore the trust Americans should have in the basic competency of their government. A secure border is an essential element of our national security. Tight border security includes not just the entry and exit of people, but also the effective screening of cargo at our ports and other points of entry.
But a secure border will contribute to addressing our immigration problem most effectively if we also:

"Recognize the importance of building strong allies in Mexico and Latin America who reject the siren call of authoritarians like Hugo Chavez, support freedom and democracy, and seek strong domestic economies with abundant economic opportunities for their citizens.

"Recognize the importance of pro-growth policies -- keeping government spending in check, holding down taxes, and cutting unnecessary regulatory burdens -- so American businesses can hire and pay the best.

"Recognize the importance of a flexible labor market to keep employers in business and our economy on top. It should provide skilled Americans and immigrants with opportunity. Our education system should ensure skills for our younger workers, and our retraining and assistance programs for displaced workers must be modernized so they can pursue those opportunities

"Recognize the importance of assimilation of our immigrant population, which includes learning English, American history and civics, and respecting the values of a democratic society.

"Recognize that America will always be that "shining city upon a hill," a beacon of hope and opportunity for those seeking a better life built on hard work and optimism.

"Border security and our failed immigration system are more examples of an ailing Washington culture in need of reform to regain the trust of Americans. In too many areas -- from immigration and pork barrel spending to Social Security, health care, energy security and tax relief -- business-as-usual politics prevents addressing the important challenges facing our nation." (From the current John McCain website)

I like it when he says, “Americans have little trust that their government will honor a pledge, “ and “ an ailing Washington culture in need of reform to regain the trust of Americans,” and even “business-as-usual politics prevents addressing the important challenges facing our nation.” Does he think he somehow wasn’t involved in the nonsense of the past?

McCain has been in Washington since 1983, which means he was there for the 1986 amnesty, the reforms of 1994, 1996, and 1997, and the 9/11 disaster and subsequent commission. And he was in the thick of the immigration debate, co-sponsoring with Ted Kennedy (passing laws on immigration reform since 1962), and a member of the infamous "gang of 12" who tried to force-feed us amnesty last summer.

The most distance he can claim on that fiasco was when others accused him of “parachuting” into the committee well into the process. McCain shot back at his accusers with, “I know more about this issue than anyone else in this room.” Rumor has it that McCain added some color to that comment in the form of the f-bomb. You’d have to ask Cornyn for an exact quote.

So, when you step back it is like seeing a bad Bush movie all over again. McCain blames Washington (without implicating himself), praises immigration, talks about a secure border, and moves on with meaningless rhetoric. It isn’t likely that America wants four more years of the same when it comes to immigration, but I fear that McCain is offering just that.

His stance on immigration is nothing more than telling the voters, “I know more about this issue than you do.”

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