Is Bush Preparing to Touch the New Third Rail?
Monday night, President Bush is preparing to lay out an immigration plan, which leads me to believe that Karl Rove is planning yet another coup.
I said last week that it seems that Rove is positioning the pieces on the political chessboard to have the Dems deliver for themselves an election year embarrassment by reminding voters that they are only interested in appointments of ACLU judges to the federal bench, and that they favor abolishing terror-preventing national security programs in favor of ACLU standards of privacy for such terrorists by setting up the possibility of contentious confirmation hearings for former NSA head Gen. Michael Hayden as CIA director.
But is Rove planning a bold move to corner the immigration issue as well?
It's hard to imagine that he could score a reversal on the Dems, as immigration seems to be their strongest card at this point. But one of the first rules anyone should learn about Rove is that he should never be underestimated.
If the President comes out with a umpteen prong plan to fix the immigration problem, the speech is dead on arrival, and it will be marked as Bush's last stand. If his plan depends in any significant way upon action from Congress, ditto.
But if this is Rove genius at work, regardless of what Bush believes about guest workers and paths to citizenship, his big pitch will be enforcement--something he needs ask no permission to do.
The laws we have on the books at this point to combat illegal immigration are good enough. It is the Executive Branch's duty to enforce them with no further input from Congress. So the President needs to come out against border-crossers, drug smugglers and the like. He needs to make clear that he is doing this because a permeable southern border is a significant vulnerability in the war on terror because the Government of Mexico, which is unwilling to do anything to abate drug smuggling or illegal border crossing, but rather seems eager to assist in both (almost legalizing possession and use of drugs and printing how-to manuals for crossing the border), is an irresponsible neighbor and cannot be trusted to behave in anything but a treacherous manner. He needs to come down hard on enforcement of the laws we have, as they penalize nobody but those who seek to break our laws and enter our nation for their own self-interest, and likely to endanger our citizens. He also needs to make clear that we welcome people who wish to immigrate from Mexico to become U.S. citizens, and that nothing is ever going to change in that regard. And then we need a wall, a fence, whatever--some imposing physical barrier that actually prevents illegal border crossings.
With respect to a guest worker program or amnesty, he needs to remain largely silent. Americans really don't care a heck of a lot about helping people who want to take dollars south and who are here for the benefits but none of the social responsibilities of citizenship. And the protests over the past months as well as the national anthem being rewritten and translated into Spanish have done much to erode any good will that the illegal immigration lobby may have ever had. Bush need not pander to these folks, as he does so at the peril of the conservative base that won him 2000, 2002 and 2004.
And in a spinning dagger attack, Bush may wish to plunge one in the heart and then back of Harry Reid by dropping the very subtle veiled suggestion that the Senate Democratic leadership is all about blanket amnesty. It's a bit of a dirty trick, but there is little question that the left ultimately wants to forgive lawbreaking and punish those who have and continue to trudge through the system because they want to be U.S. citizens. So in yet another Rove Catch-22, this would be Bush's chance to make the Dems very publicly commit themselves to a position. It would have the effect of putting the Dems on the defensive for a change, by forcing them to either 1) demagogue the issue and call Bush a racist for not favoring some form amnesty--thereby implying that they do--sounding absolutely silly, leaving them open for easy attack as being pro-amnesty, and positioning them very poorly for November in tight races, or 2) disavowing amnesty altogether thus alienating the Che Guevara elements of their base whom we saw protesting in past weeks.
And it would position Bush on top of the biggest issue in the minds of Americans, potentially staying ahead of the Dems on security and the judiciary as well. Which are just the issues his party needs foremost in the minds of voters for 2006.
Nothing else will work. If Bush goofs it with a typical Washington response, this new third rail will zap him for the rest of his presidency. But if he plays it right, the power coming off that rail can really energize his party at a time when they badly need it.