No Red Meat, Just Serious Policy
President Bush's speech wasn't an earth shattering news-maker, but it was certainly better than early reports from the White House yesterday afternoon led us to expect.
But now, because of the speech, the President can state that he's the only person on record with a real immigration reform plan that is strong on enforcement, and which recognizes that we can't load all illegals up in a dumpster and roll them off in Tijuana. He also very appropriately cast the National Guard involvement as temporary until we get a permanent border security force to replace them. And it shows that Tony Snow had a hand in crafting the speech when Bush blunted the near-certain Democrat criticisms that using National Guard troops would affect the war on terror, Iraq, Afghanistan or anything else they may use as ammo in their ever-present desire to be against anything Bush does.
The call for English to be learned was equally important, although he stopped short of calling for it to be the national language which would have been a coup for conservatives.
And the path to citizenship he described was an excellent way of dealing with those on the right who want to employ the aforementioned dumpster strategy. Amnesty means that we reward lawbreaking. The path to citizenship means that illegals must pay and then get at the end of the line if they want to be part of the program.
It's a very good middle ground strategy, but in this environment, it's hard to have a successful moderate strategy when one is upsetting one's own base. It's a problem that Hillary Clinton will have to deal with, and which ultimately bit John Kerry in 2004.
But Bush is not so much up to a moderate strategy as he is getting real and effective immigration reform. And he may just get it, but he needs to be wary of the Democrat snakes waiting in the weeds. Because while Ted Kennedy is touted as one of the leaders on immigration reform, Ted has never tacked anywhere close to the center in the last 25 years unless there was a bottle of Chivas there for him. And if Bush gets too cozy with these people who reward kindness with backstabbing in their insatiable quest for more and more state power for their own use, he will suffer his father's fate back in 1991 where cooperation with Democrats meant a betrayal of his base and one of his biggest political promises.
It was a very good start. But he needs to remain focused and very publicly engaged. He needs to be seen doing something on this issue, because its success or failure depends completely upon how he personally pushes this issue.