Carol Platt Liebau: Keeping Your Enemies Close

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Keeping Your Enemies Close

Here is an account of President Bush's meeting with a "bipartisan" group of senators about an immigration bill compromise.

For all my readers who have written to accuse me of never criticizing the President, well, I'm about to. Of course I think he's a strong and principled leader, and I support him.

But not on what he's doing about this bill, or the way he's gone about it. Guess who was at The White House meeting? Yes, of course Democrat political opponents like Senators Reid, Kennedy and Obama were there. That's to be expected.

But what's grating is who represented all Republicans: Senators McCain, Hagel, Graham, and Martinez -- all of whom support the softer, less-security-oriented (and unacceptable-to-a-great-swathe-of-the-country) immigration bill. According to Rush Limbaugh, Senators Kyl and Cornyn weren't even invited to the meeting.

With all due respect to the President, that's slap in the face -- not only to two of his most loyal supporters in the Senate, but also to the constituency for whom they speak. When the McCains, Hagels, and Grahams of the world are criticizing President Bush, the Kyls and Cornyns rise to his defense. So what can explain his cutting them out of the loop on such an important issue? Surely the President understands that his political opponents -- and theirs -- will try to use that decision as a basis for arguing that their views are allegedly "out of the mainstream."

Rewarding the McCain/Hagels with attention and access only buttresses the sense that they are Republican power-brokers, and moreover is precisely the way to encourage more of their grandstanding behavior (which most of the time is exercised to the President's detriment). It makes no sense to do it, especially when at the same time the loyalists like Cornyn and Kyl -- who represent a legitimate (and popular!) point of view -- are ignored.

Finally, on the immigration issue itself: President Bush is a profoundly good man -- and it's easy to understand why he feels for the many good Mexican people who are coming here hoping for nothing more than a job and a better way of life for their children. Don't we all?

But for someone who has such good gut instincts, it's puzzling that he doesn't realize that most of the people who disagree with him on immigration issues aren't doing so out of slack-jawed know-nothing bigotry, but because of serious security concerns about the border. And although one hates to play the "elitism" card, the President needs to take a moment to understand the frustration of ordinary taxpayers who sit on the highway, and experience crowded (or closed) emergency rooms and schools that can't do their job because of the unprecedented influx of illegal immigrants.

Governors who are the sons of Presidents have never had to worry about such quotidian matters (just like all those blessed with either money or connections). But many hardworking, everyday people do have to worry about overcrowded schools, highways and even prisons. Politicians who appear arrogantly to dismiss those concerns do so at their peril, and rightly so.


Blogger Bachbone said...

I can hear it now from the leftists, "Yeah, but your criticisms are tepid." Nothing but your saying, "Impeach Bush!" will satisfy them. But bookmark this post, Carol, so you can pull it up quickly.

2:29 PM  

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