Who Decides for the Decider?

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As President Bush and his handlers prep for the 8 pm address, it's worth remembering how little the president wanted to confront the issue of immigration this year. It didn't come up in his 2004 Republican convention speech (although the assembled at Madison Square Garden did chant "Viva Bush!" and the Republic didn't collapse). The 2005 State of the Union contained one paragraph about immigration: the need for "temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take." The 2006 SOTU also contained one paragraph about immigration, wherein Bush pledged "stronger immigration enforcement and border protection" alongside "a rational, humane guest worker program." In all of these cases, Bush pushed far, far harder for entitlement reform, legal reform, tax cuts, and wars of liberation than he did for any kind of immigration changes. More than that, the policy shift Bush is expected to endorse tonight—militarization of the border—cuts against his image and his previously-expressed feelings on the issue.

Social Security reform hit the rocks after the president stumped relentlessly; immigration reform has taken center stage even as the president did his best to ignore it. Why? Support for the former reform was top-down, but passion for the latter issue was real and bubbled up from citizen activism. Virtually all of the lobbying for Social Security reform came from beltway think tanks or groups somehow aligned with the GOP. Virtually all of the lobbying for immigration came from completely unconnected groups—the Minutemen, talk radio, cable news. Whatever your stance on the border debate, it's a nice reminder of how little control the executive actually has over the course of events.

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  1. Curious, that. It really does look that way, and yet…

    I currently live in southern California, where anyone foolish enough to tune to a talk radio station risks permanent deafness from the screaming about “illegal aliens” and the way they’re destroying the state and the republic. I assume all those talk show hosts mow their own lawns and wash their own cars, but I haven’t done a survey. Anyway, there’s no doubt that a lot of people not affiliated with the Feds are beating a helluva lot of war drums over the issue. And Bush certainly does seem to be getting dragged into the matter kicking and screaming.

    And yet… (tinfoil tophat time) Why does it all seem to fit so neatly into the business-as-usual scaremongering that this government has used so often and (sometimes) so well? Could it be that they’re getting…subtle?

  2. secret decider of secret decision?

    um.

    nah. nevermind.

    /kicks pebble

  3. So…why is this a crisis now, anyway? I mean, yes, security post 9/11, but why *now* as opposed to any time in the past four and change years? The numbers haven’t spiked that much this year, have they?

  4. The democrats are going to let the mexican terrorists get gay married!

    The “troops on the borders” bit seems hugely popular out there. I’d guess I’d rather have him playing commander in chief down there than Iran.

  5. So…why is this a crisis now, anyway?

    They need an issue for election time, and didn’t want to use teh gay again.

  6. I’d guess I’d rather have him playing commander in chief down there than Iran.

    Speaking as one of the people “down there,” I don’t agree. I’d rather he stop doing it at all.

  7. Even from a pro-armed camp, anti-immigration perspective, this is dumb. The Border Patrol was underfunded, yet Bush is proposing to have the job done less effictively, for more money, by making it a military operation.

    I can’t believe anyone on any side of the immigration debate could be dumb enough to support this farce.

  8. I can’t believe anyone on any side of the immigration debate could be dumb enough to support this farce.

    ah, but once their down there the immigration debate can get back to where it really belongs: whether or not you support the troops.

  9. They need an issue for election time, and didn’t want to use teh gay again.

    Well, sure. I was wondering more what triggered them to a) pick this one, and b) pick this one over their Elector-in-Chief’s wishes, and c) what their excuse was.

    I know it’s because there’s hatin’ goin’ a-wastin’.

  10. I can’t believe anyone on any side of the immigration debate could be dumb enough to support this farce.

    I wish nobody was dumb enough for this, but the counter evidence is pretty convincing. sigh.

  11. “I can’t believe anyone on any side of the immigration debate could be dumb enough to support this farce.”

    *sigh*

    I can, and I find it depressing as all get out.

  12. joe,
    “yet Bush is proposing to have the job done less effictively, for more money, by making it a military operation.”

    The Border Patrol does not answer directly to Bush, and has unions and stuff. The military will do whatever he tells them too. That said, I’m suprised he doesn’t have the military delivering the mail and pumping gas, among other jobs; what better way to control everything.

  13. Why now? I think Jesse Walker had it right in his post down below. The War on Terrorism has encouraged xenophobic, nationalistic sentiments that don’t have a real outlet. The talk radio guys don’t want to talk about Iraq or Bin Laden because it’s just demoralizing. You can only spend so much time railing at “liberals” for destroying the country when both houses of Congress, the SC and the White House are all controlled by conservatives. So now is a perfect time to get outraged by illegal immigrants. But don’t worry, as soon as we go to war against Iran all this anti-immigrant talk will fade away again…

  14. You guys are doing great. Don’t let it slip that illegal immigration is holding down the power of labor vs. capital, please, not even accidentally. Have you tried to even _find_ an American to wash your yacht these days?

  15. Hey Big Bidness,
    What happened – immigrant take your job? I doubt it.
    I am sick of specious arguments against immigration. Many people are misinformed, but far too many are xenophobic and/or racist. Examine the facts, then tell me why you are against immigration. I have no vested interest other than I live here and I think the immigration is good for our economy. (the rant isn’t against you in particular, Big Bidness)

  16. Oh, but I just noticed the marxist angle to your post, Big Bidness.
    You can go to heck anyway!

  17. The revived immigration debate is just a reminder to me that Americans care about what they’re told to care about (/sweeping, defeatist generalization). But seriously, one of my friends told me a few weeks ago he was going to run for some office or other on a strictly anti-illegal-immigrant platform. Why that?? He’s been hearing stories on the job lately and he’s worked up about it.

  18. …passion for [immigration] was real and bubbled up from citizen activism…Virtually all of the lobbying for immigration came from completely unconnected groups – the Minutemen, talk radio, cable news…

    OK, I’l grant you the Minutemen, David, but I have hard time accepting talk radio and cable news as not being part of “beltway think tanks or groups somehow aligned with the GOP”.

  19. Watching Bush as I type this, I just had to roll my eyes as he uses phrases like “ask Congress for funds”, “technology spending”, etc. It’s a never-ending, deficit-digging binge to this fool, and his presidency is just one long sitting on Santa’s lap with a Christmas Wishlist in hand.

    Illegal immigrants have nothing to worry about. After Bush and the GOP’s cronies rob the American people of billions in the name of “privatization” and “contracting”, as we saw in Iraq, the border situation will be WORSE OFF than before Shrub Jr. put his grubby, little paws on the issue.

  20. I’m confused. If the National Guard is all off in Iraq, where are they going to find enough of ’em to defend the border? Last I heard recruiting and retention was, well, not doing so well.

  21. Last I heard recruiting and retention was, well, not doing so well.

    Petey Patsy: Gee, Sgt Rock, if I join the Guard, I’ll have to go to Iraq!
    Sgt Rock Recruiter: Hell no, Petey! You can be part of the thin Green line against Mexicans!

  22. Maybe the National Guard will use this as a recruiting ploy.
    18 year old kid: “I don’t wanna end up driving supply trucks from Baghdad to Tikrit.”
    Recruiter: “Iraq?!? No, no, we’ll send you to Tijuana! Ever been to a donkey-show?”

    6 months later, that kid’s cleaning shrapnel out of his ass.

  23. highnumber,

    That’s the spirit. Good show, old boy! We can’t have people making an honest living doing menial work; otherwise, they’ll have no incentive to better themselves. This 40 hour work week has got to go too.

  24. “This 40 hour work week has got to go too.”
    40 hours?????
    where do you work? are they hiring?

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