2007 June 03 Sunday
Bush And Conservatives Split Hard On Immigration

I am amazed and surprised by the events of the last week in conservative circles. After years of watching conservatives offer very partisan defenses of Bush as a supposed fellow conservative I honestly did not expect them to reconsider. Bush's support for the Senate immigration amnesty bill S.1348 and his insulting defense of it is serving as some kind of final straw that broke the back of support for Bush from mainstream Republican commentators. Whoever thought that the mainstream sorta-conservatives would finally rebel at the latest revision of a plan for Electing a New People? Yet the split is now looking pretty deep. The New York Times has noticed what is happening in the right wing blogosphere and with right wing columnists.

WASHINGTON, June 2 — President Bush’s advocacy of an immigration overhaul and his attacks on critics of the plan are provoking an unusually intense backlash from conservatives who form the bulwark of his remaining support, splintering his base and laying bare divisions within a party whose unity has been the envy of Democrats.

It has pitted some of Mr. Bush’s most stalwart Congressional and grass-roots backers against him, inciting a vitriol that has at times exceeded anything seen yet between Mr. Bush and his supporters, who have generally stood with him through the toughest patches of his presidency. Those supporters now view him as pursuing amnesty for foreign law breakers when he should be focusing on border security.

Conservatives feel offended that not only do they oppose what Bush is for but Bush is insulting them.

This week, after Mr. Bush’s suggestion that those opposing the Congressional plan “don’t want to do what’s right for America” inflamed conservative passions, Rush Limbaugh told listeners, “I just wish he hadn’t done it because he’s not going to lose me on Iraq, and he’s not going to lose me on national security.” He added, “But he might lose some of you.”

Note to Rush: You are one slow learner. Bush lost me years ago.

Such sentiments have reverberated through talk radio, conservative publications like National Review and Fox News. They have also appeared on Web sites including RedState.com and FreeRepublic.com, where postings reflect a feeling that Mr. Bush is smiting his own coalition in pursuit of a badly needed domestic accomplishment, and working in league with the likes of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a co-author of the legislation.

Yes, right-wingers, Bush is smiting you. Try to remember this after the fight over S.1348 is over. He doesn't respect you. He is using you. He is a bad President of the United States.

Former Ronald Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan has taken a very firm position in opposition to the immigration bill cooked up by Bush and some US Senators. Noonan calls the bill a lie.

Naturally I hope the new immigration bill fails. It is less a bill than a big dirty ball of mischief, malfeasance and mendacity, with a touch of class malice, and it's being pushed by a White House that is at once cynical and inept. The bill's Capitol Hill supporters have a great vain popinjay's pride in their own higher compassion. They are inclusive and you're not, you cur, you gun-totin' truckdriver's-hat-wearin' yahoo. It's all so complex, and you'd understand this if you weren't sort of dumb.

In a later column Noonan went even further and on June 1, 2007 announced a deep split between George W. Bush and the conservative base.

What political conservatives and on-the-ground Republicans must understand at this point is that they are not breaking with the White House on immigration. They are not resisting, fighting and thereby setting down a historical marker--"At this point the break became final." That's not what's happening. What conservatives and Republicans must recognize is that the White House has broken with them. What President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a great political coalition. This is sad, and it holds implications not only for one political party but for the American future.

The White House doesn't need its traditional supporters anymore, because its problems are way beyond being solved by the base. And the people in the administration don't even much like the base. Desperate straits have left them liberated, and they are acting out their disdain. Leading Democrats often think their base is slightly mad but at least their heart is in the right place. This White House thinks its base is stupid and that its heart is in the wrong place.

For almost three years, arguably longer, conservative Bush supporters have felt like sufferers of battered wife syndrome.

To the Bush supporters who feel like battered wives I say: stop torturing yourselves. Admit your mistake for having supported Bush in the first place. We all make mistakes.

Noonan has been developing her doubts about Bush for over 2 years and Noonan's critique is devastating.

The beginning of my own sense of separation from the Bush administration came in January 2005, when the president declared that it is now the policy of the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world, and that the survival of American liberty is dependent on the liberty of every other nation. This was at once so utopian and so aggressive that it shocked me. For others the beginning of distance might have been Katrina and the incompetence it revealed, or the depth of the mishandling and misjudgments of Iraq.

What I came in time to believe is that the great shortcoming of this White House, the great thing it is missing, is simple wisdom. Just wisdom--a sense that they did not invent history, that this moment is not all there is, that man has lived a long time and there are things that are true of him, that maturity is not the same thing as cowardice, that personal loyalty is not a good enough reason to put anyone in charge of anything, that the way it works in politics is a friend becomes a loyalist becomes a hack, and actually at this point in history we don't need hacks.

She sure has his number. Well Peggy, welcome to the ranks of the disaffected. You might want to take the time to read people who figured out Bush's character flaws years ago. Lawrence Auster had Bush pegged in 2000.

The most interesting development on the immigration issue comes from neoconservative disagreements with Bush. Many of the Jewish neocons have taken immigration positions more like those of Jewish liberals. But David Frum and Charles Krauthammer are part of a growing list of neocons attacking Bush on immigration.

But the campaign for legalization does not stop at stupidity and farce. It adds mendacity as well — such as the front-page story in last Friday’s New York Times claiming that “a large majority of Americans want to change the immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants to gain legal status.”

Sounds unbelievable. And it is. A Rasmussen poll had shown that 72 percent of Americans thought border enforcement and reducing illegal immigration to be very important. Only 29 percent thought legalization to be very important. Indeed, when a different question in the Times poll — one that did not make the front page — asked respondents if they wanted to see illegal immigrants prosecuted and deported, 69 percent said yes.

Mark Levin at National Review Online says Bush is losing him.

I guess it's legacy time over at the White House.  The president is imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger now.  Does the president have any conservative domestic initiatives that he's actively pursuing?  If so, I'd like to know what they are.  Richard Nixon tried this when his ratings were low.  It didn't work.

Mr. President, the Left hated you the day you walked into the Oval Office, if not before.  Their hate for you is frozen in time.  If you actually believe in what you are doing, then I and many others misjudged you.  You expanded the federal role in education, and we held our nose because of the war.  You signed McCain-Feingold in the dead of night, and we held our nose because of the war.  You expanded Medicare by adding prescription drugs, and we held our nose because of the war.  You increased farm subsidies, and we held our nose because of the war. 

So glad I didn't have to hold my nose due to support for the war. Bush was wrong on the war and the extent of his wrongness gets deeper with every passing day.

Levin does not like the feeling he gets when a Republican President attacks him.

Today you disparage us for opposing a massive amnesty program that endangers our economy and national security.  Today you even embrace the religion of global warming, a stunning shift from prior policy (your administration even went to the Supreme Court and argued correctly that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant). 
What's a conservative to do?

Mark, try dumping your remaining loyalty to the Republican President (assuming you have any) and put your loyalty to the United States of America first.

An amazingly large fraction of the National Review writers have begun taking positions on immigration like you find here, at View From The Right, and among VDare writers. For example, Mark Levin clearly understands many of the problems with illegal immigration and open borders:

Open borders do not promote free markets here or in Mexico.  They promote big government here and corruption in Mexico.  Nor do open borders promote limited government, sound fiscal policy, the rule of law, and a host of other fundamental conservative principles for which the Wall Street Journal editorial page once stood.  Milton Friedman understood this.  Tom Sowell understands it.  And most Americans do as well.

I wish Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok would let themselves understand this.

Right wing commentator Laura Ingraham recently went on a tirade against Bush calling him a "neoliberal" (MP3 - worth a listen). Okay, yes, Bush is not a conservative. He's some sort of fundamentalist Christian neoliberal hawk - a rare hybrid which confuses everyone. But Laura, what took you so long? Though I guess I shouldn't be harsh on her. Better late than never.

The depth of Laura Ingraham's anger comes over clearly when she describes how opponents of the immigration amnesty feel about Bush's statements and position on immigration:

Is he kidding me with this? Here' s what I don't understand: This president will go out of his way to not question the motives of the Democrats who cut funding off from our troops. What does he always say? I'm not questioning your patriotism. What was that? If you ask me that was an implicit criticism of the patriotism of all the Americans out there who want our border enforced. They want the laws enforced. They want what's right for America Mr. President. I can tell you that. And they don't much like a President of the United States that they hit the pavement for and were ridiculed for supporting to turn his back on them. And not just turn his back on them, but throw, kick them to the curb. Oh you're just too stupid to understand this. That's what's underneath all this.

Bush's exact label on some ideological scale is less important than Peggy Noonan's remark: Bush lacks wisdom. One can be a conservative and be much wiser than Bush. One can be a liberal and be much wiser than Bush. The guy is unwise. He is uncurious. He's self righteous and convinced that he follows the will of God. Yet when he prays he obviously only listens to himself. He's a bad President.

I sense that Bush has overreached so far and has so insulted conservatives that we've crossed a Rubicon of sorts. But will their shock cause a permanent rupture between them and Bush? Have they learned a lasting deep lesson? Will the major mainstream conservative commentators stay disaffected toward Bush? Guesses anyone?

Update: Lawrence Auster thinks Bush deep down does not like conservatives.

Ok, so Ingraham now understands that Bush is harder on his own Republican loyalists than he is on the Democrats. But I don't think she yet gets what that really means--that Bush at bottom respects liberals and despises conservatives, because Bush's own deepest orientation is to the left, not the right.

I agree with Larry about Bush's own deepest orientation. But I suspect Ingraham might also as well when she calls Bush a "neoliberal". Still, Ingraham has a long way to go to fully understand what recent events have revealed to her.

What's more telling about the history of conservative commentary since the late 1990s? The commentators put too much value on group loyalty and loyalty to leaders and do not try hard enough to understand what is true in reality.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 June 03 12:56 PM  Immigration Politics

tommy said at June 3, 2007 2:41 PM:

I sense that Bush has overreached so far and has so insulted conservatives that we've crossed a Rubicon of sorts. But will their shock cause a permanent rupture between them and Bush? Have they learned a lasting deep lesson? Will the major mainstream conservative commentators stay disaffected toward Bush? Guesses anyone?

Yep, I get the sense it is all downhill from here with Bush. This was the straw that broke that camel's back. People who stuck up for Bush all these years are absolutely livid over this. Almost no one is apologizing for Jorge Arbusto this time around. What is most amazing isn't the loss of support for Bush, but the sea change of sentiment among conservatives on immigration even since Bush's last attempt at forcing an amnesty through Congress with Hagel-Martinez.

tommy said at June 3, 2007 3:01 PM:

Bush's sense of timing is off and his administration's rhetoric could not have been more poorly chosen. One of the reasons this is making people so angry is the Bush screw-ups it invokes. There is something here for everyone to hate. For national security hawks, the utter lack of enforcement and the visa loopholes in this bill are atrocious. Not to mention pulling this stunt while the Fort Dix bust is still fresh in everyone's minds. For pro-lifers who were angry over the attempt at putting Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court, the derisive, condescending rhetoric aimed at the base is all too familiar. For anti-immigrationists like you and I, the whole concept just stinks.

gcochran said at June 3, 2007 3:04 PM:

You know, these people had to be pretty gullible in the first place to have ever thought that the Iraq war made sense, and downright crazy/stupid to stick with it after its idiocy was apparent to the average six year old - let alone excuse every other kind of stupidity for its own sweet sake.

Stupid is forever.

Ned said at June 3, 2007 3:47 PM:

Bush really reminds me of LBJ. Also a Texan, Johnson was elected by a landslide to a full term as President in 1964 after assuming office following the death of Kennedy in 1963. But the Vietnam war alienated the liberals, and the massive Great Society boondoggles drove off the conservatives. In 1965, with a strong majority in Congress, LBJ looked like president for life. Yet less than four years later, he had forfeited all his political capital on a fruitless pursuit of victory in Vietnam and he was so unpopular that he knew couldn't be reelected. As Peggy Noonan pointed out, both Bushes excelled at squandering their political capital. Unless the Democrats try something really stupid, like trying to impeach him, the break between Bush and the conservatives is permanent and final.

Bob Badour said at June 3, 2007 5:46 PM:
He is a bad President of the United States.

I have taken to calling him the DiTTO president. He's the second Disgrace To The Office in a row.

John S Bolton said at June 4, 2007 12:52 AM:

There needs to be a recognition of the fact that S.1348's supporters quite obviously have neither reason nor morality on their side.
If they were morally confident, there would not have been an attempt, to sneak it through on a fast move under the radar.
Now the administration's contempt for the right-wing hardcore of support,
is being paraded quite openly in the form of smears;
but rational arguments remain unavailable,
or the highest-paid political manipulators out of a pool of hundreds of millions of
potential operators, could find one for S.1348.

D Flinchum said at June 4, 2007 3:34 AM:

"If they were morally confident, there would not have been an attempt, to sneak it through on a fast move under the radar."

Absolutely correct, JSB. And the funny thing is that they keep producing these "polls" showing all this popular support for amnesty. We know how they do this - by asking loaded questions and giving false and limited options. But this begs the question: If it's so dang popular, why are they working speedily behind closed doors to come up with a bill? Why not shout it from the rooftops so that we US citizens can go dancing in the streets with glee? If they manage to slam this loser through, we may be in the streets alright but we won't be dancing.

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