We did what we set out to do: the Senate immigration “compromise” bill became another “Miers Moment” for President Bush. Last week conservative political power was asserted more strongly than it had been since we forced the withdrawal of Hapless Harriet’s nomination to the Supreme Court. We — which means all of you who took to the phones to call Congress and talk radio, who made the effort to send the thousands of e-mails senators received asking them to opposed the bill — were the key factor that enabled the bill’s opponents to prevent passage last week.
We should feel good about this victory. It proved what we all knew but the White House and some Republicans have forgotten: that the “inside the Beltway” crowd takes a huge political risk by ignoring the conservative base of the Republican Party. But we have time only for the briefest of celebrations, because this battle is a long way from won. President Bush, Sen. John McCain and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-N.V.) are still determined to pass this awful bill.
While we prepare for the next round, let’s not just excoriate the goats who insist that this bill is good for America. And take the time to honor those few who have fought them to a standstill. There were plenty of the former, and just enough of the latter. First, the heroes.
They are workhorses, not show horses. They stood up against the insults from their own President and the likes of Sen. Lindsay Graham (Embarrassment — S.C.) who memorably called the bill’s opponents “bigots.” The few were able to withstand the calumnies of the many in the media, their supposed Senate colleagues and the White House pressure for two reasons. First, they knew they were right. Second, you were there — in great numbers — backing their play. Senate phone banks were jammed as calls from all over America flooded in, telling Senators that the “compromise” wasn’t good for America.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.) fought every step of the way arguing against the bill and its devastating effect on our security and our economy. Fellow conservative Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) stood athwart the bill’s path and earning the enmity of the New York Times’ editorial page by saying, “If it hurts the bill, I’m for it.” (Note to Sen. DeMint: if Pinch, MoDo, and Jill are attacking you, it’s proof beyond reasonable doubt that you’re doing the right thing.)
As always Texas Republican John Cornyn was there to defend conservative principles with intellectual force and political skill. Cornyn’s amendment to prevent criminals from obtaining amnesty was a poison pill to the amnesty crowd. And — credit given where due — Sen. Byron Dorgan (D.-N.D.) fought hard to place some rational limit on the guest worker program. If he sticks to his guns, he may be the next Joe Lieberman, outcast from the Democratic Party of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Howard Dean. Which isn’t at all a bad thing.
All four were helped by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.), without whose political management the bill might have passed. Laurels to The Fab Five, and sour apples to the goats. The usual suspects are the goats, but there are standouts among them, from President Bush and Sen. McCain to Sen. Jon Kyl and McCain’s acolyte, Lindsay Graham.
Driving John McCain’s getaway car, Lindsay Graham took to the Senate floor Wednesday night to beg for help from his pals, Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama. At issue was Obama’s amendment to shorten the preference for skilled immigrants over family members. Apparently surprised that he had been used like a rented mule, Graham whined that Obama’s amendment undercut, “…everybody over here who’s walked the plank and told our base, ‘You’re wrong’.” Graham is — we hope justifiably — scared of the backlash that may come from South Carolina conservatives when he seeks reelection next year.
For Graham to have learned from this experience is, I’m sure, too much to hope for. Neither the President nor John McCain have learned. On Sunday, McCain — on “ABC with Stephanopoulos” — blamed this temporary defeat on, “The more conservative, anti-immigrant, anti legislation group…” (apparently Cornyn, Sessions and DeMint), “…backed up by a vocal group of people that were supporting them,” (that would be us, folks).
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow defended the bill, emphasizing that the President would give it another push. But he also told CBS’s Bob Schieffer that the White House realized that people have concerns about border security and that, “we’ve heard you.” Though we will always think of Tony as a friend, the only answer to that is, “prove it.” Build Duncan Hunter’s fence.
In the June 5 Republican candidates’ debate, Hunter criticized both the Senate bill and the Bush administration for not building the already-legislated fence along the Mexican border. He labeled the Senate bill “disastrous” and said that border enforcement is a national security issue. And he talked about the fence he championed: “…the Hunter bill, which was signed by the president on the 26th of October, mandating 854 miles of double fence — not that scraggly little fence you show on CNN all the time, Wolf, that people get across so easily — if they get across my fence, we sign them up for the Olympics immediately. We’ve got a big fence. But 854 miles of double border fence was mandated to be constructed. Homeland Security has a billion bucks, cash on hand. It’s been six months, and they’ve done 11 miles.”
There is no need for further legislation to build those 854 miles of fence (or to take many other measures to improve border security.) In the debate, Hunter said the Bush administration has a case of “the slows” on building that fence. If the President really has heard us, he could cure that with one phone call to Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff.
Please make that call, Mr. President. It won’t buy our support for that awful Senate bill, or end this Miers Moment for you. But it would prove what Tony Snow said was true.