IF BUSH WELCOMES IMMIGRANTS, WHY PANDER TO THEIR ENEMIES? In today's Times, Elisabeth Bumiller offers a rather remarkable take on President Bush's immigration speech. She basically said that because his rhetoric was more accommodating than his actual policy proposals, it meant that his approach is "more subtle" than his proposed real-world solutions suggest. She tells us that "what was remarkable to people in Texas was how much he still believes in the power of immigration to invigorate the nation," and adds paragraph after paragraph about Bush's embrace of immigrants while in Texas. Why, he even likes to joke with Hispanic people! (Or maybe not, as Atrios notes.)
Look, Bush probably does think immigration is a positive force. But that only makes Bush's speech more cynical, not less. In the real world -- as opposed to the alternate universe of Bush's welcoming rhetoric -- his speech moves us away, not toward, a solution that fully acknowledges this. The largest policy proposals in his speech amounted, pure and simple, to appeasement for the enforcement-only crowd. By pandering to the enemies of the immigrants that Bush so likes to joke around with, he emboldens the most vocal and adamant foes of what is being referred to as a "compromise" or "middle-ground" in this debate. He shifts the point of possible compromise in their direction. Yes, Bush did voice support for a guest-worker program and disagreed with the most adamant immigration foes in other ways, and it's probably true that enemies of immigration would see this as a great betrayal. Be that as it may, it's hardly the proof of the more "welcoming" attitude rooted in his personal history that Bumiller sees it as. Her operating principle here seems to be that because Bush only gave the most rabid immigration foes some of what they want and not everything they want, that somehow amounts to a courageous stand against them born of his own principles.
But this speech was pure, unadulterated politics. Without getting into the debate that El Supremo Mike has stirred up about the Mexican border, Ezra was right to note that Bush has never shown interest in border patrol and has generally been pro-immigrant -- and suddenly, because the floor's dropping out from under his presidency, he turns around and demagogues it to the fear-mongers and xenophobes who despise the very immigrants that Bush is supposed to want to "welcome." The fact that Bush didn't betray his principles as comprehensively as he might have shouldn't turn this into an occasion, as Bumiller does, to celebrate his supposed adherence to them.