A New York Post cover from back when Benghazi was hotter.
Conservatives want, so very desperately, for Benghazi to be Barack Obama's undoing. And you have to give them credit for trying. Yesterday's hearing, hyped like it was the Super Bowl by Fox News, wasn't actually the first or the second or the fifth on the topic, and each one is supposed to deliver the blockbuster revelation that will finally show America just how evil the Obama administration really is. But if you look at the way they've been talking about it, you can see some faint glimmers of doubt. Sure, you can always find somebody to come on Fox and take the speculation to an absurd level ("Did Hillary Clinton order the consulate to be unprotected because Ambassador Stevens knew she's an al Qaeda operative and she wanted him killed? We just don't know"). But I think all that speculation is sapping their spirits. After a while it gets tiresome to keep harping on what might have happened or why, when it would be so much more satisfying if there were some actual incriminating facts you could bring to bear. For instance, they know there was a cover-up, because every good scandal has a cover-up, but they can't even say just what was being covered up. That's kind of an important part of the story. For god's sake, they're still going on about Susan Rice's inaccurate Sunday show talking points, not because they feel like that's the heart of the nefarious conspiracy, but because they haven't come up with anything more damning.
I'm not saying conservatives don't believe that something sinister happened, because they surely do...
When the Heritage Foundation released that study showing that immigration reform would cost American taxpayers a gajillion feptillion bazillion dollars, people were obviously going to pick it apart and reveal its flaws and tendentious assumptions, which they did. But today came something else interesting. Dylan Matthews read the dissertation written by one of the authors, Jason Richwine, in which Richwin writes that "The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations." In order to deal with the problem, Richwine suggests IQ-testing everyone who wants to immigrate, and taking only the smart ones. As Matthews describes it, "Richwine's dissertation asserts that there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races...He writes, 'No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.'" Well now.
So: does this provide even more reason to reject the Heritage study Richwine co-wrote? In other words, how much weight should we give to someone's repellent views on a topic when evaluating an empirical piece of work they produce? If you conclude that Richwine has bad intentions, can that be all you need to know to reject what he has to say about the costs of immigration reform?
As an aficionado of American regional resentment and distrust, not to mention someone who grew up in the Garden State, I find the question of whether Chris Christie could take his Jersey style national and win the hearts of Republican presidential primary voters to be quite interesting. Would a party whose center of gravity lies firmly in the South being willing to seriously consider not just a guy from New Jersey, but a guy who is obviously from New Jersey? Christie recently told the New York Post that he had lap-band surgery a couple of months ago, so by the time the Iowa caucuses roll around, he could look a little less like Bobby Bacala and a little more
like the kind of rugged outdoorsman Republicans favor. But will that be enough? Yesterday, Philip Klein of the Washington Examinerargued that the answer is going to be no:
If you've read or heard anything about immigration today, it probably had to do with a just-released Heritage Foundation report claiming that immigration reform will cost America eleventy bazillion dollars, or as the enormous headline on their web site screams, "The COST of Amnesty TO YOU." If you're interested in a point-by-point analysis of why the assumptions and omissions in the report skew things so absurdly, you can read Dylan Matthews or Alex Nowrasteh, but you have to hand it to Heritage: despite the questionable quality of the work and its obvious intent to scuttle immigration reform, they've gotten a tremendous amount of attention for it.
That's partly a result of good timing (nobody else had attempted to put a dollar figure on reform, so they were the first), and partly due to what I'm sure is a large and skilled communication staff. The way these things work is that your policy people write the report, then your communication people work the phones and email to get reporters to write stories about it, bloggers to blog about it, and members of Congress who find its conclusions pleasing to talk about it when they give floor speeches or go on TV. Most think-tank reports fall like drops of rain on the ocean, little noticed by all but a small circle of people intensely interested in whatever the topic is; this is one of those rare ones that gets much more attention. The Heritage communication department is no doubt pretty pleased with the job they did.
But the topic—what kinds of financial costs are associated with immigration reform—is something that no one on either side actually cares about, not really. Because money isn't anyone's primary consideration.