May 15, 2006

First Impressions: Bush's Speech On Immigration

Hatched by Dafydd

I'm splitting my initial response to Bush's speech tonight into three sections: Content, Delivery, and the Reaction I expect it will receive.


Overall, I liked the speech quite a bit. I wish President Bush had been more explicit about the fence; but he did mention it not once but twice, so there is no question he supports some amount of actual, real, physical fencing along the border.

The president unambiguously distinguished the fence from a mere "security barrier," which he prefers for the rural areas where few people are crossing now; the implication is that the barrier would be less aggressive than the fence, more like a classic vehicle-barrier -- chicanes, concrete blocks, checkpoints, maybe even automated spike-strips that can deploy in front of a vehicle trying to run the checkpoint (we use these in some places in Iraq).

So real, actual, and tough walls ("fencing") in high-traffic areas where there is a lot of illegal immigration, and a barrier in rural areas where there is some but not much illegal crossings, with those areas where there are few to no crossings covered only by a "virtual fence" (as others have called it; Bush didn't use that term) of motion detectors, infrared cameras, and Predator drones overhead (but presumably sans the Hellfire missiles.)

Also on the enforcement side, the prez noted that he had increased the Border Patrol from 9,000 when he was first inaugurated to 12,000 today; and he called for increasing them to somewhere above 18,000 -- which would more than double the 2001 level. But he will call upon governors to allocate 6,000 National Guardsmen to assist the current Border Patrol (increasing the manpower to 18,000 as soon as the state NGs come aboard) for one year; thereafter, each increase in trained and deployed Border Patrol would be matched by a decrease in the Guard.

Huh, he missed the opportunity to say, "as the Border Patrol stands up, the National Guard will stand down." (See now if Big Lizards had been writing his speeches, he would have been hounded from office long ago.)

I like this, but I don't think it's going to be very effective. Under posse comitatus, if Bush nationalizes the Guard, then they probably cannot be used on the border -- even if, as he says, they won't conduct any law enforcement operations. But if he doesn't nationalize them, it will be up to the individual governors; and some -- e.g., Arnold Schwarzenegger of my home state of California -- have already signalled they're not on board with this proposal. Maybe the feds can armtwist the governors on this; but in California's case, there may actually be more "immigration activists" opposing anything that seals off the borders to illegals than there are ordinary people who want to see an end to illegal immigration.

So you read it here first: I predict that no matter how much the feds call for state National Guard units to deploy on the border, California, Arizona, and New Mexico will not play along... at least not to the extent that Bush envisions.

Still, some is better than none; I'm sure he'll get cooperation from Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. I have no idea what Gov. Blanco of Louisiana will do: she's a liberal, but LA blacks are not exactly pro-illegal-immigration; and of course, she wants lots of federal aid -- so maybe Congress could include a federal-funding stick for non-complying states to go along with any carrots that are offered in the way of federal help to local law enforcement that works with federal cops on illegal immigration.

He discussed the guest-worker program and "normalization" of those illegals already here; and I was very pleased that he made quite a point of connecting these to border security. He hasn't read Big Lizards enough, or else he would have used my phrase: there is no wall so strong that a million people pushing won't knock it down.

But he did say that there are so many people desperate to come here that a wall and enforcement, no matter how strong, cannot keep them out. That it's imperative to reduce the number of folks trying to get in here illegally... and the only way to do that is to give them a legal way of doing so. (He also failed to use my analogy of a dam, with and without a spillway. His people really do need to get in touch with my people!)

I was disappointed that he didn't talk about rationalizing the legal immigration system, but he certainly didn't oppose it. I keep hoping that any comprehensive reform will include changing the current system -- arbitrary, byzantine, nationality-based, corrupt, and so bureaucratic it makes the Department of Motor Vehicles seem positively user-friendly -- to one that is rational, explicable, fair to everyone, clear about what prospective immigrants must do, and with an enforced time-table for response by the USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, what used to be called the INS).

But all in all, the content of this speech is a very, very good start to a compromise bill that nobody will love -- but that everybody can live with. And that's what a compromise is, b'gad.


At the beginning, Bush seemed oddly hesitant, as if he had not had enough practice time; but within a few minutes, he got into the swing of it, and the speech went smoother from there.

As usual, he came across (to me) as sincere, heartfelt, and intelligent. As usual, I'm sure he came across to die-hard liberals as a lying Fascist weasel with the IQ of an eggplant, and to die-hard Tancredoites as Vicente Fox's sock puppet... for whatever that may be worth.

Not his best delivered speech; those are invariably his stump speeches, of course, since he has the opportunity to refine them over weeks of giving them all over the country. But not his worst speech, either; his worst are always those where he is doing something purely for political reasons, and not because he really believes what he's saying... such as the "steel tariffs" speech.

He believes what he said today; he just didn't have a lot of time to practice it, as it was likely being revised up until moments before he delivered it.


The most important question is how the Republican base will react. I think they'll be pleased, by and large: a month ago, this speech would have been a lot "softer," with less explicit discussion of border control and a more lenient guest-worker and "normalization" section.

Bush is now much more oriented towards border enforcement than he was, and he recognizes that the base matters: George W. Bush has "grown" on this issue.

I believe Bush's approval rating among conservatives will rise; but it's not going to be sudden. They want to wait and see how he interacts with the House and Senate. For example, will Bush support the amendment offered by Sen. Sessions to add an actual fence into the Senate bill?

Jeff Sessions -- excuse me, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (can you tell he's from the South?) -- wants to amend the Senate bill to add 370 miles of actual fence, plus 500+ miles of vehicle barriers. Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) is very strongly behind it, and I suspect Bush will embrace this, too. But until he does, I think conservatives are going to be skeptical.

I'm afraid some so-called "conservatives" barely listened to the speech; since the only thing many of them would ever accept is pure enforcement, mass deportations, and internment camps -- no guest workers, no normalization, and nothing else -- there was no reason even to bother with what the president said: I suspect many had their responses already written before Bush even spoke, and they simply waited until the speech ended before clicking the Publish button (for the sake of appearances).

Hugh Hewitt, in a nutty update that caters to this mob, wrote this about fifteen minutes after Bush finished talking:

Memo to Tony Snow: The blogosphere/talk radio callers/e-mailers are turning against this speech in a decisive fashion. They simply do not believe the Administration is really committed to border enforcement, and the spokespeople sent out to back up the president's message aren't doing that job. Period.

Decisive? After a quarter of an hour?

If this really is true, then "the blogosphere/talk radio callers/e-mailers" are all a bunch of horses' asses. However, I really doubt that those Huge is hearing from now, in the first couple, three hours after the speech, will be truly representative of that vast body of intellectual opinion (for which I have a lot more respect).

Much more likely, at the moment, Hugh is hearing from the Perpetually Aggrieved wing of the Republican Party (which has its much larger counterpart among the Democras), who could barely contain themselves until the speech was actually delivered to e-mail Hugh that they hated it. I'm sure Frank Gaffney is beside himself with indignation; but I prefer Power Line's blog-of-the-week the Strata-Sphere, where A.J. Strata proves himself a man of intelligence, wisdom, courage, and sincerity. (By which I mean he agrees with me, of course.)

Today conservatives and Americans across this nation, especially those who voted for George W Bush, should be thankful for what we have accomplished and for having George Bush as President. My tolerance for the whiners who don’t get all they want, or who say the pace of getting America to become more responsive to conservative ideas is too slow, is totally used up. Tonight, when George Bush speaks his is going to discuss how we can take SOME steps towards getting a handle on immigration and the security threats it represents.... [All emphasis added]

I have no words of thanks to those who are so frustrated they have turned on Bush when he needs our support, and threaten to sit out elections. Why would I have any thanks for that kind of action? I am thankful we avoided a President Gore and President Kerry. Gore would have lost his mind after 9-11 (look at how he handled the 2000 election). And Kerry would have been so confused about what to do he would have signed legislation beforing vetoing it.

All right, this is just my first, few, brief thoughts on the subject of Bush's speech on immigration. I'm certain I'll have something much more substantial -- and much longer -- to say later, when I've had a chance to digest. (Metaphorically and also literally; we're just about to eat dinner here at Lizard Central.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 15, 2006, at the time of 7:20 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Michael Babbitt

Oh Slither King,
I think you missed Hugh Hewitt's point. He was initially very upbeat after the president's speech but then he interviewed Julie Myers -- the head of ICE -- and she sounded like a total amateur, going out of her way to belittle the physical fence idea ("people build tunnels"). In one fell swoop she burst Hugh's hopefullness that the administration meant business. She was a disaster.

The above hissed in response by: Michael Babbitt [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 7:53 PM

The following hissed in response by: Harold C. Hutchison

Actually, they are building tunnels already. Sorry, but the wall is nothing more than a boon for government contractors. I can think of better ways to spend the money that would be wasted on a wall.

Reactivating the Iowa-class battleships, perhaps?

The above hissed in response by: Harold C. Hutchison [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 8:23 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I think Hugh over reacted.

I got the impression that Bush is trying to find a compromise which will work and has a chance of passing.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 8:24 PM

The following hissed in response by: Papa Ray

"and a barrier in rural areas where there is some but not much illegal crossings,"

Well, if rural means out in the middle of nowhere, twenty miles from the nearest gas station, my rancher bud will be happy because he has about 5 miles of his property that runs right to the border. He would love a barrier on his property. He said one about fifty feet tall with electric wires at the top would suit him just fine.

After picking up eight trash bags of trash myself, out of a load that filled up a 4 horse trailer, I was thinking a fence would be a good idea too.

Oh, why can't federal troops be used at the border? I have heard noone say that before. In fact I can tell you that is the only way any more are going to be used in Texas, because our cheap ass governor can't afford anymore than the 200 or so NG he is using now and paying for himself.

The best part of the speech I think was the assistance from the federal gov. to the Local Law Enforcement agencys. They need it badly. Just ask any Border Sheriff.

Papa Ray

The above hissed in response by: Papa Ray [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 9:21 PM

The following hissed in response by: Papa Ray

I put this link up at Rednecks Revenge and Small Town Veteran so I might as well drop it off here too.

Watch the Videos, turn up the sound so you can hear the comments over the wind noise.

Papa Ray

The above hissed in response by: Papa Ray [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 16, 2006 7:33 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

So that's it; if the anti-immigrant side of the GOP -- fair or not, that is the impression they leave -- persists in this folly, the idea that we can round up and deport eleven million people, and that we can just seal off the border and keep all the foreigners out
I object to your continuous use of the label

"anti-immigrant side"

I have nothing against immigrants or immigration, actually I support both, I do have something against ILLEGAL ALIENS who by their very presence are breaking our laws.

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 16, 2006 5:46 PM

The following hissed in response by: cdquarles

@ Papa Ray,

Federal troops cannot be used for law enforcement purposes unless the State government asks for such assistance. Therefore, troops can be used to *patrol* the border and to engage any Mexican military that cross it (an act of war); but they cannot enforce any laws without local permission, pace Posse Comitatus acts.

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 20, 2006 3:19 AM

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