Thursday, October 13, 2011
Mr. President, you should learn from George Bush.
Sorry the title to this blog is a little provocative, but I needed to get your attention. I come in peace with a few observations and suggestions. I know your hands are full but this is a matter that can't really wait much longer.
You came into the White House in no small part due to your promise to fix our broken immigration system--the one that separates families, keeps our employers from hiring the foreign talent they need, thwarts the efforts of foreign investors and entrepreneurs, and in general keeps upwards of 15 million people operating in a shadow economy. You brought the 15 million and their families HOPE and you promised CHANGE.
But right out of the box you got hit with the worst financial situation in almost a century and all talk of immigration reform went to the same place as my 401k. To your credit, you tried to be bipartisan and conciliatory to your political opponents, even as they pledged to limit your tenure in the White House their number one priority. By 2010, the Republicans had done such a good job blaming you for Bush's ruinous policies that America took away your party's control over the House of Representatives and the 60 votes in the Senate, which by some strange reckoning is the new majority. And yet you still tried to be the honest broker. In the 2010 lame duck session you backed the extension of the Bush Tax cuts for the wealthy because in good faith you believed the Republicans would reciprocate in kind--with good will and honest intent. And not unlike Charlie Brown letting Lucy tee up the football one more time you approached the DREAM Act. But you failed to persuade Democrats Baucus, Nelson, Pryor, Hagan, Tester to vote for the bill and it lost. You left it up to them to decide and in the end accepted their betrayal because they were in tough districts where "amnesty" was unpopular. You also refused to tie the DREAM Act to the Bush Tax Extensions (i.e., you give me the DREAM Act, I'll give you the extensions). So in the end you didn't get what you said you wanted on either. To make matters worse, even your supporters like Congressman Luis Gutierrez commented:
"If you really want to bring Republicans to the table," he added, "so long as they are getting everything they want, every piece of enforcement, why, why would they come to the table?"
What Congressman Gutierrez was referring to was the Obama strategy on how to work with the Republicans on immigration reform. Simply put, that policy was to show the Republicans that increased enforcement was the only way to buy credibility with Republicans and generate bipartisan support for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws. To demonstrate how tough the administration was on enforcement, Obama's Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported almost 400,000 people in 2010, way more than the Bush administration ever did. So how impressed were the Republicans with this "get tough" strategy? The results of the vote on the DREAM act, where only three Republicans voted to shut down the filibuster. One of those was Utah's Senator Bennett who had already been turned out in his reelection bid, in part because of his moderate views on immigration.
So what does any of this have to do with President Bush you ask? Remember George Bush, the self-dubbed "decider"--the one who (correctly) pronounced that "elections have consequences"? The one who appointed his crony to lead FEMA and in the middle of the Katrina disaster put his arm around him and told him "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job". The one who put Monica Goodling in charge of cleansing the Department of Justice of political leftists and independents, and unapologetically appointed as immigration judges people with no immigration experience but plenty of political juice. And he did it with his head held high, confident that he was right and ambivalent to those who didn't agree! Why? Because ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES.
While I was disgusted at the time, I now have a grudging respect for Dubya. Through either cunning devise or blithering idiocy (either way doesn't matter), he did what he wanted to do because he was the President of the United States of America. He did it because he could. Whether "it" was invading Iraq on a pretext or
feeling up the German President (seen here). He didn't care about public opinion, and certainly not what his political opponents would say or do.
So back to you President Obama. If you really do believe in the DREAM Act, then stop deporting any and all DREAMers. If you want immigration reform, then stop removing fathers and mothers from their families. Tell your agents in the field that YOU and YOU ALONE are the President of the United States and have the authority to tell them what their priorities are, and most importantly MAKE THOSE PRIORITIES STICK. You have the power to transfer a mutinous officer to watch the border along the upper Alaska/Canada border, don't you? Or to investigate possible marriage fraud in Kazakhstan. When Jeff Sessions of Alabama or any one of a number of deportaholics go on Faux News to decry you and criticize you for being soft on immigration, remember that they don't like you anyway and never will. This liberating affirmation should be your mantra for the rest of your first term. Do it and you will get reelected because apparently people like a President who is decisive, even if they don't like the outcome and will even reelect them. So as counterintuitive as it may seem and while it may grate against your tendencies to be a consensus builder, look to Bush and learn from him. I thank you, Mr. President.