June 9, 2007 [LINK / comment]
On Friday afternoon, I joined in a panel discussion on the topic of immigration reform for the WVPT-TV program "Virginia Viewpoints," at the gracious invitation of the host Chris Graham, who edits The New Dominion. The show will be broadcast Tuesday evening at 7:30, just after the polls close. (I was relieved to learn that whatever I said would not end up having an effect on the primary election, in case of gaffes.) The other panelists were Linda Jones, who has been a regular on that program, as well as fellow blogger Phil Croninger, and Rick Castaneda [!], of the Hispanic Council in Harrisonburg. Like me, the latter two were first-timers on the show. We barely scratched the surface of the issue, but the tone was positive and constructive at least. I made my usual points about the lack of attention to using free market solutions to the problem of illegal immigration, both in terms of U.S. domestic and trade policies, and the policies of countries in Latin America. There is a huge pressing need to create more opportunities for workers in countries south of the border, and we Americans could make things a lot easier by easing import restrictions on things like textiles and food.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to bring up a brief personal anecdote from 1993 or so: I was arguing with someone in Charlottesville about how important it was to pass NAFTA, and I tried to emphasize the necessity of setting up a system to oversee the burgeoning economic interchange between Mexico and the United States: "It's either NAFTA or a wall along our border." Too bad NAFTA has not been implemented the way it was supposed to be...
The discussion topic was especially timely because of what had just taken place on Capitol Hill. Whatever legislation that had resulted would have been a hideously complex set of measures that would not have dealt with the fundamental problems. The Federation for American Immigration Reform was performing the herculean task of keeping track of all the amendments that were attached to the bill, no doubt diluting its intended effects.
Regarding the collapse of the compromise immigration package in the Senate, the Washington Post pointed out the underlying reasons for the failure of the compromise measure: the fact that compromise is a dirty word in the Bush administration.
Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg said until the president leaves office, the prospects for bipartisan cooperation will remain slim. "The reason we have this [polarized] politics is George Bush," he said. "Not the Democratic Party or even the Republicans in Congress. The climate of this era has been set by Bush."
The end result of the Rovian strategy of polarized hard-ball politics is that policy-making in Washington has ground to a halt, leaving the door wide open for extremists such as the Minutemen to take matters into their own hands. Way to go, Karl!
In terms of politics, grass-roots conservatives have begun to defect from Bush in droves, leaving him without much of a support base. He is already a lame duck president, with 19 more months to go.
On May 18, I analyzed Scott Sayre's position on immigration, agreeing with some parts but mostly very critical of what seems to be an insincere attempt to use this as a "wedge issue" for electoral purposes only. (Taking his cue from Karl Rove, perhaps?) As far as I can tell, Sayre offers no constructive solutions, just the lame slogan "What part of 'illegal' don't they understand?"
Emmett Hanger, on the other hand, has been grappling with this issue for several years, and is determined to have the courts revisit the matter of verifying the legal residency of public school students. (As things stand, public schools are prohibited from asking.) He wrote the law requiring verification of legal presence in order to qualify for any type of public benefit, and he wants to make sure that our public schools are only open to those who are here legally, or have begun the necessary legal steps. His approach is "common sense," pragmatically dealing with the current reality, while defending national security and our nation's heritage of justice and fair play.
The News Leader printed a letter by Daniel Piper aptly rebutting the Sayre campaign's distortions. You can read for yourself the bill (SB 1204) that Sen. Hanger sponsored this past session at leg1.state.va.us:
In-state tuition rates; prohibited for certain individuals. Prohibits the board of visitors or other governing body of a public institution of higher education in the Commonwealth from authorizing in-state tuition rates for individuals who are unlawfully present in the United States. The bill also provides that, notwithstanding the provisions regarding the governing bodies' mandates, any person shall be eligible for in-state tuition who: (i) has resided in Virginia while attending high school; (ii) has graduated from a public or private high school in Virginia or has received a General Education Development (GED) certificate in Virginia; (iii) has resided in the Commonwealth for at least three years on the date of high school graduation; (iv) has registered in an institution of higher education; (v) has provided an affidavit stating that he has filed an application to become a permanent resident of the United States and is actively pursuing such permanent residency or will do so as soon as he is eligible; and (vi) has submitted evidence that he or, in the case of a dependent student, at least one parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis, filed, unless exempted by state law, Virginia income tax returns for at least three years prior to the date of enrollment.
Sayre has been deriding those stipulations as meaningless, accusing Hanger of "false advertising." A better way to look at it is to see those stipulations as a very effective "lever" that will force many illegal immigrant families to seek regularized status. While many people would regard that as nothing more than a "loophole," it's certainly better than the status quo, in which millions of immigrants hide and/or work in exploitive conditions, for fear of being deported. In any case, because of opposition by the House of Delegates, Sen. Hanger's SB 1204 did not pass this year.
Sometimes dead-serious blogging is even funnier than the kind of parody news you find on The Onion. Take this self-contradictory blog post by "Yankee Philip", who tries to defend the "Bloggers 4 Sayre" from all the criticism for their nastiness during this campaign:
There was a lot of sarcasm. There was a lot of humor. There were no hostile or malicious comments. The name calling and threats did not come from the Sayre supporters. The name calling didn't just come from the Senator's supporters either. The only time any of the Sayre people seem anyway negative is in defense, in responding to belligerant behavior.
I swear, those people must live on a different planet... Hat tip to Thomas Krehbiel, who observed, "Not understanding what sarcasm means could explain why Bloggers 4 Sayre doesn't play very well with others."
When this is all over, I half expect Alton Foley to be revealed as a covert operative for the Emmett Hanger campaign! NOTE to you folks in Rio Linda: the smile means I'm just kidding!
As expected, we've been bombarded with a frantic, last-minute advertising and mailings from the Sayre camp, much of which is patently bogus. Members of right-to-life groups were targeted with a blue postcard from "Pro-Life for Sayre," a pretend organization with the same mailing address as the Sayre campaign itself. Ditto for hunters and gun-rights folks. NOTE TO MR. SAYRE: You're wasting your time; Emmett Hanger has impeccable credentials on both those issues! Today I received the first (and only) issue of the "Shenandoah-Blue Ridge News-Times," a pretend newspaper that just happens to cover the 24th senate district. In addition, the local GOP leaders who support Sayre even appeared on a television ad I saw today, and boy did they look worried! Finally, I got phone calls today from the malevolent Grover Norquist and Dr. Kurt Michael urging me to vote for Sayre. More on Grover tomorrow...
According to "Not Larry Sabato", the 24th Senate District "Leans Hanger." Staunton's Clifford Garstang, a Democrat, agrees with NLS but doesn't "think it will even be close." (Once again, a key assertion made by D. J. McGuire -- in this case, that Democrats expect and want Sayre to win -- is contradicted.) Garstang lays much of the blame on Sayre's out-of-control "blogging friends."I don't know what the final results will be, but there is no question that the momentum has shifted since Chris Graham opined three weeks ago that race was "Scott Sayre's to lose..."
Speaking of Not Larry Sabato (a.k.a. Ben Tribbett), he sparked a scandal by accusing Shaun Kenney, communications director for the Virginia Republican Party, of leaking information about the impending indictment of Mark D. Tate, a candidate for the senate seat being vacated by Russell Potts. It involves campaign funding violations, but it is hard to say whether it was just a technical error or something really bad. This story actually made the Washington Post. What raised my eyebrows was the fact that the prosecutors are tied to Virginia Conservative Action PAC, which endorsed the opposing candidate, Jill Holtzman Vogel and is also backing Scott Sayre! To me, that smelled fishy right off the bat. I wonder how far this web of nefarious politicking stretches?