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RealClearPolitics - Articles - Stanley Renshon

Last Build Date: Mon, 01 May 2006 06:45:41 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

On Being a 'Bush Apologist': The Case of Immigration

Mon, 01 May 2006 06:45:41 -0600

Consider the case of immigration. Congress is now in the middle of long delayed and much needed debate about American immigration policy. It is finally doing so because present policy has become intolerable. The focus of our current debate is illegal immigration. The United States has become the home of somewhere between 8 and 12 million illegal immigrations with more arriving at the rate of over 500,000 every year. Successive administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have basically ignored the problem, while public dismay at the government's inability or unwillingness to control our borders has grown and become clearly evident in just about every public opinion poll that asks a question about it. The focus on illegal immigration does not mean that the rest of American immigration policy is either coherent or functional. The hidden core of American immigration policy is how well we integrate immigrants into our national community, and unlike the past when government, business and community groups joined forces to help immigrations become Americans, we now do little or nothing to help facilitate this core civic responsibility. So, the first problem for a "Bush apologist" with interests in the viability of American national identity is that the current immigration debate almost wholly ignores a question of vital consequence to this country. Still, illegal immigration is a very serious problem. A country that is targeted by terrorists who would like to destroy it that looses control of its borders is in serious trouble. A country that welcomes people that violate its immigrations laws with numerous incentives (financial, heath and education benefits to name a few); while its president declares at an immigration ceremony that we are nation of laws, sends seriously mixed signals. So what is a "Bush apologist" to do? The wish to make a better life is understandable, and in this the president's empathy is well placed. On the other hand, the president's chief responsibility is to this county's citizens, and illegal immigration is not a victimless crime. It leads to a sense of pervasive unwanted and uninvited violation of national and civic boundaries. It spawns crime, corruption, and political malfeasance. Mayors make their cities "sanctuary" havens where immigration law is not enforced. Legislatures debate in-state tuition levels for illegal immigrants and pass resolutions supporting boycotts meant to pressure Congress for more liberal legalization policies, while laws requiring employers to verify the immigration status of those they hire are not enforced and as written, are unenforceable. And what does the president propose to do about this? He wants to match a willing worker with employers having trouble "filling jobs that Americans won't do." And he wants to create a pathway for illegal immigrants toward "earned legalization." The problem for a Bush apologist with the first proposal is that it seems to be premised on a repeal of the laws of supply and demand. The larger the pool of low skill, low education illegal immigrants willing to work at sub-subsistence wages, the more likely it is that wages will not rise to make the jobs attractive to Americans who want to do them. Less supply of cheap labor coupled with continuing demand (we need workers) should lead to a rise in the wages offered and as well to the number of Americans who would consider these jobs. The informed Bush apologist also knows that "earned legalization" is designed as a comforting euphemism to cover up an inconvenient fact. Illegal immigrants can, even now, "earn" their legalization by the simple expedient of leaving the county and applying for a green card like every other legal immigrant does. This, of course, is not going to happen and many of the current proposals before Congress are expressly designed to make sure that it doesn't. So when the president says that he is against "automatic citizenship," a Bush apologist is still forced to ask: Who suggested that? When the president says he wants illegal immigrants to go "to the back of the[...]

Political Psychology: The Bush Bubble Myth

Tue, 25 Apr 2006 06:57:35 -0600

WILLIAMS: I brought some visual aids. I have Newsweek and Time. Cover of Newsweek, look what they've done to you. "Bush's World: The isolated president, can he change?" And inside Time, it says "Bush's search for his new groove." Time magazine says you're out there talking to people. Newsweek says you're in here not talking to people. So what is truth, Mr. President? PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I'm talking to you. You're a person. WILLIAMS: This says you're in a bubble. You have a very small circle of advisors now. Is that true? Do you feel in a bubble? PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I don't feel in a bubble. I mean, you feel in a bubble in the sense that I can't go walking out the front gate and, you know, go shopping, like I'd love to do for my wife...I feel like I'm getting really good advice from very capable people and that people from all walks of life have informed me and informed those who advise me. And I feel very comfortable that I'm very aware of what's going on. Mr. Williams seems like a decent person, but this is truly an inane question. What does he expect Mr. Bush to say: Yes, I'm in a bubble just like these magazines say. Yes, I have a very small circle of advisors who tell only what I want to hear. Yes, I don't care how my policies are really doing in the real world so long as Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and maybe Donald Rumsfeld assure me that I'm right. Anyone who has spent more than a moment examining Mr. Bush's presidency and psychology would know how far from reality these characterizations are. Like most caricatures, they provide a mental detour around the need to consider facts, thus allowing effortless conformation of biases. Tellingly, Bush critics point to different evidence as proof of the bubble. Some evidence put forward in defense of this argument is simply silly. The normally sensible Fareed Zakaria was moved to write of an "Imperial Presidency." Why? Because, "Bush's travel schedule seems calculated to involve as little contact as possible with the country he is in." Presumably, if Mr. Bush spends more time on touring and less on substantive discussions his presidency will revert to acceptable size. A possible more serious and widespread criticism is raised by Ruth Marcus writing in the Washington Post who says "the notion that this is an insular White House headed by an incurious president isn't exactly administration-bites-dog news." Her view, seconded by many critics, is that in the Bush administration there is too much agreement and too little debate, a recipe for groupthink. Those who persist in repeating this view overlook or ignore a great deal of evidence to the contrary. During the 2000 presidential campaign a number of reporters including Frank Bruni and Eric Schmidt looked into Mr. Bush's decision-making style. They wrote in a November 19, 1999 article entitled "Bush Rehearsing for the World Stage," that in getting information, Bush prefers "discussions to in-depth reading, although he has been known to needle his advisors when something they say diverges from something they wrote." Hardly the humor of an uniformed man. Elizabeth Mitchell, who wrote a badly titled, but informative biographical book about Mr. Bush's development, wrote, (p.333) "he likes to hear different views on the same policy problems." During his 1990 campaign for governor, "George W. took great glee in assembling the most diverse group he could find and then let the discussion fly for several hours. He would ask hundreds of specific questions, demonstrating the same intense curiosity he displayed on the back roads of Texas." Has this style carried over to his presidency? The evidence is that it has. Bob Woodward's look inside the debates that began after 9/11 within the administration makes this clear. Don't believe Woodward? Is he to close to Bush? Ok, then how about Washington Post reporters Peter Baker and Robin Wright who wrote that a, "powerful debate was raging, officials now acknowledge, among the president's top advisers over postponing the Jan. 30 interim election in hopes of fi[...]