The President's Gut; No Way to Make an Immigration Policy

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 15, 2007 | Go to article overview
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The President's Gut; No Way to Make an Immigration Policy


Byline: Diana West, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Now that the president has tried to revive the comatose Senate amnesty bill, at least as big a question as whether he can bring it back to life is why on earth he would want to. Sure, he wants a win, because he hasn't had one lately. Sure, he wants a (gulp) legacy, because it's that clock-ticking time in his second term. But why this particular attempted win, which his political base sees only as betrayal? Why this hoped-for legacy, which would eliminate him from any conservative pantheon?

"It's a very emotional issue." That's what the president says by way of describing the acid turmoil his "comprehensive" immigration reform push has caused, particularly among conservatives. He's right on one level, but I get the impression he makes the point to dismiss his opponents' objections as volcanic eruptions of feeling, rather than legitimate and reasonable arguments.

At the same time, immigration reform is a very emotional issue for Mr. Bush himself. Too emotional. When it comes to illegal aliens - in particular, illegal aliens from Mexico - the man seems to be governed by his gut. And that, of course, is no way to govern.

I say this having gone back over the immigration file that has piled up during this administration. A strong emotional thread connecting Mr. Bush to the issue comes through stories about his beloved Mexican-born housekeeper/nannies, and through stories about his political associates with Mexican roots, such as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, or campaign aide Israel Hernandez, whom, Newsweek noted last year, "Bush hired after hearing his family story." Mr. Bush just loves those family stories. No one needs a shrink's couch to imagine the inspiring effect of immigrant success stories on an establishment scion like Mr. Bush, who, while he may have had to struggle for his Texas twang, never had to struggle for much else - at least nothing essential. From the big chair on the hacienda porch, with that "sense of Southwestern noblesse" Newsweek's Howard Fineman fancifully attributes to Mr. Bush's possible notion of himself as a hacendado (estate owner), the president's admiration seems to know few bounds. "When you grow up in Texas like... I did," Mr Bush recently told McClatchy Newspapers, "you recognize the decency and hard work and humanity of Hispanics."

A lovely testimonial, but hardly a criterion on which to offer amnesty to some 12 to 20 million illegal aliens, even if they are mainly Hispanic.

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