Magazine article The American Conservative

Open Door Policy

Magazine article The American Conservative

Open Door Policy

Article excerpt

President Bush's approval rating could not have slipped into the 30s were his base not bleeding. The gloss is off democratic crusading, and happy talk about Iraqis standing up is no substitute for an exit strategy. Social Security reform swirled down the drain months ago, leaving no domestic agenda save Katrina spending. Add Libby and Brownie, Miers and Murtha, and Bush probably spends many days missing Crawford.

He can't change policy-even if strategy so dictated, his temperament doesn't run in that gear-so he is left trying to change the subject. With few options, he landed on immigration reform. But could someone who stumped in Spanish and turned "jobs Americans won't do" into a national cliché convincingly sell himself to the Right as an immigration reformer?

Short answer: no-but it may not matter.

On Nov. 28, the president traveled to Tucson, Arizona to deliver a speech he hoped conservatives would only half hear. He wagered that they would be so taken with his beefed up border spending and promise to "enforce the laws of our country"-a safer applause line has never been written-that they wouldn't notice he's still serving warmed over amnesty.

Bush put together a decent consolation prize: aerial drones, ground sensors, infrared cameras; an end to the "catch and release" program; more Border Patrol agents; a nod to interior enforcement. But the sheriff hasn't given up on playing social worker. Read his lips: "People in this debate must recognize that we will not be able to effectively enforce our immigration laws until we create a temporary worker program." Some debate.

When he signed the Homeland Security Appropriations Act back in October, President Bush said of illegal immigrants, "Family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River. People are coming to put food on the table." He immediately segued into a pitch for his guest-worker scheme as a panacea for the illegal-immigration problem.

Now, odds are Bush hasn't undergone some epiphany in the last two months. Yet he can promise enhanced enforcement in good conscience because, on his theory, border control will become increasingly unnecessary. While the immigration-reform movement is busy congratulating itself on winning a 60 percent increase in border spending, he plans to make it irrelevant by inviting the former illegals inside.

"Bush decided to give these guys their rhetorical pound of flesh," a Republican official close to the White House told Time magazine. …

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