Friday, May 23, 2008

McCain Derangement Rides Again

John Hawkins, after reexamining John McCain's position on immigration reform, has announced he will not support the Arizona Senator in November:

John McCain is a liar. He's a man without honor, without integrity, who could not have captured the Republican nomination had he run on making comprehensive immigration a top priority of his administration. Quite frankly, this is little different from George Bush, Sr. breaking his "Read my lips, no new taxes pledge," except that Bush's father was at least smart enough to wait until he got elected before letting all of his supporters know that he was lying to them.

Under these circumstances, I simply cannot continue to support a man like John McCain for the presidency. Since that is the case, I have already written the campaign and asked them to take me off of their mailing list and to no longer send me invitations to their teleconferences. I see no point in asking questions to a man who has no compunction about lying through his teeth on one of the most crucial election issues and then changing his position the first time he believes he can get away with it.

Moreover, I genuinely regret having to do this because I do still believe the country would be better off with John McCain as President as opposed to Obama or Clinton. However, I just cannot in good conscience cast a vote for a man who has told this big of a lie, for this long, about this important of an issue.

That being said, although I cannot back John McCain, encourage others to vote for him, or contribute any more money to his campaign, I'm not going to tell you that you should do that same thing. What McCain has done here is a bridge too far for me, but others may not have as big a problem with being told this sort of lie. That's their decision.

Furthermore, I will defend John McCain when I think he deserves to be defended, excoriate Barack Obama and/or Hillary Clinton at every opportunity, and I will continue to stand behind the sort of Republican candidates who actually deserve conservative support. But, what I will not do is vote for John McCain in November.
What happened? Well, Hawkins says McCain's betrayed his trust on immigration, and offers the two following quotes for some context, from April:

As president, I will honor that pledge by securing the border, thus strengthening our national security. I will also require that, among other things, border-state governors certify that the border is secure before proceeding to other reform measures. However, I also believe that our immigration system must recognize that America will always be that "shining city upon a hill," a beacon of hope and opportunity for those seeking a better life built on hard work and optimism. Once we achieve border security, we must ensure that we approach our remaining immigration challenges with constructive dialogue and solutions that reflect a compassionate approach and the needs of our economy.
And from yesterday:

After several of the business leaders complained about the difficulty in obtaining temporary H1B visas for scientists and engineers, something the Senate immigration bill was supposed to address, Mr. McCain expressed regret the measure did not pass, calling it a personal “failure,” as well as one by the federal government.

“Senator Kennedy and I tried very hard to get immigration reform, a comprehensive plan, through the Congress of the United States,” he said. “It is a federal responsibility and because of our failure as a federal obligation, we’re seeing all these various conflicts and problems throughout our nation as different towns, cities, counties, whatever they are, implement different policies and different programs which makes things even worse and even more confusing.”

He added: “I believe we have to secure our borders, and I think most Americans agree with that, because it’s a matter of national security. But we must enact comprehensive immigration reform. We must make it a top agenda item if we don’t do it before, and we probably won’t, a little straight talk, as of January 2009.”

Mr. McCain asked others on the panels for suggestions about how to “better mobilize American public opinion” behind the notion of comprehensive immigration reform.
Hawkins ommitted this last section from the article he cited above:

Later, Mr. McCain took up the topic again, saying the problem of what to do with illegal immigrants already here needs to be solved, saying “they are also God’s children, and we have to do it in a human and compassionate fashion,” which drew applause from his audience.
I think the key word in that last passage is "compassion."

Have conservatives lost a sense of proportion, to say nothing of fairness (to McCain in this case, but also to those in government who're truly concerned about immigration)? If you ask me, Hawkins deploys emotion over reason. "Border enforcement" and "comprehensive" reform are by no means mutually exclusive, and I don't think the quotes Hawkins provides demonstrate that McCain's a liar. Note how
Tamar Jacoby put the issue of controlling the border in the context of overall immigration reform:

Reformers understand the need to retake control, both on the border and in the workplace. Restrictionist opponents maintain that the way to do this is simply to crack down harder, enforcing the laws already on the books. The problem is that the United States has already tried that, tripling the size of the Border Patrol and quintupling its budget over the past decade, to virtually no avail: roughly the same number of immigrants still manage to enter the country each year, albeit by different methods and in different locations. Reinforced efforts and new, more creative tools, particularly in the workplace, can have some effect ... But the cost would be the creation of a virtual police state, with an electric fence and armed guards on the border, roadblocks on every highway, regular raids on all U.S. businesses, a Big Brother-like national tracking system, and extensive use of ethnic profiling. Short of such drastic measures, which still might not succeed in stemming supply and demand, it makes more sense to revise the law to make it more realistic and then use modest enforcement means to ensure it holds.

This is the paradox at the heart of the comprehensive consensus. The best way to regain control is not to crack down but to liberalize -- to expand quotas, with a guest-worker program or some other method, until they line up with labor needs. The analogy is Prohibition: an unrealistic ban on alcohol was all but impossible to enforce. Realistic limits, in contrast, are relatively easy to implement.

Not only is such reform the only way to restore the rule of law; it is also one of the best ways to improve border security. As one veteran Border Patrol agent in Arizona put it, "What if another 9/11 happens, and it happens on my watch? What if the bastards come across here in Arizona and I don't catch them because I'm so busy chasing your next busboy or my next gardener that I don't have time to do my real job -- catching terrorists?" The government needs to take the busboys and the gardeners out of the equation by giving them a legal way to enter the country, so that the Border Patrol can focus on the smugglers and the terrorists who pose a genuine threat.

I'm not happy with the currnet immigration crisis, particulary with the widely recognized and growing threat to traditional American national identity and values from slowing patterns of the historical process of assimilation.

However, I don't like the idea of conservatives advocating a "police state" to control out of control immigration. A rational solution to the immigration by definition must be comprehensive, and thus to hear attacks on McCain as a liar from top conservatives bloggers gets us back to where we were in the primaries, when many conservatives wanted Fred Thompson, and when he jellied-out, Mitt Romney. But note how
Roger Simon explains opposition to McCain with reference to Romney:

I have no particular dislike of Romney, other than I find him bland (a very personal reaction, which is not that important.) I followed his career as governor of Massachusetts and thought he did a pretty good job. But, to me, he seemed pretty much of a conventional liberal then, in fact vastly more liberal than I ever regarded John McCain, who I saw and see as more or less of a centrist. I recall Romney running to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights (an issue on which I am to the left of both).

Romney claims to have changed and "seen the light" on many issues. I have no idea whether this is true, but I am amazed by all these conservatives who totally and almost slavishly believe this is the real Romney yet equally assuredly distrust McCain when he repeatedly says he would build a security fence. It reminds me of that old shrink's thing about the "need to be right," how it always trips us up. I have seen it happen to me a lot. Anyway, I'm not sure McCain Derangement Syndrome has a cure. People love their anger. It's a security blanket.
To be fair, Hawkins' first pick for the GOP nomination was Duncan Hunter.

But now that we're this far into the race, at a point when Americans have tremendous evidence of the kind of Democratic administration we'll see under a Barack Obama presidency, attacks on McCain as a liar go beyond "
political irrationality." Such slurs amount to a reactionary stab in the back.

So, I'm renewing my call, first announced during the primaries: It's time to unify around the GOP nominee so as to unify under a broad conservative coalition on the right: "
Conservatives Must Back McCain."

See more analysis at Memorandum.