Which Candidate Benefits From The Immigration Bill’s Demise?

Now that the comprehensive immigration reform bill has died, analysts have looked at winners and losers of the contest. Almost certainly, one of the main losers has to be George Bush, who pushed hard publicly and privately for its passage. US News says, “Bush Sinking Along With Immigration Bill,” a fairly clear conclusion based on the extensive roundup they provide. He put his credibility on the line for this bill, and in the end could not even get a majority of his own Senate caucus to support him.
But which of the candidates to replace Bush gained the most from the bill’s failure? The Politico argues that could be John McCain:

While his office put out the requisite statement expressing disappointment that the immigration compromise failed, a McCain aide I talked with sounded more relieved that the issue was off the table.
While lamenting that its failure was “bad for the country,” this person indicated that they were looking forward to getting past an issue that had been the focus of the campaign for the last six weeks.
“We talked about it at every town hall meeting, we did talk radio, we did O’Reilly, we did regional press conference calls, we gave a speech in Florida on it,” the source pointed out. But having fought the good fight for what was recognized as a political loser, this person said they would use the summer to do grass-roots campaigning and seek to shift the focus onto “core economic issues” such as taxes, trade and spending.

This sounds counterintuitive, but Jonathan Martin may be right. First, no one who knows John McCain can honestly say that this bill changed their opinion of him. He introduced and vociferously championed a worse bill last year, and he has made no secret of his preferences on immigration. In many ways, he conducted himself in a more positive manner last year; his tone was intended to be as inclusive as possible, after lashing out a couple of times last year in frustration.
In a season of gotcha games on flip-flops, McCain may (eventually) get some credit for standing on principle. Senator Tom Coburn, who opposed the immigration bill, wrote an essay in National Review praising McCain for his political courage:

As the American people, elected officials, and commentators reflect on the heated immigration debate that came to a temporary close in the Senate this week many will ask, and have asked, why U.S. Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) staked out a position that may, in retrospect, be seen as devastating to his presidential ambitions. I hope the American people, at least, step back from the obsessive play-by-play pre-season election analysis and reflect on Senator McCain’s actions for what I believe they were: One of the purest examples of political courage seen in Washington in a very, very long time. …
I opposed Senator McCain in this immigration debate. I believed the policies he advocated were wrong for America and I used every tool at my disposal to defeat his position. However, the way Senator McCain conducted himself represented the essential qualities of leadership the American people deserve.
Senator McCain didn’t speak in generalities. He spoke in specific terms. He didn’t take a position and change his position when he came under withering fire. He didn’t pander. He didn’t equivocate. He didn’t demean his opponents in the Senate or insinuate we harbored base motives or secret prejudices. He was motivated by principle. He believed he was serving his country. He was not inspired by political strategists who foolishly believed they could use this bill to grow the Republicans party, and did not lecture his colleagues about why those strategists were smarter and wiser than 80 percent of Americans.
When Senator McCain lost this battle he didn’t express self-pity or bitterness. Instead, he said he would carry on and offered a unifying message that is beyond debate, saying, “The American people will not settle for the status quo — de facto amnesty and broken borders.”
Whether you agree with him or not, Senator McCain’s actions demonstrated the qualities we rarely see in Washington — courage, character, honor, and dignity.

McCain’s numbers have drifted downward since the beginning of this debate, as voters get reminded of his position on immigration. However, now that the topic is off the table, he may start winning back some of those voters, who had to have known his position in January when he ran neck-and-neck for the lead in these same polls. As Dr. Coburn notes, he stayed firm in his convictions and gracious in his tactics, and some may reconsider him on that basis.
Some may not, too, and I suspect that McCain will find it difficult to recover the lost ground. Like Dr. Coburn, I’m not making endorsements, and I have disagreed with McCain in immigration, the BCRA, and on his actions in 2005 regarding judicial nominations. He takes positions and almost always tries to lead the national debate, sometimes to the extent that some feel he’s chasing the media when he parts with the GOP on policy. When a politician does that, he’s going to annoy a lot of people, sometimes rightly so.
However, and I have mentioned this more than once in my radio shows this week, there are few men who have given as much to his country and lived. A man who spent 7 years being tortured as a POW doesn’t deserve to be called a “traitor” over sincere policy disputes. McCain has made mistakes and may not be a good choice for the presidency, but he’s a man who deserves respect and an opportunity to make his case — and, like Dr. Coburn says, a man whose courage did not end with his return from Viet Nam.
We may not like the policies he promotes with such tenacity — but in an age where politicians too often change positions to suit fashion, one should at least respect fidelity when they see it. McCain may or may not benefit from the end of the immigration debate, but now that the debate has finished, hopefully we can at least give him the benefit of the doubt about his intention to do what he thinks is best for the nation.
UPDATE: Some people believe I’m “kissing up” to John McCain, which seems a little silly. Did Dr. Coburn “kiss up” to McCain? I admire the man for his service to our country, I’ll admit that, and in my limited contacts with him, he has struck me as a pretty nice guy overall. It doesn’t mean I’d vote for him or support his actions on immigration, the BCRA, or other issues, and I’ve been pretty critical of his politics. I don’t think treating an ex-POW as though he acts on honorable motives is unreasonable, outside of solid evidence to the contrary.

Coleman, Thune To Block Fairness Doctrine In Senate

Yesterday, Mike Pence won bipartisan approval for his amendment blocking the FCC from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. That amendment is attached to the appropriation for the agency, which requires a companion amendment in the Senate. Just a few moments ago, Senators Norm Coleman and John Thune announced that they have proposed an identical amendment in the Senate:

In an effort to prevent Democrats from suppressing the right to free speech for talk radio and other broadcasters, Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN), Jim DeMint (R-SC) and John Thune (R-SD) today introduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2007 (S.1748). The bill would prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine, which would require the government to monitor political views and decide what constitutes fair political discourse. Identical legislation was also introduced by Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) in the House of the Representatives.
“At its core, this is about the right to free speech. Our founders put the first amendment first for a reason. It protects all Americans’ right to free speech, regardless of political affiliation or views. The Democrats’ attempt to regulate and stifle ideas is a grave threat our liberties,” said Senator Coleman. “Since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, talk radio has flourished due to free market ideas. We mustn’t put the government in control over the political views expressed on the public airwaves. I applaud Congressman Pence for being a leader on this issue. Senators DeMint, Thune and I will continue working with our colleagues in the Senate to pass this critical legislation.”
“Here they go again. Democrats showed in the immigration debate they will once again try resurrect the so-called ‘Fairness Doctrine’, which is nothing more than an attempt to muzzle the free speech of conservative Americans. If liberals had their way, this unfair doctrine would give the heavy hand of government control over talk radio. We must act now to preserve all American’s first amendment rights,” said Senator DeMint.

Power Line noted today that Dick Durbin and Dianne Feinstein have inadvertently given the Republicans an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves with their base after the immigration debacle. Attacking talk radio and threatening regulation of political content doesn’t just resonate with conservatives, but with everyone concerned about government meddling with political speech. The GOP sees the opportunity to champion free speech while painting the Democrats as afraid and unable to respond to debate.
If Harry Reid and the Senate Democratic Caucus have an ounce of sense, they’ll take a lesson from Jose Serrano and allow the amendment to prevail.

CQ Radio: What’s Next Edition

blog radio
Today on CQ Radio (2 pm CT), we have a great roundtable retrospective on the series of conservative wins this week. Mark Tapscott, editorial page editor of The Examiner, joins us to discuss his celebratory post on this week. He and I will also discuss my partial rebuttal, while Winfield Myers takes the position of his Democracy Project partner, Bruce Kesler.
Call 646-652-4889 to join the conversation! Also, you can subscribe to CQ Radio through iTunes now by clicking this link:
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Gore Clears His Schedule? (Update: Gore Says No)

A blurb in the Taipei Times may telegraph a shakeup in the Democratic primary race, which has settled into a contest for the second spot already. Hillary Clinton may have a tougher fight on her hands, as a cancellation in Al Gore’s schedule portends a presidential bid by the former Vice President (via Power Line and The Corner):

Al Gore visit postponed
Former US vice president Al Gore will not be able to make it to Taiwan this September to address the issue of global warming, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said yesterday. Tien, who invited Gore to visit Taiwan to promote awareness on global warming, told reporters yesterday that she received an e-mail from the Harry Walker Agency, which has the exclusive right to arrange Gore’s speeches, saying that Gore had canceled all his scheduled events in the next six months. The visit to Taiwan had been postponed to next year, she added. Tien said the reason for the cancelation was that Gore was considering a presidential bid.

If this is accurate, it’s the best indication that Gore will challenge Hillary for the top spot on the ticket. He has made it his mission to campaign worldwide against global warming, as well as making a living from at least some of his appearances. Cancelling six months of commitments clears him throught at least the start of the primary elections next year.
Of course, this could just be Gore’s way of dumping the Taiwan appearance in a way that doesn’t burn bridges. He could have decided not to irritate backers who want to concentrate on wheedling Beijing into changes, and a Taiwan appearance by Gore may have bruised some feelings in mainland China. The politics in that region have become very strained, and Beijing may have resented a challenge from Gore from the disputed island.
We should keep our eyes and ears open for other cancellations. If a rash of them suddenly appears, I think we will have our answer. Given the mood of the activists in the Democratic Party, Gore could give Hillary a real problem in the primaries — and she might wind up at the bottom of the ticket.
UPDATE: Lowell at Raising Kaine (and a BlogTalkRadio host) called Gore’s office and got a loud guffaw in return:

It is completely and utterly false.
1. He never accepted an event in Taiwan
2. We have loads of events on the schedule in the next six months
I don’t know how to spell bubkus but there’s no credibility to this whatsoever.

It’s spelled bupkis, and it looks like that’s what Gore has in mind for this presidential cycle, at least at the moment. Hillary can breathe a sigh of relief …

Top Of The World, Ma!

Vladimir Putin has spent the last few years attempting to expand his influence throughout Eastern Europe and central Asia, mostly by threats and economic extortion. He has accused the US of acting as an imperialist power while he tries to knit the old Russian empire together in almost every direction on the compass. Now, we can say every direction, as Putin has made a bold bid for the North Pole:

Russian President Vladimir Putin is making an astonishing bid to grab a vast chunk of the Arctic – so he can tap its vast potential oil, gas and mineral wealth.
His scientists claim an underwater ridge near the North Pole is really part of Russia’s continental shelf.
One newspaper printed a map of the “new addition”, a triangle five times the size of Britain with twice as much oil as Saudi Arabia.

Currently, the nations bordering on the Arctic have a 200-mile region each closest to their territory. Canada, Greenland, the US, and Russia control the outer rim of the Arctic while the center has been considered an international reserve. The basis for this UN-sponsored agreement has been the fact that the Arctic has no connection to any of the continental plates, and therefore belongs to no nation established on them.
The Russians now claim that they have discovered a ridge from Asia to the Arctic. If true, it would undermine the geological basis for the agreement, although certainly not the political basis. On the strength of this unconfirmed claim, Putin says almost half of the Arctic belongs to him — including the mineral rights. He plans on exploiting the Arctic in a manner that makes the ANWR request look like a child digging holes on a beach in the summer, as well as claiming a significant strategic edge at the top of the world.
It’s not surprising that Putin would make such a naked grab for land, oil, and gas, The question will be whether the US and Canada will do anything to stop him. It may sound esoteric, but this is just one more step in Putin’s slow offensive against the West, attempting to return Russia to the status of a Great Power. Controlling the top of the world will provide material and emotional support for that status if he succeeds.

Only Half The Battle Has Been Won

My friend Mark Tapscott reviews a week in which he feels that conservatives won battles on several important fronts. He hails the end of the McCain-Kennedy immigration plan, Supreme Court decisions on race and political speech, and the end to the Fairness Doctrine movement in last night’s vote in the House. While Mark is correct to celebrate these events, with one exception they do not really represent victories for conservative governance as much as reprieves from the alternatives:

Winston Churchill once remarked that God takes care of drunks and the United States of America and so it seems to be as we approach the end of a remarkable week in which milestones of success for the conservative movement have come one after another.
I must confess I didn’t expect a week such as this. Between Bush’s various expansions of Big Government, the GOP congressional majority throwing away of its position and the desperately blind opposition of the Washington Establishment to earmark and other common sense reforms, I was mulling a post asking if the time had come to declare the conservative enterprise a failure.
Yet, we have just been blessed with three signal victories.

I’ve learned two lessons in life that help keep me sane. Events are rarely as bad as they seem, nor are they as good as they look. Had Mark written that column on the death of the conservative movement, I would have advised him with the former — and now I’ll have to invoke the latter instead.
While all of these events rightly please conservatives, we have to be congnizant that we haven’t really won any battles for conservatism in them. All of them amount to little more than significant holding actions against statist policies. None of them represent a victory for conservative policies, because conservative policies haven’t been applied in most of the cases.
This is most true for immigration. Before the bill’s defeat, we had a bipartisan effort to ignore the border and visa system. The bill’s failure acts to extend that. That’s not a victory for conservatism. Conservatives will win when they force the federal government to secure the borders and fix the broken visa system. In other words, we haven’t enacted any policy at all at this point; how can that be victory?
The two Supreme Court decisions also fall into this same status. The BCRA remains in force, along with at least some of the restrictions on political speech. Racial preferences may have suffered a body blow, but we still have not succeeded in pushing market-based solutions to resolve the vestiges of the government failures to enforce the 14th Amendment for 100 years. I agree that these represent opportunities for conservative action to implement positive policies and solutions, but that’s all they represent — opportunities, not victories in and of themselves.
The single exception was the Pence amendment barring implementation of a new Fairness Doctrine by the FCC. That represented a legislative success against statism and the curtailing of free speech It’s a victory for conservative policy, not just a barricade to leftist overreach, although it was that, too. It used the representative process to show that conservatism is the best defense of personal liberty — and when properly introduced, has a wide range of support. Over 110 Democrats voted for the Pence amendment.
We need to focus on real victory, which comes when conservative policies get adopted and succeed. If we want to celebrate the Supreme Court decision striking racial preferences, we should do so by introducing policies that positively counter the remaining effects of official government racism. If we celebrate the demise of the immigration bill, we need to ensure that we do something to secure the borders and fix the visa system.
We had a good week, but it’s way too early to pop the champagne corks.
UPDATE: Another good friend in the blogosphere, Bruce Kesler, tries to bridge the gap:

Mark is correct to point at the Internet as an embodiment of that civic discussion, serving to remind otherwise imperious legislators. Ed is correct to bemoan the extent of intrusion into our daily affairs by such legislators and seek their reversal.
Mark and Ed are invaluable resources in those struggles. Both, however, miss that it is process that matters more than results. Rich Lowry, of National Review, reminds us that, “Now, there is really no such thing as an “inside game” anymore, since bloggers make sure it gets “outside.” Both the right and the left will take advantage of this, for good and ill policy ends. But it’s clearly an enhancement of democracy.”

I don’t think process matters more than results; I think both are important, but in order to truly see conservatism ascendant, we have to produce positive results with the process. Otherwise, we have New Math, which as Tom Lehrer delightfully skewers in his song of the same name, getting the right answer matters less than understanding the process. Here’s the Professor at his mathematical best, animated and lip-synched brilliantly by RonfarZ3 and Benjamin Z W at YouTube:

Here’s another by Phasmidan which is pretty clever as well:

Court Ruling Offers Paradigm Shift, Not All Buying It

The Roberts court made its first stamp on the volatile area of race relations yesterday in ruling that most state education plans that considers race as a basis of assignment are unconstitutional. Critics have howled that the court has thrown back desegregation efforts by decades, while supporters wonder why it took so long for a court to apply the Fourteenth Amendment.
There are two issues here that compete with each other in an ironic manner. The American people want a color-blind society, but the abject failure of the federal government to enforce the 14th Amendment for 100 years created the problems we face now. At Heading Right, I take a look at the competing interests, and why government intervention of the kind ruled unconstitutional yesterday hasn’t delivered — and what direction we should try next. (via Memeorandum)

Obama: Forget Impeachment, Concentrate On Elections

Barack Obama may have made some of the more radical elements of his party angry yesterday by eschewing impeachment in the next eighteen months, but only because he injected a sense of rationality to the partisan struggle. Obama argued that impeachment should be reserved for “grave” crimes, and that elections provide the most cleansing agent to poor government:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama laid out list of political shortcomings he sees in the Bush administration but said he opposes impeachment for either President George W. Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney.
Obama said he would not back such a move, although he has been distressed by the “loose ethical standards, the secrecy and incompetence” of a “variety of characters” in the administration.
“There’s a way to bring an end to those practices, you know: vote the bums out,” the presidential candidate said, without naming Bush or Cheney. “That’s how our system is designed.”

Obama has this correct, not just legally but also strategically. First, although many people like to claim that impeachment is a political tool, the Constitution makes it clear that the remedy should only apply to actual criminal conduct. “High crimes and misdemeanors” makes it plain that the founders didn’t want a Parliament that removed an executive for a simple loss of confidence, but an independent executive whose election should only be nullified for actual and provable criminal conduct.
Strategically, it’s difficult to understand why anyone still argues for impeachment — but the fact that Obama has to address this shows they do. George Bush and Dick Cheney have 18 months left in office, and sixteen until the next election. Even if the Democrats started impeachment now, it would probably take that long to gather enough evidence for a win in the House, let alone the two-thirds in the Senate needed for removal, which would be the entire point.
They would risk a huge backlash from moderates and centrists who would see this as a stunt, much the same way the Republicans did in 1998 — only this time, it would come in a presidential election cycle instead of the midterms. It might be the one event that could restore George Bush’s flagging approval ratings, and it would be political suicide for a Democratic Congress that has done nothing in its first six months.
Finally, Obama understands that such a move only guarantees to poison political debate over the next decade. He told the constituent breakfast that he’d rather attend to policy than foolish attack strategies. In the sense that Obama represents the future of American politics, it offers some hope that the acid partisanship of the last generation may give way to something more practical and ennobling, and I say that as someone who disagrees with Obama on almost every policy position.
Will he get credit for this among his allies? Try taking a read through the comments on the USA Today story, and decide for yourself.

Giuliani Claims Centrist Position

Rudy Giuliani either has given up attempting to sound conservative or has forgotten that all presidential primary politics is national in today’s media environment. While trying to woo Californians, Rudy claimed that he would govern in the same manner as Arnold Schwarzenegger has in the Golden State — a promise that may not thrill Republicans in or out of California:

Mayor Giuliani is telling California voters wondering what kind of president he would make that they need to look no further than their popular Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I governed very much like your governor does,” Mr. Giuliani said as he described his tenure as mayor of New York from 1994 to 2001. “I got results and I want people to look at that and say that’s the way I would govern as president of the United States. I would get results,” he said.
In a deft bit of political footwork, Mr. Giuliani managed to declare himself simpatico with the governor without actually specifying any of the issues where the two men hold similar views. Some of those stances, such as support for abortion rights and gay rights, antagonize large swaths of the Republican base in the Golden State and across the country.

Rudy has spent a lot of time and effort to burnish his conservative credentials on the campaign trail. He has tried to argue that his position on abortion represents a small area of disagreement in comparison to a wide range on agreement with conservatives, with middling success. Giuliani argues — and George Will supports him on this point — that Giuliani provided the most conservative government possible in New York City, and he’s almost certainly correct.
However, Rudy threatens to undermine that by hitching his wagon to the Governator. Arnold has done very well for himself in California, but no one confuses him with a conservative, not even the state’s GOP. He has opted to work closer with the Democrats and has become the same kind of big-government Republican that many accuse George Bush of popularizing.
In California, as in New York City, that’s the only kind of Republican that can get elected to an executive office. That doesn’t mean that the rest of the Republicans around the country want to elect them, however, and Rudy may be making a mistake by reinforcing the impression that he’s so far out of step with conservatives in the party. He could find himself positioned well for a general election that he’ll never reach.
Addendum: The Democrats have decided to really get personal and nasty early in this campaign. Josh Gerstein reports that a group of them protested outside Rudy’s event — by pointing out that Rudy married his second cousin. They couldn’t even get within six months of a primary without getting classless.