Alexander's Column

Fiesta time on the Rio Potomac

Mark Alexander · Sep. 7, 2001

It’s fiesta time on the Rio Potomac, as Congress reconvened from summer recess, and President George Bush welcomed Mexican President Vicente Fox for a bicultural, bilingual, bipartisan, “buy-our-rhetoric” palaver over binational, cross-border relations.

On his arrival Wednesday, President Fox called for quick agreement “to make sure that there are no Mexicans who have not entered [the U.S.] legally and that those Mexicans who have come into the country do so with the proper documents.” OK, his English is no better than Mr. Bush’s Spanish, but everybody north of the border better understand what Fox really means! El diablo esta en los detalles.

“Immigration reform is a very complex subject,” Mr. Bush remarked. “I have explained to the president [of Mexico] that there’s no appetite for a blanket amnesty in Congress. …This is going to take a while to bring all the different interests to the table.”

With all due respect, we can guarantee that “all the different interests” in illegal immigration into this country will never have a place at “the table” to barter and compromise. Some of us happen to believe the Constitution, which sets immigration policy as a “uniform rule of naturalization” under the power of Congress, should not be compromised.

While Mr. Bush correctly notes the lack of “appetite” for a “blanket amnesty,” he apparently wishes to remain political bedfellows with Mr. Fox but “split the blanket,” so to speak. He had been referring to amnesty as “regularization,” but the new term of art is “normalization,” as Mr. Bush described it: “Short term solution for the undocumented is to develop a guest worker type program that will allow for some type of normalization.” (You know – kinda like “Most Favored Nation” trade status got “normalized.”)

The most recent complete descriptive phrase for this policy is the tongue twisting “phased-in access to earned regularization,” which actually translates into a plan to grant visas and work permits to about 3 million service sector employees who entered the U.S. illegally before going to work here. (None of Mr. Bush’s handlers wanted him trying to tangle with that phrase!)

Friend of The Federalist Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado) said of the shenanigans undermining immigration rules for targeted illegal border crossers: “This is a kick in the teeth to the thousands of individuals across the world who are legally attempting to enter the United States. Instead, the U.S. is saying, ‘Why wait? Sneak on in! Whether you enter illegally or not, you will be a resident or citizen in no time’.”

With the U.S. economy headed south – that’s recession not relocation – the argument no longer has much credibility that illegal immigrants are only here to take jobs that Americans won’t.

In other news, American patriots learned Tuesday that they are losing yet another of our best front line warriors. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) announced that he will not seek re-election next year. “Remarkably, the things I came to Washington to do are done,” Gramm said. (Unless, of course, you are talking about Gramm-Rudman legislation to limit the growth of the central government.)

We noted two weeks ago, when Sen. Jesse Helms stated his intention to retire from the Senate’s field of constitutional combat, that he was arguably second only to Ronald Reagan himself in ensuring that Mr. Reagan would achieve the presidency and usher in the Reagan Revolution renewing “morning in America.” By the same token, Gramm may be second only to President Reagan in guaranteeing the success of his agenda in Congress during the early 1980s, though Gramm was a conservative House Democrat at that time. His expertise was in applying legislative process to bring about conservative objectives, especially in economic matters, and he used his Budget Committee seat to rally President Reagan’s 1981 budget and tax cut.

Then Demo Majority Leader Jim Wright ousted Mr. Gramm from the Budget Committee to punish him, and Gramm resigned from his House seat in protest and ran the following year as a Republican. Of course, he won. Some of the nation’s most articulate Republicans once counted themselves among the Democrats – back when the Democratic Party was the party of “limited government, states rights, individual liberty and responsibility.” Ronald Reagan was among those who, like Gramm, switched parties.

We further note – with fondness and gratitude to the good Senator from Texas – that we might all be at greater risk of early death from “Hillarycare” socialized medicine, had not Gramm stood firm against that fatal program, declaring of that too, “over my dead body.”

Sen. Gramm was long the first national choice of “respectable” conservatives who see a real benefit in having ties to but also a, well, “respectable” distance from proud members of the hard Right like your Editorial Board. Even with the support of National Review and the National Rifle Association in 1996, multiple factors coalesced to torpedo Gramm’s presidential candidacy. We can only wonder how a chastened Phil Gramm, who embraced rather than stiff-armed social conservatives, might have fared in 2000 … and where our country might be now, had that come to pass.

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