Monday :: May 15, 2006

Bush Did Good, As Did The Democrats

by Steve

Image courtesy of the New York Times

I watched Bush’s speech tonight, as well as Dick Durbin’s Democratic response. Simply put, Bush gave one of his best speeches tonight, and laid out a broad immigration reform proposal that endorses the elements of the McCain-Kennedy proposal that Arlen Specter is trying to push out of the Senate and over to the House. The new wrinkles are, of course, the most problematic elements: the National Guard deployments and the national ID card for illegal immigrants only. But without getting into a long dissertation about the proposal, I came away impressed that Bush came out in favor of the basic elements of the earned citizenship program in the McCain-Kennedy proposal, and directly knocked down the basic elements behind the House GOP bill. Bush directly challenged the House’s mass deportation requirement, and directly rebutted any claim that a guest worker or earned citizenship proposal constituted amnesty, which they do not. This was politically risky for Bush, who in the face of declining approval ratings amongst his base decided to stick to principle and challenge his base tonight, who have already indicated that his proposals don’t go far enough. I applaud this, despite my misgivings about his Guard proposal and the reasoning behind the ID card proposal. The truth is that Bush will please no one fully tonight, which means that he may be doing something right.

Dick Durbin focused almost all of his response to the questionable proposal to use the Guard in support roles along the border, pointing out that there isn’t enough detail to determine what Bush intends for the Guard to do, and how he will get sufficient forces to meet the 6,000 guard members every two weeks that would be required to staff his idea. I suspect that the Guard will figure all of this out in time. Durbin also challenged Bush to be serious about this, but he wisely pledged Democratic support to improving border security and dealing effectively with this issue. As Chris Matthews noted on Olbermann’s Countdown, Durbin smartly aligned the Democrats with Bush on the issue tonight, leaving Bush’s biggest problem Matthews noted with Bush’s own base. And that is exactly where we suggested the Democrats place themselves on this issue: with the McCain-Kennedy proposal, and yes, with Bush, while he does battle with his own base heading into the fall election.

Sure, as Matthews and the Post’s Tom Shales agreed, the timing of this speech and the Guard proposal itself were designed to take the public’s attention away from Bush’s other problems, at least for a day or so (It doesn't hurt that the proposal gives Bush a face-saving excuse to start pulling the Guard out of Iraq, and that is a plus for all of us). Yet as Dan Balz notes in tomorrow’s Post, tonight’s speech is all the proof you need that Bush and Rove have mishandled this issue from a perceived long-term strategy to expand the GOP into a party-splitting dilemma of his own creation. Bush has now drawn a line with his own base in the House, and done the right thing, instead of caving to them. Kudos to him and Dick Durbin, and kudos to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi for getting on the right side of this issue while Bush takes on his own party.

Steve :: 10:48 PM :: Comments (44) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!