Rattling the Cage Column
By DEREK P. GILBERT
June 5, 2007
THERE ARE two moments in the last 15 years that are as clear as crystal in my memory, epiphanies during which I realized that the president was not the man I thought I voted for. They were moments in which the president’s facade was ripped away, leaving him utterly exposed and me sadder but wiser.
With Bill Clinton, it was the moment I read about Kenneth Starr’s discovery of Monica Lewinsky’s stained blue dress. In an instant I understood that Bill Clinton had looked through the television camera into the eyes of America and lied. Lied as boldly as anyone I’ve ever seen, and he did it without a blush or a twitch.
For George W. Bush, the big reveal happened during the 2005 State of the Union address. When the president announced that “America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world”, it became obvious that his administration had dropped the pretense of serving as a force for good and was now simply seeking to secure the empire. The conservative principle of a non-interventionist foreign policy had been discarded, and the United States was officially in the business of nation building.
That was a revelation. It wasn’t enough that we’d invaded Iraq; the president had just put the entire world on notice that he reserved the right to invade anywhere as long as he could rationalize it as part of the pursuit of an idealistic, impossible goal.
We conservatives had been fooled. The Medicare entitlement, Social Security, No Child Left Behind, and a war that’s lasted longer than World War II have left us with a national deficit of $59 trillion and growing.
Meanwhile, this administration has manipulated the public’s fear of another 9/11 to push through broad powers for law enforcement that strain the limits of constitutional authority. President Bush has used the patently unconstitutional “signing statement” to ignore bills passed by Congress. And his failure to do anything meaningful about the country’s porous southern border has been a bitter pill for the conservative core of the Republican Party, which rallied to support the president in the 2004 election because we believed he was the better choice for national security.
Look, when 1,400 people sneak into the U.S. on an average day, we have a national security crisis. The president’s response to this crisis was deploying 6,000 unarmed National Guard troops with rules of engagement that amounted to “Run away!”
And now President Bush has made it clear that conservatives who object to granting legal status to the 12 to 20 million illegals in the country are unpatriotic. His supporters have been even less kind; Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who I would have supported for president ten years ago, said, “We’re gonna tell the bigots to shut up.” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff actually suggested that critics of the immigration reform bill would prefer that illegals be killed.
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks since the president announced the immigration reform bill. Consistent supporters in the media like Sean Hannity have turned on the president. One of the most stalwart defenders of the Republican Party, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, wrote a scathing piece this week in which she accuses President Bush of tearing the conservative base of the party asunder.
Conservatives would forgive the spiraling debt and skyrocketing costs of fuel, housing, and health care if only the president would listen on this one key issue. We understand that 20 million illegals represent a daunting problem, but the cost of welcoming that many primarily unskilled workers and their families into our country is vastly more than the expense of finding them and punishing the employers who hire them.
We also understand the threat posed by OTMs (Other Than Mexicans), about 10,000 of which cross our southern border every month. While the vast majority are from other Central American nations, hundreds are from what Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar calls “countries of concern”. The number of OTMs caught entering the country has been increasing every year since we began to wage the War on Terror. Coincidence?
I should point out that the union of Border Patrol agents recently returned a unanimous vote of “no confidence” in Mr. Aguilar, who is defended by Secretary Chertoff. Maybe it has something to do with agents who’ve been prosecuted for violating the civil rights of non-citizens in the pursuit of their duties.
But perhaps most unacceptable is the idea that our president is perfectly comfortable with giving legal status to millions of people who broke the law to get here.
Objecting to an immigration reform plan that doesn’t effectively shut down the border first is a reasonable response. The reaction of President Bush to conservatives’ objections, calling them unpatriotic, should finally make it clear that he thinks his base is stupid or that he doesn’t need it any more. Probably both.
Evangelical Christians, who turned out for President Bush by a huge margin in 2000 and 2004, should take a long, hard look at what this president has done over the last six years. Ignore his occasional references to faith and really study the fruit of his labors. (Consider, too, whether a truly committed Christian would keep atheist Karl Rove as his top political advisor or claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.) Who has he served? Who gained? The working men and women of the United States? The families of those stressed by extended deployments overseas? Or the corporate oligarchs who supply the materiel for the war effort, profit from lower labor costs, and see national boundaries as annoying obstacles to business?
In that, President Bush is walking in step with liberal globalists. The immigration reform bill is another step toward implementing the goals of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, which will eventually lead us into a EU-style North American Union.
Bigger deficits, bigger government, interventionist foreign policy, and a sellout of American sovereignty. And President Bush got it past the American public by wrapping himself in the garb of a conservative Christian.
The time is long overdue to take a closer look at what he’s really wearing.