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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Hugh and Michael Medved debate the immigration bill as it currently stands.

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HH: Very, very rarely do Michael Medved, my colleague on the Salem Radio Network, and I disagree. Usually, we’re about 95% overlap. But we disagreed about this immigration bill, and despite what Jeff sessions just said on this program, I still think there’s a chance it’ll be coming back. Michael Medved, what do you think?

MM: I think you’re absolutely right. On that, we completely agree. I spoke to Senator Kyl on Friday, as you did, and I think if you heard what the President said, even what Senator Reid said today, that there’s a very good chance that the bill will come back. And then the question becomes how do you fix it? And the one thing where I think maybe we actually do agree is that those people, and they are most of our colleagues in talk radio, who just say no, no, no, no, that it would somehow be a great thing if you just blocked any attempt to change the status quo, I think those folks have a whole lot of ‘splaining to do, because what exactly is it about the status quo that people want so desperately to preserve? The current situation stinks, and we certainly agree on that.

HH: Yes. Michael, is it possible that some bills would make the current situation worse?

MM: Sure.

HH: Okay.

MM: No question about it. And in fact, I am sure that the kind of bill that we will get, if the Democrats prevail in 2008, that kind of bill, if we wait until then, is going to make it much worse.

HH: So what do you want to see, if you were giving advice, closed-door advice, you know the radio world, you know, the right wing very well, you know the conservative intellectuals very well, you read all the blogs. So Michael Medved gets a call from Jon Kyl and Tony Snow and Michael Chertoff off the air, and they say what should we do, Medved? What would you tell them to do?

MM: Well, I think to proceed, try to incorporate as many of the Republican Senators as they can. They already have a huge majority of the Republican Senators, try to get all people of good will to sign on to this thing, to address some of the legitimate concerns about the bill, some of which you have raised on your show, Hugh, and done a good job on that, and to fix the bill. The main thing I would do is that I think right now, this is a great opportunity for people like Governor Romney and Mayor Giuliani to show some leadership, and to say look, what we need to do is have a summit meeting of Republicans, and get together, and figure out is there anything that we can do to fix the bill in such a way that it will still be acceptable to the Democrats, whose votes you need, but it will actually be able to satisfy some of the very legitimate conservative concerns. And instead, I see particularly in the case of Governor Romney, what I consider to be a totally shameful, stupid, embarrassing, pandering on a position that the Governor hasn’t even thought out, and he’s a bright guy.

HH: Now what in particular do you think are the strongest arguments of those who oppose the bill. When you heard this, I know you’ve been talking about this on your show, people throwing all sorts of bricks from the Tom Tancredoites all the way through folks like Senator DeMint, Senator Kyl, Governor Romney, Rudy Giuliani. What do you think is the most important objection that the White House has to listen to?

MM: I think that they have to listen to the objection that this bill provides some kind of instant probationary status. And that’s the biggest problem with the bill as I understand it at the moment. And of course, it’s all very fluid. It changes, literally, from day to day, as more amendments have been voted on, and some of the amendments have definitely improved the bill. But I think that what they need to do is make it very clear that this bill grants absolutely nothing to anybody who crossed the border illegally, or who overstayed a visa illegally, until they have already completed at least half of the total border fence, and been able to certify in a way that Congress will accept, not some independent executive commission, but Congress will accept, they’ve been able to certify that they have greatly slowed the crossings at the border.

HH: So that first objection is 601h, which says okay, file the paperwork the day after the bill passes, file the paperwork. If you’re not rejected within 24 hours, we’re going to give you travel and work permits. You are against that?

MM: Of course, yeah, because I think that comes dangerously close to the A word.

HH: Yeah.

MM: And it also, I think, this is a point that I know you’ve made, and I think it’s a good point, people feel like they’re being stiffed, faked out, because again, we’ve all heard about Senator Isakson, who has fought heroically for this trigger mechanism. And that’s a crucial part of the compromise, that there is no change in status of any kind for people who are in this country illegally until they’ve shown that they can get serious about securing the border.

MM: And that is…I’ll be right back with Michael Medved. That is the huge loophole in the current draft, the one that was shut down on Thursday last.

– – – –

HH: Michael and I on the opposite sides of the bill, although really not, because Michael, if you’re against probationary benefits, if you agree with me on the other big thing, we might be in complete agreement. The other big thing is do you think that we ought to treat illegal immigrants from countries of special interest, those would include countries with jihadist networks like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Jordan, as on the same basis as we treat Spanish-speaking Mexican and Central Americans?

MM: Well, I think officially, legally, and legislatively, yes. I think it would be incredibly stupid if our FBI and our security agencies did not give them special attention. But Hugh, I would be very concerned of the message that we would be sending to the Islamic world if we actually put in legislation that nations of special interest, that are frankly, at the moment, allied with the United States, that we would discriminate legally and formally, and officially, against immigrants from those nations? Yeah, I think that’s a problem.

HH: I would not put that in for any visa that was legally obtained. But if people have entered the country illegally, I think it’s irrational for us not to treat illegal entrants from those countries very, very differently than Spanish-speaking illegal immigrants.

MM: Oh, in other words…look, I would agree with you, operationally. In other words, I would hope that we would have some executive order, or where the Immigration and Customs Enforcement would go after those people as a top priority, that we would make them a top priority. And I suppose if you needed to insert something into the bill that said that when it comes to the apprehension of unregistered people…but see, one of the advantages of this whole bill is it really does give people a reason to come out of the shadows. And if somebody is coming out of the shadows, even if that person is here illegally from Saudi Arabia, if they’re coming out of the shadows, and going through all the hoops, and doing all the things that the government wants them to do in order for them to get probationary legal status, then it seems to me that to treat them differently just based on countries of origin, is not reasonable discrimination.

HH: Well, I do think it is. I proposed an amendment, at the request of Senator Kyl, and said okay, look, the current system, where you come in and you file an application, if it’s not bounced out in 24 hours, you’re Ollie, Ollie in free for probation. It doesn’t work for me. So I’d have two categories, Spanish and English speaking people. If we don’t say no within thirty days, you get your probationary status. Countries of other special interest, and that includes, goes far beyond the Arabian countries and the countries in the Middle East, it goes to Indonesia and Asian countries as well…

MM: Pakistan, sure.

HH: Yeah, you’re going to have to make a positive showing of loyalty. And until we can make that positive showing of loyalty, you cannot travel around the United States, and you can only work with special permission, thereby making sure that those who’ve come out of the shadows stay within our range of sight until after we’ve checked them out. It’s a higher standard. It’s not as discriminatory as you think, but I think it’s crazy in this era that we live in, to treat poor Mexicans the same as we treat people who have come in from, say, the Kashmir region of Pakistan and India. Michael, let me ask you about Rudy Giuliani. You blasted Mitt Romney a little bit earlier. Last night, in Orange County, Rudy said the bill failed to guarantee a uniform tamper-proof biometric identification card, a single nationwide database of foreigners in our country, and did not mandate the full implementation of a biometric check-in and check-out system. We can and must guarantee the American people that we know who is coming in and out of the country. As president, my administration will dedicate itself to assuring the American people that we have a secure border. So he joins Romney and Fred Thompson in blasting the bill. Do you think they’re all just gaming this?

MM: I think that Thompson and Romney are. The point about Rudy is he at least is leaving himself open in what he’s saying, to suggesting that with certain fixes, immigration reform would be a good thing. My main passion about this, Hugh, and you know this, because we’ve spoken about it, I happen to believe that if this bill collapses, if there’s no immigration reform, it’s going to be a disaster for the country, and a disaster of unspeakable proportions for the Republican Party, because the one thing about passing a bill, and a good bill, with the kind of changes you’re talking about, with the kind of changes that Giuliani and Romney and Fred Thompson ought to be talking about, passing a bill takes the issue off the table, and actually does something to improve the status quo. I defy anybody out there, any of your listeners, anyone, to tell me how, given the collapse of this bill, if it just goes away, the situation is supposed to get any better at all. It will only get worse, and it’ll be much harder…I mean, first of all, just giving an extra several years to people who are already here illegally to have more American born children, to get more rooted in the society, anybody who thinks it’ll be easier to deal with this problem under a potential Democratic president and Democratic Congress, two, three, five years from now, anybody who believes that is delusional.

HH: Senator Sessions just made the argument that the leverage of the security first people has increased dramatically, and that if the White House and the pro-reformists are serious, they will now come back to the majority of Republicans opposed to this bill, and that’s his number, I know you disagree with it, and say to him what do you want, they’ll get the fence, they’ll get more serious treatment of the population here, more serious and quicker employment verification, that it’ll be much more of a security first bill. He might be right, Michael. That might be exactly what needed to happen, because Kyl and Company, of whom we have great friends and admiration for, may not have been tough enough in the negotiations.

MM: There is zero chance, and you know this, and Senator Sessions knows this, there will be no passage in a Democratic controlled Congress of a security only bill.

HH: Agreed.

MM: It won’t happen.

HH: Agreed, but we wasn’t saying that. He was saying that more security along with the regularization has to happen, and that they would not have gotten it had they pushed this through. And there’s also the House of Representatives problem, which is…

MM: Of course there is, and that’s why all of the hysteria was so overdone. You know that the House is going to be very tough on this issue, and they’re going to pass their own bill, and then it’s going to go to conference, and then they’re going to battle it out in conference, then have to go back to the House and back to the Senate. And I think in that process, it’s a very positive process. And I think the people in Congress, actually, for once, are doing a pretty good job. But what I resent, and I resent it to the point of passion, really, is those people among our colleagues who are talking about great public servants like Jon Kyl, and yes, like Saxby Chambliss, and Trent Lott, and others, who are actually trying to address a problem, rather than just grandstanding and saying oh, we’ll be better off, somehow, if we just block this thing, reform’s not as crucial.

HH: Let’s put Trent Lott off on the corner. I’ll be right back with Michael Medved. We’ll put Trent Lott in a separate category because of his Thursday speech.

– – – –

HH: We’re wrapping up a half hour on the debate that will continue for some time during the summer. Michael Medved, a lot of the people on the opposition camp got upset with both Trent Lott, but more importantly, with the President of the United States, and Senator Lindsey Graham, for calling them nativist and racist. You and I are both aware that the nativist/racist fringe is out there, but was that good tactics? And was it deserved when the President shot with a shotgun?

MM: No, it was inappropriate, because there are people…I respect Senator Sessions. I do not respect Congressman King, I do not respect Congressman Tancredo. I think Steve King may be somebody who’s even more irresponsible, more extreme, more ridiculous on this issue than Congressman Tancredo. And the difficulty here is keeping the center together, and when I mean the center, I don’t mean moderates. I mean the center, the mainstream of the Republican Party, the people who actually want to make this situation better, rather than just grandstanding and trying to score political points.

HH: Okay, last question, Michael Medved, your prediction. What’s going to happen?

MM: I think my prediction would be like yours. I do believe, I think this is a matter of conscience for Senators, including most Republicans, the overwhelming majority, and including many Democrats. And I think they’re going to get a bill through the Senate, and I think the House is up for grabs. I would say it’s 50-50. If I were a betting person, I would bet even money that the President signs a bill this year.

HH: I’m not there, yet, because I haven’t seen any of the amendments. But it is…I’d say 60-40 against, but not dead, yet. Michael Medved, always a pleasure, colleague extraordinaire.

End of interview.


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