On ABC’s This Week, South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham was talking immigration “reform,” and after warning about letting “talk radio tale over the debate,” went on to tell George Stephanopoulos:
John [McCain] is telling the Republican Party ‘If you want to win 2008, you can’t win with 22% of the Hispanic vote.’ How are we going to be a viable party if we leave this issue behind, unresolved? How are we going to be a viable party if we tell President Bush ‘Go take a hike because we don’t want to deal with the 12 million?’ It is hard. Our culture is under assault. People feel like that if let the 12 million in and forgive them that would be bad, and they’re right. We’re not forgiving anybody. We’re saying you stay here on our terms. You learn English. You learn civics. Your’e going to stay here on our terms. You pay taxes. We’re not going to give our culture away. But here’s what’s at stake. We’ve been down this road before. No Catholics. No Jews. Irish need not apply. That’s not the America I want. I want an America that enfoces its laws but also repsects its culture and respects people. We can make this a win win for America, if we’re courageous. If we’re afraid for the next election and we govern this country on the basis of the next election, we’re going to fall apart as a people.
This statement is remarkable –deeply offensive, incoherent, internally inconsistent within the space of a few lines, self-destructive politically, and wildly hyperbolic.
Of course it offends by asserting that opponents of this bill are bigots, and there is no other way to read highlighted line.
Note that Senator Graham begins by asserting that John McCain is making an argument about the presidential election of 2008 and then goes on to condemn people who are opposing the bill because of concerns about the next election.
He says he wants an America that enforces its laws, but is arguing for a law that nullifies, even to the level of past due taxes, the non-enforcement of immigration laws for a period of two decades.
The attack on talk radio –the only part of the media in which the center-right enjoys a decisive advantage– is a sure way to demoralize and demobilize a large segment of the base while angering influential voices that have worked for the election of conservatives for two decades.
And to declare that “we’re going to fall apart as a people” if the “reform” doesn’t pass is so silly as to render Senator Graham suspect on the entire issue.. A country that survived two world wars, the Soviet Union, and 9/11 will not fall apart because a bad bit of legislating fails to get out of the Senate.
My producer left invitations with both Senators Lott and Graham to appear today, and neither accepted. We’ll try again tomorrow.