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Jews And Immigration: Stephen Steinlight Said What? David Frum Spoke Why?
Evidently the Center for Immigration Studies was happier with Stephen Steinlight's second outing, the Washington D.C. panel discussion on Jews and immigration that Marcus Epstein covered for VDARE.COM in June, than with the similar New York affair I wrote about [Stephen Steinlight - Prophet Without Honor?] in late 2001.
This time, the organization put up a transcript of the discussion. Last time nothing at all appeared. Washington policy wonks seem to have made a less feisty audience than turned up in Manhattan.
No doubt that is what Washington is about.
But the transcript and Steinlight's paper itself (High Noon to Midnight: Why Current Immigration Policy Dooms American Jewry, April 2004) are a treasure trove for those interested in the political and social phenomenon of immigration. Steinlight is an acute and penetrating analyst, effectively privileged by his Jewish ethnicity to make or authenticate judgments virtually nobody else has the courage to assert.
On the political role of American Jews:
"Nearly half the money spent in Democratic Party presidential primaries comes from Jewish contributors… A majority of Clinton's cabinet members were Jews. Jewish advisors play key roles in the Bush administration's national security, foreign and military affairs." (P2)
On the Lautenberg Amendment:
"…a byproduct of American-Jewish political influence has been that persecuted Jews have gone to the head of the refugee line for resettlement here. Under the Lautenberg Amendment, hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Former Soviet Union entered the United States, ahead of thousands of other refugees who, arguably, faced greater danger in places like Central America and Africa. A first casualty of the loss of [Jewish] political power [caused by current immigration] as could be the special consideration now accorded Jewish refugees." (P5)
On why Jewish political funding bought so much influence:
"Without minimizing the effectiveness of organizations like AIPAC and others in steering U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction, it must be acknowledged that for many years they've been pushing on an open door. Once the… old guard at the State Department largely departed, support for Israel became a political no-brainer…it has brought substantial benefits and no downside...Politicians who supported Israel could count on support from Jewish voters in their home state or district. Even if there were no Jewish voters back home, there would always be Jewish money available to support the campaigns of Israel's friends in Congress." (P 10)
Steinlight's exposition of why the current immigration deluge is so profoundly different, for cultural and technological reasons, from the previous flood is a masterpiece (P.7-8). And his assessment of the Bush immigration reform plan—what VDARE.COM calls "The Bush Betrayal"—is definitively caustic. Steinlight describes it as
"a sham to amnesty between 10 to 14 million illegal aliens by turning them into members of a permanent legal underclass, a conception that is an affront to the deepest ideals of American political and social culture from the Founders on…If enacted, Bush's scheme would transform the United States from what it is today—the best approximation the modern world has known of the democratic ideal represented by the Athens of Pericles— into Sparta, a hierarchical state with rigid social distinctions carried on the backs of a class of helots." (P3-4)
"Of the massive demographic bulge that entered the United States in the early 1980s, less than 20 percent has naturalized. In the last presidential election, Jews outpolled Latinos in L.A. County! Whether this sleeping giant will awaken is among the great political conundrums of our time...this is one dog that may never bark"
Good stuff! Friends of immigration reform might think the CIS is correct: Stephen Steinlight is an able ally in the struggle against the obliteration of the traditional American nation and culture (although admittedly with unusual and undeniably selfish reasons).
But this is quite wrong, as emerged in the transcript. Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the CIS, asked, in his characteristically indirect way, why Muslim immigration should not just be banned, saying
"…at a closed panel discussion with a major Jewish organization, a committee within that organization, reassessing their immigration policy… one of the members of this taskforce of the organization, a very liberal woman…stood up and said, 'I'm proud of my organization's advocacy for high levels of immigration…but why don't we just not let any Arabs in?' And I would ask a similar question."
This provoked indignant and reflexive spluttering from Steinlight, for whom the 1920s remains the territory of Demons:
"There would be no support in the present American society and on Capitol Hill for a return to anything resembling the National Origins Quota Act. So it's a non-starter."
(Of course, given the resistance on Capitol Hill to any immigration reform at all, this is not much of an argument.)
Someone in the audience wanted further reassurance about ways the Jewish community in America could offset the growth of a Muslim minority in the US. This was Steinlight's extraordinary response:
"In terms of Jewish numbers…Obviously, Jewish fertility is below replacement level and there is a so-called crisis of Jewish continuity. I think the answer for that is very simple: that Jews should go back to doing something that Jews always did …Jews should seek proselytes from among lapsed American Christians. Jews should be converting and aggressively out there converting people to Judaism.
"Given the fact that mainstream Protestantism is dead as a doornail, and given the fact that the scandals with the Roman Catholic Church have caused many people to back away…I would suggest that there is a role in Judaism, something the Jews have not pursued, but I think there's a historic moment here. Jews have not really pursued since the 2nd century—when, by the way, 20 percent of the Roman Empire was Jewish by conversion—to move towards a conversion strategy."
"… I think Jews need to think—rethink very strongly their historic antipathy to evangelizing and should go out and do what Jews always did. There's nothing in the Torah or the Talmud that speaks against proselytizing."
Poor Mark Krikorian! He has bad luck with guests—witness Joel Mowbray's denunciation of immigration reform in the very act of accepting CIS's media suck-up prize last year! He cut this line off abruptly, claiming shortage of time, although the session went on quite a bit longer.
But that's because he wants to Judaize it!
Still, at least Steinlight is willing to perceive a threat to America, and envisage action to defeat it. This is far more than David Frum, Steinlight's fellow panelist, seems prepared to do.
Frum's surprisingly vague contributions were consistently directed at evading the issue. He seemed extremely unwilling to discuss immigration at all, let alone whether it threatened the Jewish community, or if anything could actually be done about it. His initial comments were 70% directed entirely off topic, an enthusiastic discussion of ways of improving the veracity of ID documents, padded out with jokes.
His response to the question about excluding Arabs was to tell a long, rambling anecdote about meeting a New Jersey limousine driver from Egypt who was rejecting his Arabic heritage. This was intended to demonstrate that, as Frum put it,
"many of the people who come from the Arab world are precisely coming because they object to the way things …are there."
Unfortunately, the effect of this happygram was erased when Joseph Puder, the tough-minded Israeli who was the third panel member, pointed out that as a Coptic Christian, Frum's example was actually a member of a persecuted minority highly likely to be hostile to the Islamic political culture. (And also, of course, quite irrelevant to the question of the prudence of large-scale Muslim immigration.)
About the only immigration policy issue Frum was clear about was his opposition to any deliberate sorting by nationality or ethnicity:
"I don't think you can do immigration by singling out ethnic groups. That would be illegal. [JW note: ??] It would also be politically unwise. And I think that raises a lot of problems with racial profiling…. is inconceivable to me that American immigration law could ever say to somebody on a visa form are you a Muslim?"
Admittedly, this was followed by a confused musing taking 37 lines of transcript which concluded:
"we ought to be looking for people who actually buy into American values, and they can be found. And that should be something, when you're thinking about visa allocation that should also be part of it."
Which might optimistically be construed as indicating that some sort of political profiling would be acceptable. But Frum made no suggestion as to how to achieve this.
In his VDARE.COM article, Marcus Epstein took comfort from his interpretation that Frum
"is beginning to say that you cannot stop illegal immigration without lowering the total number of legal immigrants into the country."
To me, this is a good deal more than the transcript supports. Admittedly, Frum's observations are particularly jumbled at this point, but what it says he said is:
"My own past attitude on immigration has always been that you need—that there are two questions and two unrelated questions. One is, what immigration laws you should have? And then the second question is how those laws—should those laws be enforced…whatever that limit is, nonetheless that's the limit and the law should be enforced… As I had been thinking about this issue I have come to appreciate that maybe it is not so clear-cut…it's true that the existence of the first population makes possible the existence of the second".
"The question that I think a lot of us have to grapple with is, does the casual attitude toward legal immigration—is that ultimately responsible for tolerance of a massive illegal population in the United States? I have not come anywhere close to finishing my thinking on that subject, but it is a subject I do think about…"
David Frum's behavior is particularly interesting because back in the early 90s, before Bill Buckley fired John O Sullivan from National Review and immigration reform was relegated to the magazine's curio cupboard, Frum actually published an article there arguing that big business might ultimately have to choose between mass immigration and free trade—and should choose free trade i.e. accept immigration restriction. [Living with nationalism, April 22, 1996, National Review, By David Frum.]
Something in the Washington wind seems to have caused a Frum fall-off—a massive regression.
"I happen to be on a book tour for An End to Evil, like in the second or third week when the Administration's immigration proposal came out, and it was like being there on the first day of the Somme when the machine guns opened; I mean, every show you did, every question. And I made a few calls and said…there's a problem up here— [laughter] —in Americaland; the Americans are unhappy about this."
How many in the audience grasped the comparison that the charmingly unassimilated Frum employed here? The opening day of the Somme offensive in 1916 was the bloodiest in the long and costly military history of the British Empire, in which his birthplace, Canada, was a loyal participant. An American might have cited Pickett's Charge.
Frum went on:
"One of the things you can never underestimate is just how Administrations divide up their policy into…working groups where interests come together and sometimes they make hideous errors. So, in this one it just seemed to people here was a way to take an actual constituency in the Republican Party, which is employers, and a hopeful constituency of the Republican Party, which is conservative Catholic Latino immigrants, and meld them together to solve the problem of the decay in the Republican party's voting base over the past 15 years…they are looking for answers and they make a lot of errors."
Most VDARE.COM readers would be probably willing to accept Frum's apparent diagnosis here: the Administration was making a crude and stupid attempt to buy Hispanic support.
But actually his remarks are far more revealing. What, one might ask is wrong with the Republican base—which in fact gave the party the White House and both Houses of Congress for the past four years?
A base which, as Frum freely acknowledges, was furious at the amnesty idea?
"what they [GOP strategists] lost sight of was…the impact this was going to have on the kind of the upper-working-class, American who is sort of the institutional bulwark of the party. The voting bulwark, not the institutional but the voting bulwark of the party, and who saw this as, one, an attack on his wages, but even more—even more an attack on his values because, one, it violated his sense of fairness…whoever designed this proposal was clearly not thinking about the problems of people like the people who were calling my [radio] stations and yelling at me."
The answer seems to lie in Frum's final sentence on the subject. The policy designers, he says,
"…just are gripped on to a political dynamic that they think is fundamentally hostile to them in a way that the Reagan people did not…"
In other words, what is wrong with the Republican base is not that it cannot support electoral victory, but that to build victories on it would require policies—such as curtailing immigration—that those in control of the GOP are ferociously determined to reject.
So ferociously, indeed, that an alert operative like David Frum, formerly open-minded on immigration, wanted to avoid even the appearance of being interested in reform.
That is why the hunt is on for a new coalition.
The good news is Frum's report that the negative response to the Bush proposal was truly volcanic. This no doubt explains the subsequent lack of Congressional action on it.
Nevertheless, his presence on the panel remains a mystery. Perhaps Krikorian hoped that, from one of the several platforms Frum has been privileged with, he would have the generosity to give some attention to the work of Steinlight and the CIS.
Dream on! Frum's weekly columns continued their usual oscillation between supporting war in the Middle East and hyping his cronies—and his wife's novel.
Nor was National Review influenced to give the matter any notice, despite its new obsession with "national security."
David Frum is the only writer named in the masthead of National Review Online. So it is illuminating to find the following gem at the end of his trail of evasions at the CIS symposium:
"I'm going to shamelessly ignore the questions and pick up on one thing that Joe said and one thing that Stephen said and put them together as a practical answer.
"…when Bob Jones University wanted to put a ban on interracial dating they were told ...you can not get a tax receipt if you promote such policies. Seems fair…. I think one of the ways . . . one of the most powerful tools against the incitement of hatred is the Bob Jones precedent and the use of the income tax code. That would be a practical suggestion for something that would make, I think, a lot of difference and spur Americanization"
Wonderful! Rather than discuss, let alone support, immigration reform, better politicize a revenue-raising mechanism and use it to coerce opinion.
Maybe there's something in this stuff about neoconservatives being ex-Marxists.