The Bush Administration And The Middle Parts Of History
Journalists always like to say they write
first draft of history," but, really, there are
three drafts. And it`s the middle one, in between Breaking
News and History, where the worst distortions creep in.
Between the raw feed and the
history books, journalists quickly simplify the immense
complexity of events into stock clichés that can go
unchallenged for decades. For example, by
1992 the press had
rewritten the 1988 election around
Likewise, it will probably take one to two
generations before historians can cut through the rewrites
to understand the fundamental dynamics of the last decade.
Why did the Bush Administration waste eight years on
Immigration, Invasion, and Indebtedness? Why did it
encourage Mexicans to illegally immigrate to America by
calling for amnesty? What was Karl Rove thinking when he
tried and failed in four different years (2001,
2007) to shove through amnesty and guest worker
Rove`s boss, George W. Bush, the question is less of a
puzzle. I suspect that minimizing the border between Mexico
and America was Bush`s personal passion, while Rove just
thought they were being clever.
Striking a deal with Mexico was
family business, going back at least to 1960 when George
H. W. Bush`s
Zapata Off-Shore oil company formed a
partnership with Jorge Diaz Serrano to sneak around
Mexico`s ban on foreign involvement in its oil industry.
(Diaz Serrano later became head of
Mexican oil monopoly, and then
went to prison for corruption.)
Further integration of the U.S. and
Mexican economies was naturally attractive for the
The senior Bush negotiated
and encouraged Mexican president
Salinas to turn public monopolies such as the phone
system into private monopolies (a policy which has made
richest man in the world). Yet, in NAFTA, Mexico
withheld from privatization its
Business and immigration all blended
together for the younger Bush, which is why his 2001 plan
was to have his Secretary of State negotiate an immigration
deal with Vicente Fox`s Foreign Minister. In his 1995
New York Times
No Cheap Shots at Mexico, Please, then-Governor
Bush warned Republicans off from the immigration issue
by holding forth on the profits to be made from further
integration with Latin America:
"Mexico is proving to be a strong economic friend. Our
economic bond with Mexico carries with it some
positive long-term results. An isolated United States
will not be able to compete successfully in a world economy
Europe and Asia are united into common-market
partnerships. The trade agreement wisely affords our country
the opportunity to join forces with Canada and our neighbors
to the south—first Mexico, then
emerging capitalist countries in Latin America."
On the personal side, George and Barbara
Bush employed a live-in Mexican maid,
Paula Rendon, of whom W. has said,
"I have come to love
a second mother." He went on to employ another
Maria Galvan, to raise his
two daughters. Younger brother Jeb married a Mexican
girl, Columba Garnica, who had spent some years as an
illegal immigrant in California.
Jeb and Columba`s son,
George P. Bush, was such a
natural politician and heir to the Bush dynasty that W.,
who nicknamed his father
"41" (for being
the 41st President) and himself
"43," called his
So, from 43`s dynastic perspective,
electing a new
people in order to keep electing Bushes to the White
House all made a certain grandiose, demented sense.
Rove, who was supposed to be the brains of the operation,
the motivations are murkier —other than sheer submissiveness
toward his willful boss.
run through the possibilities:
Ineptitude? Never ascribe to rationality that which can be
explained by incompetence.
Republican Party insider explained to me last week the fate
of the Bush Administrations peculiarly ill-timed 2006
election year push for the Kennedy-McCain bill:
"The way it was
stopped in its tracks until after the  election was by
me pointing out to Karl on a conference call in early June
that all the polling clearly indicated that 25% of our base
was opposed to any form of amnesty, and would revolt against
our party. The likely result would be a suppression of the
turnout, a point Karl quickly grasped from the data. In what
was going to be a tough election year, we needed every vote
we could muster. So it goes in politics. "
Readers might feel
public opposition also had a role!]Rove
had been publicly backing more immigration since
2001. Why didn`t he comprehend the polls during the
previous half decade?
he tried it again in 2007!
Drive a wedge between
blacks and Hispanics? In his autobiography
Courage and Consequence, Rove casts some of the
blame (although I would call it credit) for failing to pass
an amnesty bill in 2007 on the lack of enthusiasm of the
Congressional Black Caucus. He writes on p. 468 of a 2007
Democratic confab to which he and Bush were invited:
"After the president spoke,
Congressman Luis Gutierrez made an impassioned plea for
moving forward on immigration. He received spotty applause.
I was sitting off to the side: between Gutierrez and me was
a table of senior African-American members, including the
new Judiciary chairman, John Conyers, and the new Ways and
Charlie Rangel. Few at this table applauded and some
shook their heads "no" as Gutierrez talked."
Rove acts shocked that the black leaders
were concerned about the effect on their black followers of
millions more Hispanics outcompeting them for jobs. But what
if this was all part of Rove`s Master Plan to
break up the heart of the Democratic coalition?
Of course, you know and I know that
there`s no evidence in the Congressional Black Caucus`s
voting records that they ever act upon those immigration
worries. Conyers, Rangel, and Co. know that while
immigration might not be good for blacks, it
is good for black Democratic politicians.
Bipartisanship? Rove`s latest spin is that
the Bush Administration should have pushed immigration up to
2005 to build a
Bipartisanship. As he writes on p. 409:
"In retrospect, it
was a mistake to lead the second term by pressing for Social
Security reform. If we had led with immigration
reform—another issue the president cared about deeply—we
would almost certainly have gotten it passed because
Democrats said they would work with Bush on it. That success
might have produced enough bipartisan confidence to tackle
flat learning curve on this here Boy Genius.
Kennedy-McCain amnesty bill failed in 2006 because the
public felt the elites were teaming up against them. Rove`s
considered view in 2010 is that the elites` big mistake was
in not teaming up against us earlier.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is now
following in this tradition of bipartisanship, recently
visiting President Obama in the company of Sen. Chuck
Schumer (D-NY) to promote yet another
It`s the kind of self-promotion that gets Lindsey declared "Presidential
course, if most Democratic politicians think amnesty would
be good for them politically, isn`t it possible that amnesty
would be good for them politically? Granted, they aren`t
infallible savants like Karl Rove, so what do they know
about their self-interest?
Win praise from the liberal
Indeed, pushing for more immigration did get Rove some nice
press. Yet, how much good did it actually do him? The press
tried for years to put him in prison over the
Valerie Plame brouhaha.
Bust the unions?
As a GOP election warrior, Rove is, not unreasonably,
"If I learned anything from
it was not to trust union bosses," Rove writes on p. 10.
Organized labor provides
votes, and volunteers for the Democrats. Flooding the
country with more
"temporary workers" would make the union business
less lucrative, thus undermining Democrats.
Yet, does this make any sense as 21st
Century politics? Private sector unions are already mostly
gone. In 2009, only
7.2 percent of the private sector`s workforce belonged
to a union. A majority of union members now have government
jobs. Unions for civil servants, such as the
Education Association, are a more important asset to the
Democratic Party today. And
jobs tend to have
citizenship requirements. So, it all seems irrelevant.
I`m not saying that this idea didn`t play a role in Rove`s
thinking, just that it was a pretty stupid one.
Hispanic consultantitis? Rove, who mostly
grew up in Nevada and Utah in the 1950s and 1960s doesn`t
seem to have much personal experience with Latinos. Most of
the Hispanics whom Rove mentions in his memoir are political
professionals. In other words, they are people whose
careers depend at least in part on being Hispanic. Of
course, they want more Hispanics for themselves to be the
putative leaders of.
Impress nice white people? In 1985, Rove
memo to a GOP politician client, former Texas Governor
Bill Clements, about how to soften his hard-nosed image:
"The purpose of saying you
gave teachers a record pay increase is to reassure suburban
voters with kids, not to win the votes of teachers.
Similarly, emphasizing your appointments of women and
minorities will not win you the support of feminists and the
leaders of the minority community; but it will bolster your
support among Republican primary voters and urban
There`s always the possibility that the
realignment" assertion was just a front. Rove won in
2002 and 2004 by
getting out the vote among the Republican base. But
Hispanics gave him a cool-sounding talking point with which
to baffle innumerate reporters.
Out-of-Touchness: In a 2007
NY Times article by Jim Rutenberg,
Texas Town, Now Divided, Forged
Bush`s Stand on Immigration,
Rove more or less admitted that he was out of touch
with changing sentiments in Texas:
Governor Bush found Texas to be largely receptive to his
push to provide a bilingual education program for the
children of Hispanic immigrants. In the current climate,
that seems like a distant memory, a casualty of what Mr.
Bush`s longtime political adviser,
Karl Rove, a Texan, said reflected how "the
feelings about immigration have waxed and waned over the
years" in Texas. In
the 1990s, Mr. Rove said, Texans felt as if the immigration
problem was relatively under control …"
The back-story is that Texas`s oil boom of
1973-1981 coincided with an oil boom in Mexico. Then, both
economies crashed in 1982. As illegal immigration from
depressed Mexico ramped up in the 1980s and 1990s, it flowed
more to prosperous California than overbuilt Texas. The
result was that
affordable family formation, the foundation of success
for Republican "family
values" candidates, remained achievable in Texas
while it was under siege in California.
Thus, Bush and Rove could denounce
Pete Wilson for calling for immigration restriction in
successful 1996 re-election campaign because they smugly
lacked comprehension of the problems California faced.
Indeed, judging from Rove`s memoir, he has almost no clue
about the nation`s largest state.
The sheer gall of special interests?
Employers like low wages and
many donate to candidates who try to keep
down. The trouble, however, is less cynical sell-outs
than that a huge fraction of Washington insiders have
persuaded themselves that low wages are what made America
great. Of course, those who have actually thought hard about
the question, starting with
Ben Franklin in
1751, have come to the opposite conclusion: that the
relatively happy lives of Americans rest upon a foundation
small supply of labor and a large supply of land.
Hispanic voters into Republicans? This is the
gave the press. But there was never any evidence that
amnesty was a winner among to Hispanic voters. Hispanic
voters are much more ambivalent about it than are their
Zogby immigration poll, which was unusual in providing
actual facts to respondents, elicited overwhelming
majorities among Latino likely voters for immigration
restriction by reminding them how immigration depresses
wages. For example, 65 percent of likely Hispanic voters
agreed, "There are
plenty of Americans already here to do these jobs, if
employers can`t find workers they should pay more and treat
workers better" versus only 15 percent agreeing with the
Beltway line that "We
need to allow more immigrants into the country to fill these
jobs because there aren`t enough Americans willing or able
to do them."
Questions that are phrased differently,
get Hispanics to stop answering as working class Americans
and start responding as aggrieved ethnics.
Democrats in a contest to appeal to
Hispanic ethnocentrism? As long as Democrats are
officially for affirmative action for Hispanics while most
Republican voters are against, it`s a
proposition for the GOP.
This isn`t rocket science. The effects of immigration are
not really that hard to understand. But Rove never did.