I didn’t know what to expect when Heritage Foundation and National Review hosted an August 21 panel “The Border Crisis and the New Politics of Immigration” with Texas Governor Rick Perry. Two pillars of Conservatism Inc., National Review and the Heritage Foundation have been, for the most part, against Amnesty for the last decade, but always seem about ready to waffle. Perry has been one of the worst pro-Amnesty politicians in the country, but has recently tried to use the border crisis to reposition himself as an immigration patriot, albeit not making any substantive points. On the whole, I was pleasantly surprised.
It turned out, there was not really one but two events. The first was a panel with National Review editor Rich Lowry, Heritage’s James Carafano, Temple Law professor Jan Ting (a long-time VDARE.com favorite, see here and here) and GOP strategist Kellyanne Conway. Then everyone but Rich Lowry left the stage. Lowry introduced Perry who proceeded to make some incoherent remarks about his current indictment, some even more brief and vacuous points about the border and then spent the bulk of speech, completely off-topic, promoting more wars in the Middle East.
A friend of mine spotted Perry having lunch with The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol after the event, which no doubt explains this long digression.
My take: The actual panel on immigration was much better than I expected, Perry’s comments on immigration even worse. [YouTube]
James J. Carafano, who represented the official Heritage position, spoke first. [YouTube]His comments were the weakest, but not bad. He spent half his talk trying to suggest there is consensus for border security and that should be the focus of immigration reform, but he did concede that lack of internal enforcement was a lure.
Rich Lowry spoke next. Whatever someone wants to say about Lowry (and plenty at VDARE have), his comments here were on point. He began by emphasizing the key to the influx of underage illegal aliens is not a lack of border security, but the knowledge that they will get Amnesty. He told an anecdote of an anonymous high-level Republican who told him the GOP needed to support Amnesty because otherwise the whole country would think “the nativists would have won.” Lowry said he countered that this would mean the vast majority of the country were “nativists.” [YouTube]
He attacked the GOP, not for catering to business interests, but for focusing solely on finance, entrepreneurs, and big business, while forgetting about workers—long a favorite theme of National Review’s immigration beard, CIS head Mark Krikorian (and, of course, Senator Jeff Sessions). Lowry closed by saying that anyone repeating the unkillable meme that there are jobs Americans won’t do should be, like Rasputin, shot, hung, wrapped in a rug and thrown into the Potomac.
Significantly, this got the loudest applause of the gathering.
Kellyanne Conway reiterated many of Lowry’s points. She noted that saying “secure the border” is a vacuous term that almost everyone says they agree with, but can mean anything. She said that Republicans drone on and on about the economy, but that is too abstract and vague for people to understand, and she advocated a populist, pro-worker, immigration policy for the GOP that included encouraging the current illegal population to return and ending chain migration—i.e. cutting legal immigration!
Jan Ting gave a less political speech, but one that cut to the heart of the immigration debate. He stated simply that there are two possible positions on immigration: limits to immigration or Open Borders. If you do not accept Open Borders, then wealthy countries like the United States must be willing to reject people who may not be national security risks or violent criminals, and must be willing to deport those who break the laws.
The only comment I disagreed with: in the Q&A, someone asked about H-1B workers. Heritage’s Carafano interjected that, unlike the other panelists, he did not think that immigration reduction was the sole solution to the jobs problem (though no one had claimed it was) and implied that this means we should not worry at all about immigration’s effect on jobs—or (presumably) about Heritage’s support for massive guest worker policies.
Then all the panelists exited the stage and Lowry introduced Rick Perry. [YouTube]
While I had agreed Lowry’s initial remarks on immigration, I disagreed with almost everything he said about Perry. He began by talking about how much Obama should be praising Perry, because Texas created a disproportionate number of jobs that Obama is taking credit for. Yet, as Steve Camarota wrote in National Review Online, “about 40 percent of all the job growth in Texas between 2007 and 2011 went to newly arrived illegal immigrants and 40 percent went to newly arrived legal immigrants.” [September 22, 2011 ] As National Review’s Jim Geraghty asked at the time, “should Rick Perry be bragging about a job creation record if 40 percent went to illegal immigrants?” Maybe Geraghty should now ask the same question to his editor.
Lowry then described Perry as a “leader” on the border issue, despite Perry’s insistence less than a year ago that illegal immigration would soon become “passé” because of Mexican energy deregulation and “the idea about border security may shift from the United States and Mexico border, down to the Guatemala-Mexican border.” [Perry: ‘Immigration reform is going to be very passé’, November 20th, 2013]
Then Perry spoke. He began by complaining about his indictment. Getting to the problem on the border, he managed to ignore everything the earlier panel said. Whereas Lowry and Conway emphasized that the phrase “secure the border” has become meaningless, Perry repeated it over and over again, creating variations like “comprehensive border enforcement” (without giving any details) and how we need to “secure the border by every means necessarily” [sic].
He did not mention the impact of immigration on jobs, but instead harped on about cartels and crime committed by illegals, which “never should have been happened” [sic].
(On the sic note, the new “presidential” Perry also used the word “strategical” instead of “strategic.” It’s technically a word, but a number of people in the audience cringed when he used it, perhaps because of its similarity to the notorious Bushism “strategery.”)
Perry added that talk about comprehensive immigration reform is “pointless” without border security (again!), thus ignoring that he himself had been promoting “comprehensive immigration reform” for the last decade.
The rest of Perry’s speech was devoted to touting wars in Iraq and Syria. As VDARE.com does not focus on foreign policy (like me), I will not bother to analyze what he had to say. But I am sure Bill Kristol was delighted.
What should we make of this? In an ideal world, Heritage and Lowry would not be kowtowing to Perry. However, in an ideal world, John Derbyshire would still be at National Review—in fact, John O’Sullivan, parricidally undermined by his protégé Lowry, would still be Editor of National Review—and Jason Richwine would still be at Heritage.
But the fact that these two organizations had a panel without any talk about guest workers, the need to appeal to Hispanic voters, or even much of the usual mushiness—except to denounce it— is very encouraging.
Although both Heritage and National Review nominally opposed Amnesty in the past, just 18 months ago this panel would have been split, with professional Hispanics, libertarian lobbyists, and donor-driven GOP campaign consultants.
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway