Sunday, February 10, 2008

McCain And The Rule Of Law

Really, one should have some sympathy for John McCain. In speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 7, 2008, the Arizona senator knew he would have to address the issue of illegal immigration, one of the issues which has put him at odds with the Repub base and majority of registered Republicans.

So he finessed the issue, successfully putting off till later his day of reckoning on the matter. This is what he said in relevant part:

I have pledged that it would be among my highest priorities to secure our borders first -- (cheers, applause) -- to secure our borders first. And only after we have achieved widespread consensus that our borders are secure would we address other aspects of the problem in a way that defends the rule of law and does not encourage another wave of illegal immigration. (Applause.)

If you don't know what McCain was saying, you've read carefully. Of course, he was trying to say "I'll close the border first." Except that he didn't say that, but instead "it would be among (his) highest priorities"- whether that means one of his two or one of his eight-six highest priorities is anyone's guess. And he didn't say that he would- or wouldn't- build a wall, which opponents of the McCain-Kennedy "Comprehensive Immigration Act" want above all.

Understandably, then, McCain did not define a solution which would "defend the rule of law and does not encourage another wave of illegal immigration." For that matter, McCain might argue that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 did not "encourage another wave of illegal immigration"- though it did legalize millions of illegal immigrants. And lest the applauding conservatives did not notice, McCain did not pledge to propose legislation consistent with that objection and the rule of law- only that he would "address" the problem- and not necessarily "comprehensively" (a term dear to the Senator) but only "other aspects." I do, though, admire McCain's speechwriters for their sleight of hand.

Liberal supporters of comprehensive immigration reform need not panic at the possiblity of election of McCain (except for other reasons). He may want to cut taxes for the hyper-rich; allow mentally ill individuals to buy weapons (pledging opposition to waiting periods); cut Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor (propagating the myth of "entitlement programs that are bankrupting us"); promote federal control over citizens (curtailing the right to an abortion); and turn a blind eye to our urgent need for health care- but he'll wait awhile to "defend the rule of law." And given McCain's attack on Democrats for blocking "an extension of surveillance powers," it's clear that the rule of law, like the protection of privacy, would not be one of those "highest priorities" of his administration.

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