Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Party rift in county mirrors national troubles

President Bush hoped Monday night that he would recover some of the support he had lost over illegal immigration — not to mention the war in Iraq and record gasoline prices — but his speech promising to tighten our borders pleased hardly anyone.
“We should have secured our borders after 9/11,” said former Rep. Randy Minton (R-Ward). “It’s like the war on terrorism. The open-borders policy is bad. It’s a breach of security. It will be the No. 1 issue in 2008.”

Everyone knows that building a fence and sending in 7,000 National Guard troops will not keep Mexicans from crossing the border, and Bush’s willingness to turn them into “guest workers” upsets almost everyone in his party, except his corporate supporters who like cheap labor and couldn’t care less about enforcing immigration laws, Minton said.

When Bush first took office, he suggested letting illegal immigrants become “guest workers,” which has upset his base even more since 9/11.

Bush’s standing in the Republican Party has fallen so low that a Lonoke County Republican group that Minton leads is endorsing “Reagan Republicans” in this year’s local elections. No one, as far we know, is pushing to elect more “Bush Republicans,” whoever they may be.

Defenders of President Bush’s offer of amnesty point to President Reagan’s support of immigration — the U.S. as “a shining city on a hill” — but as far as Minton is concerned, there’s a difference between those who come here legally and those who cross the border in the dead of night and walk around with false identity papers.

“I’m not against anyone coming here legally,” Minton said. He mentioned Larry Odom, a Lonoke County strawberry and peach farmer and justice of the peace, who “works within the system. He gets workers here for six months and they go back home.”
Minton, who has headed Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum in Arkansas for many years, is disenchanted with Bush.

“I just feel like President Reagan was more conservative from a spending standpoint and downsizing government,” Minton said.

“President Reagan was one that tried to downsize government and tried to limit domestic spending. He was strong on domestic sovereignty. President Bush has been growing the budget. President Reagan wanted to get rid of the Department of Education, and now President Bush is giving it a bigger role with the No Child Left Behind program.”

As his approval ratings plummet, Bush is having a hard time shoring up support around the country, especially among conservatives, who still believe in small government, staying out of foreign wars and clamping down on immigration.
Those whose memory goes back to 1968 recall how Lyndon Johnson alienated his own party over the Vietnam War and dropped out of the presidential race that year, making him a lameduck and paving the way for Richard Nixon.

Although Bush is no longer up for re-election, he has lost so many supporters that his lameduck status could be the longest in history: Three long years while the nation faces the problems of an endless war, illegal immigration, high energy costs and rising deficits, not to mention a general dissatisfaction with the direction the country is taking.

Minton suggested that many conservative Republicans may boycott the next presidential election. They think big business has hijacked the Republican Party, which hands out lucrative contracts to corporations that depend on government spending and cheap labor at home and abroad.

Minton is on to something: Bush’s amazingly low ratings reflect his loss of Main Street Republicans. Big Business is sticking with him – see the semi-official editorial page of the Wall Street Journal — but there are a lot more people living near Main Street than Wall Street.

Karl Rove should have figured that out a long time ago, but these days he’s busy trying to stay out of prison.

My proudest achievement was to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen. No one resented my coming here. Americans aren’t opposed to legal immigration — illustrious immigrants have included nuclear physicists, doctors, authors, artists and others who have helped make America great.

Those of us who entered the U.S. legally and became citizens observed the rules and never asked for special favors.
Nobody lobbied the government to keep us out. Those who criticize illegal immigration insist that everyone observe the law and stand in line to receive proper immigration papers.

I waited more than four years before receiving permission to come to America, and I’m glad I did.