Politics & Media
Jul 12, 2013, 01:53PM

Giraffes Are Insincere, but Elephants Are Dumb

Here’s looking at you, Nativist Republicans.

Painting by: Melissa Marloth Smith

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Melissa Marloth Smith

The mind-numbing recalcitrance of House Republicans to act on a sweeping immigration bill has left me so flummoxed that I’ve retreated to two provinces where I rarely travel: old Simon & Garfunkel songs and The New York Times columns of David Brooks. Paul Simon doesn’t single out donkeys in S&G’s 1967 single “At The Zoo,” and one supposes if he did they’d be depicted as noble or trustworthy, but GOP elephants—and this is pre-Nixon presidency—are called “dumb.” Which makes sense in 2013.

Democrats haven’t acquitted themselves well on the immigration issue—Barack Obama, as usual, has barely taken his case to Americans, unions are opposed, and Red State donkeys are relieved to have the cover of restrictionist Republicans—but this deadlock is mainly the doing of short-sighted (charitable) and racist (fairly accurate) Republicans. Never mind the polls—again, depending on which one you look at, and on what day—that show a majority of Americans favor the status quo; that’s par for the course. U.S. citizens are almost always opposed to “foreigners” intruding upon their cities and towns, until they get used to the idea. Which they do. Since it’s grossly presumptuous to believe that past immigration waves—the Italians, Irish, Polish, German, Hispanics and so on—are barely discussed in schools today, let’s just remember that “Irish Need Not Apply” and other similar hateful posters were prominent at one time.

The current versions of the immigration bill getting bruited about in Washington are so convoluted—in true Obamacare fashion—and full of loopholes that the two most basic arguments for long-past-due reform are shunted aside. Morality and economics. You can sneer and get cynical about what the Statue of Liberty stands for, ignore the wrenching photos of endless lines at Ellis Island, but the plain fact is that the United States, more than any other nation, has traditionally welcomed people from all over the world. After a push and a shove, of course. Too saccharine? Fine, consider the economics: every day, when you, say, frequent a NYC bodega, a Boston Dunkin’ Donuts, a Cleveland Olive Garden, a Houston 7-11 or get in a cab almost anywhere, you encounter immigrants, some legal, most not. And while some criminals slip through the system, most immigrants are law-abiding and hard-working, and a majority will leave their children in far better circumstances. Not to mention that immigrants hardly have the monopoly on crime in this country.

Which brings me to Brooks’ July 12 Times column, one in which the squishy academic/sociologist/TV personality musters a degree of outrage. On this one day, at least, Brooks has whale-sized balls. In breaking with his friends Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry, he writes: “Conservatives say they want to avoid a European-style demographic collapse. But without more immigrants, and the higher fertility rates they bring, that is exactly what the U.S. faces. Plus, this bill radically increases the number of high-skilled immigrants. It takes millions of long-term resident families out of the shadows so they can lead more mainstream lives.”

It wouldn’t be a Brooks column without a degree of hyperbole, such as when he writes that the GOP’s stupidity could be “political suicide” for the Party, a point that Democratic journalists gleefully repeat every day. This is borderline naïve: sure, more stunts like this and Republicans won’t re-take the White House in three years (though it’s unlikely they’d suffer in Congress), but at some point common political sense will take over, simultaneously with inevitable voter distrust and boredom of Democrats, and the Party will endure and prosper, until the next cycle takes over.

And while it’s out of fashion (though less so as Obama knits or whittles or follows his fantasy sports teams, whatever the fuck it is that he spends time on) to praise the Bush family, two of the GOP’s most courageous proponents of immigration reform are George W. and Jeb Bush. It’s time for like-minded Republicans to come “out of the shadows” and join them.

—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER1955

  • Have you read Jeb's book Immigration Wars? He's reversed his position. Not exactly a model of courage.

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  • No, I didn't read Jeb Bush's book, and I highly doubt you did either. I did read many stories about it when it came out in the spring, and noted that Bush immediately walked back some "out of context" statements. Fact is, Jeb Bush remains one of the most pro-immigration Republicans in the US, and is actively calling on members of his party to pass the bill before the House. And with his son running for office in Hispanic-heavy TX, along with his denunciations of Nativists in the past, there's no reason to say that J. Bush lacks "courage" in bucking the hard right of his party.

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  • Bad morning Russ? Never said I read the book. My point however is quite solid. Jeb, like most politicians, has proven himself to take politically convenient positions. Since his brother's downfall in popularity, he has been all over the place on immigration and other hot button issues attempting, and at times succeeding in finding the middle ground popular with moderates of both parties (had his book release been not so terribly timed or if Romney had won who knows what statements would have been "taken out of context," an absurdly common and boneless defense). Up to and during his brothers first term, Jeb was more a man of his convictions and I was a fan. Now that he has to clean up the Bush legacy, he has become the typical politician. Besides, since when does going against the far right make one courageous? I always considered it a sign of reason not courage. I'd guess, that on a less grumpy day, you'd agree. As for his son, I've got great local/Nashville dirt on his business practices if you haven't already made up your mind on him as well..

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  • I think Jeb Bush's record as a rational Republican speaks for itself, and don't think he's "cleaning up the Bush legacy." But you're from Texas, so do tell about any "dirt" about his son, George P. Bush.

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