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“The Real ‘60 Minutes’ Revelation”: Democrats Are Now The Regular Guys, Conservatives Are The Weirdos

I can actually see, to some extent, the point of conservatives’ complaints about the Obama-Hillary 60 Minutes interview. It was softbally, and Steve Kroft’s one real question—to Clinton, about whether she felt any guilt or remorse over Benghazi—she totally didn’t answer. But here, conservatives, is what you are missing and what you need to reckon with. Americans—except you—like these two people. Most Americans look at the pair of them—this black man who is still remote in some ways and this so-familiar woman who is now aging before us and allowing herself to look just a little frumpy—and feel reassured. Most Americans are cheering for them, and hence, most Americans probably wanted a softball interview. We have thus passed an important portal in American politics: Democrats are now the regular guys. Conservatives are the weirdos.

First, about the interview. These are not two of your more forthcoming interview subjects. I’ve never sat with Obama, but I have interviewed Clinton on a number of occasions, including one big 90-minute-or-so sit-down back in 2000. She told me some very interesting things: she likes Thomas Hardy, she was overwhelmed by her visit to the Olduvai Gorge, she takes a keen interest in ancient civilizations, she loves the Three Stooges, and she knows the theme song to The Flintstones. But on policy, she gave me nothing. A total Heisman. My heart sank to the floor as I listened back over the tape and realized that answer after answer wasn’t going to make news after all. Obama is no different. Rare is the interview that finds him saying anything genuinely arresting.

But he did say something interesting to Kroft, and she did too, which was this: they were both wholly believable and ingenuous when they were talking about their own political relationship. When Obama said, in reference to repairing the ruptures of 2008, “I think it was harder for the staffs, which is understandable, because, you know, they get invested in this stuff in ways that I think the candidates maybe don’t,” I thought: that rings really true. And I’d bet most Americans did too.

Obama and Clinton talked, in other words, like mature adults, and they sold it as genuine because it was genuine. And I’d contend that it made most people watching feel something like: Well, these are very smart and self-assured people, and they’re mostly pretty likable, too, and agree or disagree with this or that decision they make or action they take, I feel like my country is in pretty good hands with them. And yes, to invoke the hackneyed litmus-test question—I’d drink a beer, or a pinot, or in HRC’s case a shot of Crown Royal, with them. To everyone but right-wingers, that was the vibe Sunday night—a victory lap, and a victory lap that no one begrudged them.

They’re the real Americans now. It’s not that they have changed, but that America has. The measures for real Americanism are no longer clearing brush, hunting elk, hopping on top of various animals, dropping one’s g’s (in speech, I mean), and speaking in intentionally ungrammatical apothegmatic frontier “wisdom.” The new measures? Not completely sure yet. But we do have now the collective realization that those were fake measures—some Harvey Mansfield–inspired Potemkin Village of “real America.” Also, the collective realization that it’s probably on balance not at all a bad idea for the president not to be “just like us,” which was the folk wisdom of a decade ago, but in fact a little smarter than most of us.

The Republicans? It’s not just the extreme ideology. Of course it’s that, but it’s more. The whole shtick is old. Where once the Middle American ear may have been soothed by that low Cheney rumble belching out its grave assessments of the world situation, today it is accosted by all those caliginous Southern accents warning of socialism and collapse, and thinks: will these people ever shut up? Georgia Congressman Paul Broun told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week that Obama “upholds … the Soviet Constitution.” On any given week, I could fill a whole column, or two, with such nuggets. Enough already.

While Obama and Clinton were speaking, so was Paul Ryan, to a conservative gathering, where he said: “There are two ways to respond to defeat: Either you can deny it, or you can learn from it. I choose to learn from it. The way I see it, our defeat is all the more reason to lay out our vision with even more specifics—and with a broader appeal.”

What he’s saying there, and throughout the speech, is that the GOP isn’t going to change its stripes a bit. “Broader appeal” means I suppose better (read: more dishonest) packaging for a bunch of reactionary policies that Americans don’t want.

Conservatives, you can call me and others like me all the names you want, and you can whine about the evil CBS all you want. But Kroft and his network were actually in touch here with the pulse of the country, which wants Obama to succeed and Hillary to go have a nice long rest (and, maybe, get ready for 2016). Meanwhile, even Roger Ailes has gotten sick of Sarah Palin. Get the picture?


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 29, 2013

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Kinder, Gentler Discrimination”: How The GOP Is Talking Itself Past The “Amnesty” Trap

If you had to sum up immigration reform’s crushing defeat in 2007 in one word, there would be exactly one choice: Amnesty.

That single characterization of proposals to legalize the undocumented population became a rallying cry on the right, presaging the tea party revolution and overthrowing the best laid plans of George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy alike.

As Republicans take their first steps toward backing a comprehensive immigration bill with many of the same features as their 2007 effort, the wounds of the “amnesty” tag are still raw. Not coincidentally, one of the first tasks for any prominent conservative endorsing reform is to try and neutralize the word.

On Monday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), whose entire career was threatened by an anti-immigration backlash in Arizona, used the dreaded a-word to describe the status quo.

“The reality that’s been created is a de facto amnesty,” McCain told reporters at a press conference introducing his own bipartisan plan Monday. “We have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve our food, clean our homes, and even watch our children, while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.”

Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a supporter of reform, also used the “de facto amnesty” label but in a nice partisan twist, applied it to President Obama’s policies halting deportations on young undocumented immigrants.

“As a result of the White House Executive Orders last year, we now have a defacto amnesty status which can only be fixed through legislation,” Cardenas said in a statement on Monday. “We will soon know whether President Obama is more interested in finding solutions to our nation’s immigration challenges or yet another opportunity for political grand standing and ‘gotcha’ politics.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) condemned amnesty repeatedly in an interview with MSNBC the same day while also calling for some form of immigration reform, prompting her hosts to ask just what she meant by the term.

“You know, amnesty is allowing people who came in the country to stay in the country — not asking them to make that situation right, not asking them to pay those back taxes,” she said. “I think that what we need to do is very carefully look at what this pathway is going to be. We have to make certain that there is not going to be an amnesty that encourages more amnesty.”

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) adopted a similar definition on MSNBC Tuesday when asked whether he felt the Senate’s proposal was “amnesty,” saying he thought it was “pretty tough love” by requiring undocumented immigrants to pay fines, back taxes, and pass a background check to qualify for legal status.

This definition of amnesty as “legal status without penalties” is largely in line with talking points circulated by the conservative Hispanic Leadership Network, which include a host of neat tricks for shaking the label. Among them:

Don’t begin with “We are against amnesty” Note: Most everyone is against amnesty and this is interpreted as being against any reform.…

Do acknowledge that the true meaning of amnesty is to pardon without any penalty
Don’t label earned legal status as amnesty

Don’t focus on amnesty as a tenet of immigration reform
Don’t use President Reagan’s immigration reform as an example applicable today
Note: That legislation was true amnesty; in addition, border security, fixing our visa system, and a temporary worker program were parts of the reform which were never implemented.

For every Republican on TV trying to redefine the term, however, there will be plenty looking to ride the same resentments that powered grassroots opposition to immigration reform in 2007. “It’s very difficult for me to support something that allows that type of amnesty,” Rep. Pete King (R-NY) told Newsday on Monday, explaining his opposition to the Senate plan.


By: Benjy Sarlin, Talking Points Memo, January 29, 2013

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Immigration | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Poison Pill”: Immigration Reform, The Southwest Commission And A Path To Nowhere

As the pundits swoon over bipartisanship and Senate Republicans jump all over themselves to say that yes, they support the latest blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform, they seem to be mostly forgetting the teeny, tiny detail that can derail the whole thing—a pathway to citizenship that would depend upon:

… a commission of governors, law enforcement officials and community leaders from border states that would assess when border security measures had been completed.

And therein lies the rub. No one seems to agree on what kind of power this commission would have in determining when our borders are forevermore secure, thus opening up that elusive pathway to citizenship. Democratic senators say it would have an “advisory” role, while Republicans insist that:

[W]e have to make sure that the way this law is structured, [it] ensures — guarantees — that the enforcement things happen…. Yes. That’s absolutely one of the key standards I bring, it’s one of the key parts of our principles.

So which is it? No one seems to be sure, but the fact is, it can be the poison pill that kills any kind of immigration reform. If the only pathway to citizenship is getting an A-okay from a commission that will include Arizona’s bigoted Gov. Jan Brewer—champion of SB1070, the vile walking-while-brown law—then the legislation will be nothing but a fig leaf for Republicans heading into the 2014 elections, and every Democrat should oppose it.

Granted, any legislation is probably DOA once it hits the House anyway, because let’s face it, there are House Republicans who are two steps shy of requiring suspicious-looking brown people to sew a sombrero on their clothes. But do you think they would even consider anything less than a commission—that would include the nutcase who imagines headless corpses littering the desert—having the final say on when our borders are secure? No way.

The bottom line is, we don’t know—and Republicans certainly aren’t saying—exactly what power this commission would have. But they were certainly quick to disagree with their Democratic counterparts who said it would only have an advisory role. And without a real pathway to citizenship, any legislation masquerading as immigration reform would be meaningless.


By: Barbara Morrill, Daily Kos, January 29, 2013

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Immigration | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Immigration Catch-22”: Do Republicans Support President Obama’s Immigration Plan And Anger Rush Limbaugh?

Yesterday, a bipartisan group of eight senators unveiled a comprehensive immigration-reform plan. Today, Barack Obama gave a speech outlining a very similar plan, causing the four Republicans in that group to disavow their own plan as a socialist plot whose only plausible purpose is to bring a tsunami of radical Kenyan immigrants to our shores so they can marry our women and produce future presidents who will further weaken this great nation.

OK, so that’s not really what happened. But given recent experience, it wouldn’t have been all that surprising if it had. Now that Barack Obama has joined the immigration debate with his own plan (like the bipartisan one, at this point it’s not particularly detailed), it will take all the fortitude Republicans can muster to keep from doing a 180, just as they did on the individual health-insurance mandate and cap and trade, once those ideas were infected by contact with Obama. They know that their political future may depend on not screwing up this debate and alienating Latino voters any more than they already have. But in order to accomplish their political goal they may have to—and if there are young ones in the room you may want to cover their ears—agree with President Obama. Horrible, it’s true, and it just shows how diabolical the president is that he maneuvered them into this position.

There will no doubt be twists and turns before this debate comes to an end, and along the way the Republicans pushing reform may spend most of their time assuring their base that they haven’t sold their soul to the dark lord in the Oval Office. This afternoon, Senator Marco Rubio, who wisely told Mitt Romney he had no interest in being his running mate, visited Rush Limbaugh to assure the talk show host that he’d be happy to walk away from a deal if it wasn’t bristling with drones and border-enforcement agents. Limbaugh, who yesterday said “It’s up to me and Fox News” to kill immigration reform, praised Rubio but was plainly unconvinced.

And that’s the dilemma—a familiar one for Republicans. On one side you have the majority of the public favoring immigration reform. On the other you have the GOP’s base and its media figures, always pulling the party to the right. Satisfy one, and you’ll anger the other. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for them.


By: Paul Waldman and Jamie Fuller, The American Prospect, January 29, 2013

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Immigration | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Unnecessary And Excellent”: Why “Make Them Learn English” Is The Key To Immigration Reform

Among the provisions in the immigration-reform proposal released by a bipartisan group of senators yesterday was a requirement that in order to get on that path to citizenship, undocumented immigrants would have to “learn English and civics.” They don’t detail exactly how it would happen, but presumably there’d be a test of English proficiency immigrants would have to pass, and perhaps some money appropriated for English classes. There are two things to know about this idea. First, in practical terms it’s completely unnecessary. And second, in political terms it’s an excellent idea. In fact, it could be the key to passing immigration reform.

The reason it’s unnecessary is that every wave of immigrants follows basically the same pattern when it comes to English. People who immigrate as adults tend not to learn much beyond the most basic words and phrases, and continue to speak their native language at home. Their children grow up bilingual, speaking one language at home and another at school and eventually at work. The next generation grows up with only a little bit of the language of the old country, which they pick up from their grandparents, but they spend almost all their time speaking English. And the generation after that often knows nothing of their great-grandparents’ language beyond a few colorful expressions.

That’s how it has worked for one group of immigrants after another, and as Dylan Matthews reminds us, that’s how it’s working for the current group of immigrants. There is some variation among people who come from different places, but the basic picture is clear: you don’t need to “make them learn English,” because they’re going to learn it anyway, or at least their children are. That’s probably how it worked in your family, and it’s certainly how it worked in mine. My great-grandparents, who came to America as adults, knew very little English; my grandparents, who came as children, were bilingual; my parents can follow a conversation in Yiddish but not speak it very well; and my siblings and I just know a few little Yiddish snippets. (When I was a kid my grandmother had an annoying habit of telling long, apparently hilarious stories in which just the punch line was in Yiddish, so I never knew what the hell all the older people were laughing about.)

So why is the “make them learn English” provision so politically important? Because it’s the key that unlocks wide public support for immigration reform. As a group, Americans have contradictory feelings about immigration. We can’t divide the country into “pro-immigrant” and “anti-immigrant” groups, even if you might be able to make such a division among politicians or talk-show hosts. Apart from a small population of hard-core nativists, most Americans acknowledge that we’re all descended from immigrants of one kind or another, whether your ancestors walked across the Bering Strait land bridge, came over on a slave ship, or drove down from Toronto. They also appreciate that immigration gives our country vitality, and that immigrants are exactly the kind of hard-working, ambitious strivers that drive our economy and culture forward. But at the same time, many feel threatened when they see the character of their towns and cities change, and nothing embodies that change more than language. When people walk into a store and hear a language being spoken that they don’t understand, they suddenly feel like foreigners in their own neighborhood, alienated and insecure. I’m not putting a value judgment on that feeling, but it’s undeniable.

So imagine an individual citizen/voter who has those two contradictory feelings. He sincerely wants his country to welcome immigrants, and he thinks that cultural diversity is basically a good thing, but he got a little freaked out last week when he went down to the drug store and felt like he just got transported to Mexico City. He doesn’t like feeling alienated, but he also doesn’t like that tiny voice inside him that says “Send them back where they came from!” He knows that voice isn’t right, but when he sees signs in other languages or hears other languages spoken, that voice gets a little stronger.

What the “make them learn English” provision says to him is: Don’t worry, it’s going to be OK. We’re going to make sure that this wave of immigrants is woven into the American tapestry just like the prior waves of Irish and Italian and Chinese immigrants. They won’t take America over. They’ll become American.

The truth is, that’ll happen whether or not we make undocumented immigrants take an English test before they can become citizens. But there’s no reason not to do it. If some have to take an ESL class in order to pass, that’s fine—accelerating their learning curve a little will be good for them, and the cost probably won’t be too high. The real benefit, though, will be to reassure the majority of Americans whose feelings about immigration are complicated. And once you get enough of them on board, it becomes possible for risk-averse politicians to do the right thing.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 29, 2013

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Immigrants, Immigration | , , , , | 1 Comment

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