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“Who Are We, Anyway?”: A Moral Issue Of How We Choose To Define Ourselves As A Country

Something extraordinary is happening at our southern border. Thousands of children, most unaccompanied by adult relatives, are crossing from Mexico and immediately turning themselves in to the Border Patrol. They come principally from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

What must be going on in those countries that impels their most precious legacy, their children, to make such a journey? What are we, as a nation, going to do about it?

Reports from Central America center on two issues: poverty and gang violence. Poverty in that region is not new, nor has it ever been the stimulus for a mass migration of children. Gang violence has increased, driven in part by the trade in illegal drugs and perhaps by some success in Mexico in confronting drug gangs.

The more important question is what we’re going to do about it? Texas Governor Perry advocates a military response, perhaps by the National Guard. What exactly does he anticipate that the National Guard would do? Are they supposed to shoot at children as they cross a bridge or a river? Doesn’t sound right to me.

The Administration’s response to the problem is financial and legal. Appropriate 3.7 billion dollars to house these children until their cases can be heard by a (hopefully more efficient) adjudication process to determine whether each child is legitimately a refugee. But there aren’t lawyers to represent most of these children, so the legal process is likely to be a farce.

Some in Congress want to change the applicable laws to make it easier to expel these children without a legal process. I suppose such a course might relieve the government of some costs, but does such a policy square with our values?

The arrival of large numbers of children on our doorstep is not a physical menace to us. Nor is it an unsustainable financial burden. It is not a legal or bureaucratic matter either. Instead, it is a moral issue of how we choose to define ourselves as a country.

We need to move these children out of mass holding pens and into homes of people who will care for them and raise them. Then we can let the legal process grind away.


By: Joseph B. Kadane, Leonard J. Savage University Professor of Statistics and Social Sciences, Emeritus, at Carnegie Mellon University; The Huffington Post Blog, July 17, 2014

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Immigration Reform, Poverty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Right Problem, The Wrong Solution”: GOP Policymakers May Not Have Thought This One Through

Almost immediately after President Obama unveiled his plan to resolve the border crisis, congressional Republicans balked. There were, House Speaker John Boehner complained, no provisions in the plan about sending National Guard troops to the border.

A week later, the president was in Texas, where he met with a variety of state officials, including Gov. Rick Perry (R). The Republican governor emphasized one point above all others: he wants Obama to deploy National Guard troops to the border.

GOP policymakers may not have thought this one through. In fact, Greg Sargent talked to the head of the National Guard under the Bush/Cheney administration, who offered a valuable perspective.

[I]n an interview today, the head of the National Guard under George W. Bush said he had not yet heard a clear rationale for sending in the Guard and suggested it might not be the appropriate response to the problems at the core of the current crisis, though he did say he could envision the Guard playing some sort of part in a broader solution.

“Until mission requirements are clearly defined, it can’t be determined whether this is an appropriate use of the Guard in this particular case,” H. Steven Blum, who was the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from 2003 to 2009 and has been a career military man for decades, told me. “There may be many other organizations that might more appropriately be called upon. If you’re talking about search and rescue, maintaining the rule of law or restoring conditions back to normal after a natural disaster or a catastrophe, the Guard is superbly suited to that. I’m not so sure that what we’re dealing with in scope and causation right now would make it the ideal choice.”

That seems to be an exceedingly polite way of saying, “Republican demands don’t seem to make any sense.”

Some of this seems to be the result of GOP confusion about the nature of the story itself. Many Republicans seem to believe this is a border-security crisis, which the National Guard can help address directly.

But that’s not consistent with the facts on the ground.

In many instances, unaccompanied children are simply turning themselves in once they find border patrol agents. That’s not a border-security crisis; that’s largely the opposite.

Indeed, Fox News’ Brit Hume, hardly a progressive media voice, asked Perry to explain over the weekend what the National Guard would actually do if deployed to the border. The Texas governor struggled to explain his own position, saying only that Guard troops would send a “message that gets sent back very quickly to Central America.”

Hume reminded Perry “[I]f these children who’ve undergone these harrowing journeys, to escape the most desperate conditions in their home countries, have gotten this far, are they really going to be deterred by the presence of troops along the border who won’t shoot them and can’t arrest them?”

At this point, Perry changed the subject.

This is not to just pick on the Texas governor; Republican confusion about the border seems fairly common. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said last week, “Let’s remember, this administration went around for years saying the border has never been more secure than it is now. I think that’s been exposed as a fallacy over the last three weeks.”

But again, this is plainly at odds with reality. It’s not a “fallacy”; the Obama administration really has strengthened border security to new heights in recent years. The humanitarian crisis doesn’t undermine this fact at all. For Rubio to make such a comment suggests he doesn’t fully understand the underlying challenge.

If it seems like policymakers are having a debate in which two sides are talking past each other, it’s because that’s largely what’s happening. The GOP wants Guard troops, but they’re not sure why, and they’re convinced there’s a border-security crisis, which doesn’t really exist.

For his part, Obama has said he’s willing to deploy the National Guard, basically to make Republicans feel better in the short term, if it’s part of a larger response to the crisis. At least for now, GOP leaders have said this isn’t good enough.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 16, 2014

July 17, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, GOP, Immigrants | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In Full Swoon Mode”: Rick Perry And How The Press Loves To Treat GOP Campaign Losers Like Winners

Thirty months after flaming out on the Republican primary campaign trail, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose aborted 2012 run logged a fifth-place finish in Iowa and a sixth-place showing in New Hampshire before being suspended, is suddenly enjoying a Beltway media resurgence. With the issue of America’s border security and the influx of unaccompanied children generating headlines, Perry has been out front criticizing President Obama, and the governor’s performance is earning raves.

“People love his ass” is what “one Republican operative close to Perry” told Buzzfeed (anonymously). On The McLaughlin Group this weekend, so many panelists sang Perry’s praise (“shrewd,” “winning,” “absolutely terrific”) that host John McLaughlin announced, “a star is born.”

Time has been in full swoon mode lately, touting Perry as “swaggering,” “handsome and folksy,” and insisting he’s “refreshed his message, retooled his workout routine and retrained his sights toward the national stage.” Meanwhile CNN’s Peter Hamby claimed Perry is “completely underrated” as a 2016 contender. Why? Because “other than Chris Christie, it’s hard to think of another Republican candidate with the kind of charm and personal affability, and frankly just good political skills, that Rick Perry has.”

Keep in mind, Perry recently compared gays to alcoholics (and then acknowledged he “stepped right in it”), and suggested that the Obama White House might somehow be “in on” the wave of immigrant refugees crossing the U.S. border. He also became something of a punch line last week when a sourpuss photo of his meeting with Obama lit up Twitter.

As for the issue of border security, Fox News’ own Brit Hume noted on Sunday, Perry’s demand that the National Guard be sent to patrol the border doesn’t make much sense since, by law, Guardsmen aren’t allowed to apprehend any of the refugee children coming into the country. (Children who are turning themselves over to Border Patrol agents.)

Apparently none of that matters when the press coalesces around a preferred narrative: Perry is hot and perfectly positioned for 2016. (He won the week!)

Perry’s soft press shouldn’t surprise close observers of the Beltway press corps. It’s part of a larger media double standard where Republican campaign trail losers now routinely get treated like winners. (Think: John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney.) The trend also extends to Republican policy failures, like the discredited architects of the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq, who have been welcomed back onto the airwaves to pontificate about Iraq, despite the fact they got almost everything wrong about the invasion eleven years ago.

And no, the same courtesy is not extended to Democrats. John Kerry did not camp out on the Sunday talk shows after losing to President Bush in 2004 and become a sort of permanent, television White House critic, the way McCain did after getting trounced by Obama in 2008.

But wait, Hillary Clinton lost in 2008 and she’s treated as a serious contender, so why shouldn’t Perry be? First, Clinton collected nearly 2,000 primary delegates during her run, whereas Perry earned exactly zero. Second, Clinton enjoys an enormous lead in Democratic nomination polling if she chooses to run. Perry barely even registers among GOP voters.

Last month the Texas Republican Party held a straw vote and among possible 2016 hopefuls, the Texas governor finished a distant fourth, among Texas Republicans. Outside of Texas, his support remains even thinner. A recent WMUR Granite State poll from New Hampshire had Perry winning a barely-there two percent of Republican support for the 2016 GOP primary.

How bad of a candidate was Perry during the 2012 push? Really, really bad. Not only did he suffer a famous brain freeze when he couldn’t remember which three government agencies he boldly promised to dismantle if he became president (“oops”), but he also called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” and dined with birther Donald Trump.

Less than three years ago, Rick Perry showed himself to be an extraordinarily bad campaigner with a tin ear for retail politics (i.e. an absent-minded quasi-birther). Yet today, the same Rick Perry is touted by the Beltway press as a “handsome” and “underrated” campaigner who stands poised for greatness in the next presidential campaign.

Somewhere Al Gore must be shaking his head.

After he lost the 2008 election to a Supreme Court ruling, Gore was not treated to pleasing, Rick Perry-like press coverage. Rather than treating Gore as a “swaggering” star of American politics, the Beltway press basically told Gore to get lost. (The caustic coverage continued the endless media slights Gore had suffered during the campaign season.)

When the former vice president grew a beard, the catty D.C. press corps erupted in mockery:

Gore “look[s] more like an accountant on the lam from the IRS than a White House-compatible action figure” (Time); it’s “scrawny and grey-patched” (the New York Post); it “might cover up some of the added chin heft” of his rumored post-election weight gain (the Boston Herald).

And when the former vice president stepped forward in 2002 to offer a prescient warning about against with in Iraq? On CNN’s Reliable Sources, The New Republic’s Michelle Cottle described her colleagues’ reaction to Gore’s speech: “[T]he vast majority of the staff believes this was the bitter rantings of a guy who is being politically motivated and disingenuous in his arguments.”

Note that after losing an electoral landslide in 2008, Republican McCain was showered with the exact opposite type of coverage. As Media Matters noted five year ago, “[T]he media treated McCain as though his loss last November endowed him with even greater moral authority and quickly took up his crusade as their own.”

In fact, despite a wildly unsuccessful presidential campaign and his lack of senior standing inside the U.S. Senate, McCain made at least 15 Sunday talk show appearances in 2009. (By contrast, after he lost his White House run in 2004, Sen. John Kerry appeared on just three Sunday talk shows during the first eight months of President Bush’s second term.) In 2013, the New York Times reported McCain had appeared on more than 60 Sunday talk shows in less than four years.

He wasn’t the only candidate to have their reputation weirdly burnished by losing badly to Obama in 2008. Sarah Palin was catapulted into media superstardom after she helped lead the GOP to magnanimous defeat. In 2009, as she readied her book release, the obedient Beltway press treated her like a political “phenomena.” (“It’s as if she’s like a senator or something,” marveled NBC’s David Gregory.) On the day her book arrived in stores, the Washington Post commemorated the event by publishing no less than four articles and two columns. That week, the paper also hosted nine online Palin-related Q&A sessions.

What did most of the awestruck commentary often politely ignore at the time of the media’s Palin “phenomena”? The fact that the vast majority of American voters were united in their conviction that Palin should not run for president. That included a majority of Republicans.

While Palin likely became the first losing vice presidential candidate exulted into D.C. media celebrity status, Republican Dick Cheney probably also made history by becoming not only the least-liked vice president in modern American history, but the first veep from an utterly failed administration to be treated by the press as a sage upon leaving office.

Cheney’s media return in recent weeks, where he continually blames Obama for the troubles in Iraq that Cheney and President Bush first uncorked with their misguided war and faulty planning, was telegraphed five years ago when the D.C. press, just weeks after Cheney left office, hyped his anti-Obama utterances as news events. Keep in mind, at the time Cheney’s approval stood at a not-to-be-believed 13 percent.

But for some reason, Republican losers get treated as winners by the press.


By: Eric Boehlert, Senior Fellow, Media Matters for America, July 15, 2014

July 17, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Media, Press, Rick Perry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Legitimate Refugees Should Not Be Deported”: The Children Deserve Their Deportation Hearings

The politics surrounding the surge of migrant children at our Southern border are predictable: Republicans blast President Obama; Obama asks Congress for more money to deal with the problem; immigration advocates insist on fewer deportations.

But in the middle of that clichéd drama are gut-wrenching stories about children — including some who are quite young — undertaking a dangerous, lonely journey either alone or in the company of unreliable strangers. It’s hard to fathom.

How awful must conditions be at home for impoverished parents to pay $6,000 for criminal smugglers to take a seven- or eight-year-old child hundreds of miles away? How desperate must a young child be to get on the road alone to try to find Mom and Dad in another country?

News accounts tell those pitiful stories. Ten-year-old Angel and his 7-year-old sister, Dulce, longed to join their parents in the Los Angeles area. They traveled by bus with relatives from Chimaltenango, Guatemala, to the Rio Grande, but their adult kin left them to cross the river with other youngsters.

A 14-year-old boy from Honduras said that his parents were dead and he was hoping to find an aunt in New Orleans. Then there was 11-year-old Nodwin, who said he left Honduras by himself — nearly drowning in the Rio Grande — to get away from criminal gangs, which enforce their rule through torture and rape.

The United States, which thinks of itself as exceptional and indispensable, has an obligation to do what it can to help these children, whose plight has rightly been termed a humanitarian crisis. We can do better than immediate deportations.

In fact, a law intended to curb human trafficking that was passed during the administration of George W. Bush mandates that those children be given deportation hearings to consider their requests for refugee status. Meanwhile, they must be given food, shelter and reasonable accommodations. (Under the same law, unaccompanied minors from contiguous countries, Canada and Mexico, are immediately turned back if they are caught.)

The law may well have contributed to the stunning surge of children — some of them as young as kindergarteners — trying to enter the country illegally. More than 50,000 children have tried to enter the U.S. in the last eight months, officials say. In Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the three countries that account for most of the refugees, the law has apparently been misinterpreted by parents and children as a policy of broad leniency toward undocumented minors.

In addition to that misunderstanding, kids are propelled by poverty and violence. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world; Guatemala, the fifth highest. Who could blame them for trying to escape that?

But the crush of refugees has created a political embarrassment for President Obama. In a futile effort to garner GOP support for comprehensive immigration reform, the president has pursued a tough deportation policy toward adults, ensnaring not just felons, but also some undocumented workers who committed minor traffic offenses. The policy hasn’t won over GOP critics, but it has alienated some of Obama’s Latino supporters.

With midterm elections approaching, Republicans are using the refugee crisis as a sledgehammer, insisting the president has broken the law. Sarah Palin has gone so far as to call for Obama’s impeachment. None of the president’s critics acknowledge that he is following a law that several of them supported just a few years ago.

Under the searing pressure, Obama has called for billions to pay for more guards, drones and detention facilities; he has also suggested that he would support a change in the law that would quicken the deportation of unaccompanied minors.

That’s a mistake. The United States cannot solve Central America’s problems of poverty and violence, nor can it take tens of thousands of undocumented children. But it can take those who would qualify for legitimate refugee status.

The children deserve their deportation hearings, and the president should stand steadfast to make sure they get them.


By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, July 12, 2014

July 15, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Deportation, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Abundance Of Rhetoric, A Dearth Of Solutions”: After A Prolonged Lack Of Use, GOP Policymaking Muscle Has Atrophied

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, argued yesterday that “some” of the unattended minors from Central America he saw “looked more like a threat to coming into the United States.” How could he tell? McCaul didn’t say.

Soon after, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) argued in support of sending the National Guard to the border. Asked what good Guard troops could under the circumstances, Perry couldn’t say. (In fact, he seemed confused by the question.)

A variety of congressional Republicans have now balked at President Obama’s appeal for emergency resource, insisting the package costs “too much.” What’s the GOP’s alternative response? What’s the proper amount of spending? They wouldn’t say.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is among many far-right lawmakers condemning the White House for not deporting Dream Act kids. Why are Republicans focusing so heavily on a policy unrelated to the humanitarian crisis at the border? They haven’t said.

To be sure, this is an incredibly difficult crisis to resolve. Anyone who suggests there’s an easy, quick fix to this is kidding themselves. But as is too often the case, congressional Republicans – folks who were elected to help shape federal law – appear to be sitting out the substantive debate altogether. GOP lawmakers have decided what’s really needed right now is incessant complaining – and little else. Danny Vinik added:

If Republicans object to this request, what exactly do they propose instead? How should we move through the huge backload of cases? Where should we hold the unaccompanied minors in the meantime? And how should we pay to transport them to their home countries?

It’s not that Republicans have poor responses to these questions; it’s that they’re not even trying to answer them.

The post-policy GOP knows what it doesn’t like – the president and his policies – but seems to have forgotten that a governing party, or at least a party that maintains the pretense that governing matters, cannot simply boo from the sidelines.

In some cases, they’re hardly making any effort at all. For example, Goodlatte late last week published an item for Breitbart, with some specific recommendations.

Send the strong, public message that those who enter illegally will be returned. President Obama needs to use his bully-pulpit to send the clear message that those who are seeking to enter the U.S. illegally will be returned to their home countries and that subjecting children to the perilous trek northward to our southern border will no longer be tolerated.

This sounds like sensible advice, right up until one realizes that the president has already done this, and asked for resources from Congress for an advertising campaign in countries like Honduras and El Salvador to reach an even larger Central American audience. Putting aside the question of why the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is writing pieces for Breitbart, why doesn’t Goodlatte know that Obama’s already done what he’s asking the president to do?

It’s easy to get the impression that congressional Republicans’ policymaking muscle has atrophied after a prolonged lack of use. GOP lawmakers have failed to work on public policy for so long, doing so little substantive work in recent memory, that they seem wholly unprepared to act with any sense of purpose now.

Their complain-first instinct obviously remains intact, but a challenge this complex will need more than whining politicians. There’s real work to be done – the sooner the better – and it’s well past time for congressional Republicans to pick up their game. They’re outraged by the crisis at the border? Good. Now they can get to work doing something about it.


By; Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 14, 2014

July 14, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, GOP, Homeland Security | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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