"It's Not An Amnesty", Says Bush
"No," Snark The Critics, "It's A Shamnesty"
One of the more popular items of anti-immigration propaganda circulating widely on conservative websites
Will President George W. Bush destroy the Republican Party and leave it in tatters before he departs the White House in early 2009?
Yes, say a growing number of critics, the destruction of the GOP has already begun.
But it's not hope-filled liberals making these dire predictions of the Republican Party tearing itself apart, but Republicans themselves.
The GOP base is being swept away by the waves of the failing Iraq War and President Bush's ultra-controversial immigration reforms.
If the recent reaction to President Bush's "Not An Amnesty" immigration reform package is anything to go by, he has now lost the backing of his core Republican base, the vast conservative talk back radio audience and the somewhat influential right-wing blogging community.
When you hear the words "Bush" and "impeachment" now, they are as likely to be spoken by conservatives as they are by liberals.
President Bush gave a number of press briefings last week, trying to remove the word "amnesty" from the minds of Americans when they think about his immigration plans. Unfortunately for Bush they are more likely to think of the word "shamnesty", a term coined by talking heads on Fox News that swept through conservative talk radio in a matter of hours.
Bush wants the Senate to pass his "comprehensive" immigration bill, without months of wrangling and deal cutting. And GOPers want it gone as fast as possible, fearing it will drag down their 2008 election chances, as it surely will. Just don't use the word amnesty, Bush reminded his fellow GOPers. For God's sake, don't say amnesty :
Bush is way too late on that front. Americans are clearly frightened, and they are unlikely to be won over to the idea of up to 12 million illegal immigrants gaining citizen status any time soon.
"If you want to kill a bill, then you just go around America saying, this is amnesty. In other words, there are some words that illicit strong reactions from our fellow citizens. Amnesty is when a person breaks the law and is completely forgiven for having done so. This bill isn't amnesty. For those who call it amnesty, they're just trying to, in my judgment, frighten people about the bill..."
Bush continued :
"This bill is not amnesty, but it recognizes that it is impossible for this country to rout people out of our society and "send them home." It's just not going to happen."
Bush is right on one point there. It would be a logistical nightmare, a clear impossibility, to "rout" from the United States every single illegal immigrant. Not even taking into consideration the fact that such a "rout" would smash the American economy to pieces, and leave states like California with such low-paid labour shortages the entire state would grind to a halt.
Whatever Bush wants to call it, and however Karl Rove tries to frame the spin, the immigration bill acts as an amnesty, and most Americans already know it, as do the illegal immigrants who are already celebrating before the bill even hits the Senate floor, which it should do today.
From the Washington Times :
President Bush yesterday renewed his attack on Republicans who oppose his immigration bill, again charging that they are trying to "frighten people" and calling on supporters to rally around the compromise.
The president pleaded with senators to "show courage and resolve" to withstand outrage from voters in their districts.
...many Republican senators say the bill is both an amnesty and unworkable and argue that Mr. Bush's barbs are off the mark.
"I'm not going around frightening people. People are frightened, and they're trying to scare the politicians into voting the way they want them to," said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, whose opposition to the bill has earned him standing ovations at speeches and events back home during the past week.
Mr. Bush's challenge followed a speech in Georgia on Tuesday that infuriated Republican opponents of his bill. And the renewed challenge came just a day after White House press secretary Tony Snow said the administration was trying to "lower the temperature and get people to talk about basic principles."
The fight is taking a serious toll on Republicans. The Washington Times reported yesterday that small donations to the Republican National Committee have dropped by an estimated 40 percent and that a grass-roots rebellion over immigration is part of the problem.
The immigration "grand bargain" was the product of closed-door negotiations by a small bipartisan group of senators and the Bush administration. It offers a multistep path to citizenship to illegal aliens, creates a new guest-worker program for some future workers and rewrites the definitions for future immigration to cut out extended-family immigration and give an advantage to those with needed skills.
...Mr. DeMint said the details of the legalization and guest-worker parts of the bill are almost irrelevant because the voters he has talked to don't trust the government on the security parts.
"There's just a complete lack of trust, and that's really where the anger is from," he said.
That anger has played out on talk radio and in blogs and columns in the past few weeks, with some opponents going so far as to say Mr. Bush should be impeached and some administration allies accusing the opponents of bigotry.
Many qualified and experienced operatives have left the RNC, which has drawn frowns from the White House, where such desertions are considered disloyal.
This week, the latest desertions include several RNC staff members leaving the research, finance and other departments to join the undeclared Republican presidential campaign of former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Republicans close to the RNC told The Times in separate and confidential interviews.
The following excerpts from a comprehensive New York Times article looks at how Bush's immigrations plans are tearing away his already low support base, and could give rise to even greater dissent towards his plans for the Iraq War, an absolute nightmare scenario for opinion moulders like Karl Rove, who has been forced to go to the media to counter the "amnesty" claims directly :
President Bush’s advocacy of an immigration overhaul and his attacks on critics of the plan are provoking an unusually intense backlash from conservatives who form the bulwark of his remaining support, splintering his base and laying bare divisions within a party whose unity has been the envy of Democrats.A sampling of the more mild reactions from the online world :
It has pitted some of Mr. Bush’s most stalwart Congressional and grass-roots backers against him, inciting a vitriol that has at times exceeded anything seen yet between Mr. Bush and his supporters, who have generally stood with him through the toughest patches of his presidency.
Those supporters now view him as pursuing amnesty for foreign lawbreakers when he should be focusing on border security. Postings on conservative Web sites this week have gone so far as to call for Mr. Bush’s impeachment, and usually friendly radio hosts, commentators and Congressional allies are warning that he stands to lose supporters — a potentially damaging development, they say, when he needs all the backing he can get on other vital matters like the war in Iraq.
“I think President Bush hurts himself every time he says it is not amnesty,” said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, referring to the bill’s legalization process for immigrants. “We are not all that stupid.”
This week, after Mr. Bush’s suggestion that those opposing the Congressional plan “don’t want to do what’s right for America” inflamed conservative passions, Rush Limbaugh told listeners, “I just wish he hadn’t done it because he’s not going to lose me on Iraq, and he’s not going to lose me on national security.” He added, “But he might lose some of you.”
Such sentiments have reverberated through talk radio, conservative publications like National Review and Fox News. They have also appeared on Web sites including RedState.com and FreeRepublic.com, where postings reflect a feeling that Mr. Bush is smiting his own coalition in pursuit of a badly needed domestic accomplishment, and working in league with the likes of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a co-author of the legislation.
The tensions, which have rippled through the Republican presidential field, are intensifying just as the Senate is preparing to renew debate on the measure next week.
Opponents are seeking significant changes — or outright defeat of the legislation — and raising the specter of a filibuster. The battle has pitted the White House against a group that includes even Mr. Bush’s reliable supporters from his home state of Texas, Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, both Republicans.
Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s top political adviser, said Friday he was confident that the White House would win over its critics as it explained the details of the bill and the administration’s continuing efforts to enforce existing border control laws.
Mr. Rove said he did not think that anger over immigration within the party would affect support for the president on the war and other national security issues.
“People are able to say, ‘I don’t need to agree with anyone 100 percent of the time to be with them on the most important issue facing America,’ ” he said.
But that same day, Peggy Noonan, the Wall Street Journal opinion writer and former Reagan speechwriter who has supported Mr. Bush, said, “What conservatives and Republicans must recognize is that the White House has broken with them,” in a column under the heading, “President Bush has torn the conservative coalition asunder.”
Opposition to Mr. Bush’s immigration plan, which calls for a way to legalize illegal workers who are here now, has been stiff for years. But last year, when similar legislation was under debate, opponents were rightly confident that Republican leaders who controlled Congress would not let it progress. Mr. Bush, not wishing to intensify the fight in an election year, stayed behind the scenes and relented when the legislation died. Not so this year, when Mr. Bush’s personal involvement in brokering a bipartisan immigration deal, and his clear determination to push for its passage, has intensified criticism from grass-roots and legislative leaders of his own party to the highest levels of his presidency.
Mr. Bush’s comments to federal law enforcement trainees in Georgia on Tuesday, in which he took the rare step of going after conservative critics in terms usually reserved for Democrats, has charged the Republican ferment, specifically his suggestion that those opposed to the plan “don’t want to do what’s right for America.”
Presidential aides said later that Mr. Bush did not mean to impugn anyone’s patriotism, and that he had ad-libbed the line during a passionate address on an issue he holds dear. But days later, Mr. Cornyn still seemed rankled. “I honestly don’t know whether it was scripted or unscripted,” he said. “But I think it was uncalled for.”
“Bush has turned on his own people, his political supporters,” wrote a visitor to a message board on the conservative Web site FreeRepublic.com.Here's a good example of the conservative talk radio base temperature hitting fever pitch over this controversy, from Town Hall :
Another visitor wrote, “Why have I cared that liberals not attempt to impeach this man? He’s gone crazy.”
For the past two weeks, talkers’ phone lines have been jammed with angry calls from frustrated listeners. They’re hot as blazes about the immigration bill, and their anger has emboldened grassroots conservatives to criticize President Bush like never before.
“There’s no other topic that I talk about that has the passion of this,” says Washington, D.C., talk-show host Chris Core. “Not the war in Iraq, not abortion, not gun control. Nothing.”
Core isn’t alone. From nationally syndicated hosts to local commentators, the issue of immigration has divided traditional allies and caused what could be an irreparable rift between Bush and conservatives. In my nearly six years living in Washington, all under the reign of Bush, I can’t recall a time when conservatives and the White House have clashed so virulently.
Reading through hundreds of comments on conservative and formerly pro-Bush blogs and websites, there is an overwhelming belief that President Bush simply does not care what his supporters think about immigration reforms. We supported you through the Iraq War, through everything, many say, how can you betray us now? Why are you not listening to us?
It is an emotional reaction that the hundred plus million Americans who were deeply opposed to the Iraq War, before it even began, are deeply familiar with.
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