David Brooks and the Bob Dole Fallacy

A mostly political Weblog.
Aug. 16 2005 3:05 AM

Brooks and the Bob Dole Fallacy

Plus--kf's jejune swoon!

Still the easiest way I can think of to become the richest person in the world: Buy one of the two weak U.S. brand names General Motors is reportedly thinking about killing off--that would be Pontiac or Buick--and start making Pontiacs (or Buicks) in China for sale in North America. ... Update: Malcolm Bricklin has a head start, without the brand name. But he's close--he plans to import a car called the "Chery," which GM is not happy about).[Via Autoblog] ... 10:05 P.M.

Addressing the problem of "what to do with the 11 million illegals who are already here," David Brooks writes:

We're not going to deport 11 million people, many of whom own homes and businesses. But normalizing their status is a question of balance. If we treat them too punitively, we'll just push them further underground. On the other hand, they broke the law, and they have to pay. McCain-Kennedy would lure them into the sunlight with the prospect of normalization, but would make them pay all back taxes and a $2,000 fine to become regularized, and they'd have to get in the back of the line. That's a start, but the penalties will probably have to be a bit tougher to be politically palatable. [Emph. added]

Brooks here seems to assume there is some "balance" to be struck--some Archimedean point between pure amnesty and draconian penalties--that will both lure illegals out from underground and punish them enough to deter more illegals from following in their footsteps. Washingtonians always assume there's some compromise deal that can be cut--the Bob Dole Fallacy. But sometimes there isn't; the relevant preference curves don't intersect (or however you'd express it graphically). And it seems very likely that this is one of those cases--that any penalty a) sufficiently harsh to deter future illegal immigrants (who, after all, get to live and work in the U.S. while those who play by the rules wait their turns) will be way too harsh for b) existing illegals to voluntarily accept. A $2,000 fine ain't going to be enough for (a), and may already be too high for (b). ... The only way to change the preference curves, it seems to me, is to make it more unpleasant to live as an illegal in the U.S.--so that both the penalty due upon surfacing becomes relatively more acceptable and the prospect of becoming an illegal becomes easier to deter. ... 10:49 P.M.

Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, leaders of the 9/11 Commission, say their report ignored the Able Danger program because  it "did not turn out to be historically significant." Well of course it didn't! But maybe it would have turned out to be historically significant if it had been nurtured and not legalistically confined. That's the issue, no? ... There's something circular about Kean and Hamilton's rationale--this data-mining program didn't become a big deal compared with other "policy and intelligence efforts" so we don't have to look at why it didn't become a big deal. But did it fail to become a big deal only because its potential was misguidedly nipped in the bud? In a self-righteous 9/11 inquiry that turned into a festival of second-guessing and what-iffing, why not second-guess this what-if along with all the others? ... P.S.: We now think we know the answer to the Eric Umansky Question--how big was the list of names that Atta's was on? Answer: 60, according to the ubiquitous" former defense intelligence official" who is the source of the report that Able Danger had in fact fingered Atta a year before 9/11. ... 12:22 P.M.

Are you a New York Times writer facing a government subpoena? Hint: Those who don't go with Floyd Abrams as their lawyer tend to stay out of jail!   3:15 P.M.

"Why am I here?" Courtney Love picks up where Admiral Stockdale left off. ...  Tinseltown Spywitness has some details of her depressing Comedy Central appearance that Page Six left out. Good to see you can write that someone "appeared increasingly toasted" in at least one L.A. newspaper. ... 9:17 A.M.

Bruce Reed wisely avoids bloggish obsession  over the fine points of the Able Danger story--

If the Times account is accurate, the Pentagon's failure to act on Able Danger operatives' findings spared FBI operatives the embarrassment of failing to act on those findings. ...

P.S.: Reed has at least one other good, cynical Washington Monthlyesque rim shot ("a Pentagon spokesman says 'it would be irresponsible for us to provide details in a way in which those who wish to do us harm would find beneficial,' but he fails to say whether he's referring to the FBI, the CIA, the White House, or Congress.") ... P.P.S.: For a solid survey of the bloggish obsession, see  Maguire  and his many links. ... P.P.P.S.: Or you could just think about how this A.P. lede from today would have looked, say, in the middle of the 2004 campaign, when the Sept. 11 commission was a major pro-Kerry factor:

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