What if the 'surge' works?

A mostly political Weblog.
Feb. 2 2007 6:19 AM

What if the 'Surge' Works?

Are foes of Bush's plan taking a political risk?

(Continued from Page 7)

Will Blacks Vote for Obama, Part II: Bob Wright makes a good point about Obama and blacks  in our most recent bloggingheads session: Black voters who are lukewarm on Obama may not be responding to his unconventional biography--Kenyan father, no slavery or Jim Crow or civil-rights fights in his background--but rather that he seems "culturally kind of white." After all, Wright argues, you wouldn't expect ordinary voters to be all that familiar with the details of Obama's life. ... To the extent Wright is right, Obama's black problem might be harder to overcome (when it's learned that his cultural affect is reinforced by his life story). Or it might be easier to overcome (if black voters only care about the affect, which can be modified, and not the life story, which can't).  But I'm not sure Wright's right: Black voters who know about Obama might well know the basics of his story by now, and they also know if their local opinion leaders--who almost certainly know the details--are talking him up. ... And aren't there plenty of black leaders whose cultural affect is mainstream--Julian Bond, Andrew Young, Harold Ford--who have no problems obtaining black support? ...

Update: kausfiles  Tuesday, WaPo Thursday!** The Post's Michael Fletcher suggests a) black voters get to issues of both heritage and cultural authenticity very quickly, and b) that Obama nevertheless succeeded in establishing a base of African-American support in his "mostly" black South Side Chicago constituency. ...

**-- OK, Salon Monday. ... 1:34 P.M. link

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bold , Decisive Disasters: The conventional view of Tuesday's State of the Union speech  is this: Bush's invasion of Iraq has turned nightmarish. He got beat in the midterms. He's reacted by changing his approach on the domestic front--reaching across the aisle to make bipartisan, centrist compromises on domestic issues like "comprehensive immigration reform."

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But it seems to me the invasion of Iraq and "comprehensive immigration reform" actually have more in common than you might think. Far from being a sensible centrist departure from the sort of grandiose, wishful, rigid thinking that led Bush into Iraq, "comprehensive immigration reform" is of a piece with that thinking. And it's likely to lead to a similar outcome. Here are ten similarities:

1. They're both ideas Bush had when he came into office. Bush speechwriter David Frum has written of his first Oval Office meeting with Bush, a few weeks into his presidency, at which the president explained his "determination to dig Saddam Hussein out of power in Iraq." At about the same time, Bush was meeting with Mexican president Vicente Fox to try to hammer out an immigration deal that would combine a guest worker program with some legalization of existing illegal Mexican immigrants. (Plans for such a broad deal were put on hold only after 9/11 made immigration a national security issue--but Bush diligently resumed pursuit of the deal, just as he diligently resumed pursuit of his pre-election plans for Social Security.)

2. They both have an idealistic basis. Bush was sympathetic to the way Middle East democrats had been frustrated by "realist" foreign policies, and he's clearly sympathetic to the problems of poor immigrants who come to the U.S. to work and feed their families only to be forced to live "in the shadows."

3. They both seek, in one swoop, to achieve a grand solution to a persistent, difficult problem. No "smallball"! The Iraq Project would begin the transformation of the Middle East, an area that had frustrated president after president. "Comprehensive" immigration reform would, as the name suggests, resolve in one bold bill the centuries-old immigration issue--including a) devising a way to keep out illegal workers while b) providing business with legal immigrant workers, plus c) deciding what to do with illegals who are already here. It would, as Bush said Tuesday, be "conclusive."

4. In both cases, they envision a complicated, triple-bank shot chain of events happening just as Bush wishes it to happen. Iraqis were going to be grateful to their American liberators, come together in peace and give us a stable "ally in the war on terror." Hispanics, in the happy Rovian scenario behind Bush's immigration plan, would be grateful to Republicans for bringing them out of the shadows, etc., ensuring a large and growing GOP Latino vote for decades to come.

5. Both have an obvious weak spot, depending crucially on pulling off a very difficult administrative feat. In Iraq, we had to build a nation in the chaotic vacuum of sectarian post-Saddam Iraq--which came to mean training a national army and police force from scratch with recruits who were often sectarian loyalists or insurgent infiltrators. "Comprehensive" immigration reform requires the government to set up an enforcement mechanism that can prevent millions of impoverished foreigners from sneaking across thousands of miles of unprotected borders--and prevent America's millions of self-interested employers from hiring them.

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