2. I did go overboard in suggesting that National Review as a wholesupports McCain over other Republican contenders. I accept Lowry's correction that the magazine doesn't "have a candidate yet." That doesn't affect the substance of the argument, which is whether NR's advice to McCain--that he embrace the "compromise" immigration plan being pushed by Sen. Johnny Isakson--was in fact a "constructive' advice for opponents of "comprehensive" reform to give. Is it better, or worse, if NR endangered one of its most important causes to help a candidate it doesn't even necessarily want to win?
3.The Isakson plan sets in place--in law--an eventual amnesty, once certain "benchmarks" relating to border security and employment are met. If you worry about amnesty, as I do and I assumeNRdoes, it seems not even a close question whether no bill is better than Isakson. As Mark Krikorian notes, Isakson's plan would legitimize amnesty, undermine enforcement, and create pressure for a future fudging of the benchmarks to allow an amnesty whether or not border protections, etc., work. A legislative impasse would be far preferable.** It would constitute a loud, deflating rebuff to amnesty supporters while it let enforcement measures continue. (How refusing to concede the amnesty issue makes enforcement "an impossible ideal" is beyond me.)
4.I've no doubt that, as Lowry says, if McCain moved from his current position to Isakson it would shift the center of gravity in the Senate "to the right". But that would not necesarily be a "welcome development." It's not a welcome development, for example, if it means the Isakson plan actually gets passed! Lowry is sophisticated enough to know that, even if the Senate is all that matters, you can't decide legislative strategy on the basis of whether the debate moves "left" or "right" on a two-dimensional scale. What matters is what gets the votes needed to become law.
5. But the action is not confined to the Senate, or Congress, or Washington. Unlike welfare reform--where popular opinion had consistently and overwhelmingly opposed the old AFDC cash-without-work program--there's an actual competitive national debate going on about what to do about immigration. It's obviously important who wins this debate--more important than the current array of positions in the Senate. If the public comes down on one side or the other, the politicians, including most Senators, will follow.
6. In this wider debate, any positive effect of McCain moving to the right is more than counterbalanced by the negative effect of National Review moving to the left, which it has done by saying approving things about the Isakson plan (which entails legitimizing and accepting the official amnesty it endorses).
7. In the mid-90s welfare debate, Bill Clinton was a genuine believer in reform. Lowry is just wrong to assert that Clinton's stillborn reform plan didn't "back up" his pledge to "end welfare as we know it." Clinton's plan, once he finally unveiled it, was a radical plan for a Republican, let alone a Democrat. If I remember, it basically cut even single mothers off welfare after three years, with only a bit of fudging. True, it didn't end the welfare "entitlement," but in other respects it was tougher than many plans still in place under Republican governors today. The Isakson plan seems less like Clinton's welfare plan, in this respect, and more like one of the compromises that Congressional Democrats would have proposed as a way to preserve the right to unlimited welfare as long as certain benchmarks are met--except that instead of preserving an open-ended welfare program, Isakson preserves the idea of writing some amnesty into law (with all the ill effects Krikorian describes).
8.There's no indication, and no reason to expect, that McCain will become an advocate for "enforcement first" the way Clinton was an advocate for "ending welfare." McCain certainly doesn't seem ready to run around the country convincingly "emphasizing 'enforcement first,'" as Lowry naively envisions, unless he's undergone an uncharacteristic conversion experience we haven't heard about. If McCain embraces the Isakson plan, it will be reluctantly under candidacy-threatening political pressure. His stance--at least after the GOP primaries are over--is likely to be less "Enforcement First" than "Amnesty Eventually, After a Few Hurdles." In any case, if the Isakson plan passes it won't matter much anymore what McCain says.
9.Lowry cleverly downplays Mark Krikorian's position. Krikorian agrees with me, buddy! He thinks the Isakson plan is a crock. I doubt he was happy with NR's strange, backsliding editorial either. If Lowry actually took Krikorian's "good substantive objections" to Isakson seriously, he never would have published it.
**-- It might not help Republicans duck a divisive immigration debate for the 2008 election or line up Hispanic voters for future races. Those things may matter more to Republicans than to non-Republicans. Anyway, Lowry doesn't couch his argument in those terms. 10:59 P.M. link
Friday, March 30, 2007
Eli Broad, Guest Editor? It's growing on me! The main teachers' union in Los Angeles successfully (if temporarily) blocked eight new charter schools in "impoverished, gang-ridden" Watts, despite support from local parents and representatives. 'Unions fight charters'--that's dog-bites-man, except that the L.A. Times' slant is decidedly and unusually anti-union and pro-charter. Is that because a) the move to block the schools was apparently illegal; b) charter entrepreneur Steve Barr is a skilled operator; c)Times reporters don't send their own kids to public schools and are convinced Barr's schools are better; or d) one of Barr's backers is billionaire Eli Broad, who may own the Times in a few days. ... It's overdetermined! But if teachers' unions have lost the liberal LAT, they're in trouble, no? ... P.S.: [At least none of these people are having sex with Broad--ed You always say that!] ... P.P.S.: The story's account of an attempt to close a non-Barr charter school (Academia Semillas) suggests that once charter schools get in, they quickly develop their own constituencies and are hard to close down. That could be good, helping to preserve them in the face of self-interested union opposition. It could also be trouble, if a school underperforms. ... 4:32 P.M.