When Bill Kristol Wanted Immigration Reform

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 9 2013 4:11 PM

When Bill Kristol Wanted Immigration Reform

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Not the hypocrite you might think at first

Photo by Alex Wong/Newsmakers

This morning I pointed readers to the op-ed co-written by Rich Lowry and Bill Kristol, calling on the GOP to wise up and realize the short-term benefit of killing immigration reform for now. It took a while, but I finally found one of Kristol's 2006 missives offering Republicans basically the exact opposite advice. Keying off a press conference at which border hawk Republicans pounded the table, Kristol advised the party to get behind a reform bill.

GOP senators and congressmen--and presidents--have plenty of room to show leadership and to resist demagoguery. Most Republican officeholders know that the political--and moral--cost of turning the GOP into an anti-immigration, Know Nothing party would be very great. It could easily dash Republican hopes of becoming a long-term governing party. How many Republicans will have the courage to stand up and prevent the yahoos from driving the party off a cliff?

People like to attack Kristol for making wrong predictions, but this wasn't wrong, was it? In 2006 and 2008, Republicans lost elections as the Hispanic vote fell to the Democrats. It was far from the only factor hurting the party, but it was a factor. And now Kristol's telling Republicans to kick over the chessboard because they could, in 2015, use a new majority to pass a better bill, details TBD.

That's the caveat. The 2006 version of Kristol wasn't telling Republicans to pass just any bill. The 2013 version is telling them to kill one bill in particular, because the politics aren't lining up. That's basically what Gov. Bobby Jindal says in an op-ed that beggars common sense unless you realize he wants to run for president and needs to perform well at the Ames Straw Poll. He favors a bill that would "increase legal immigration, by a lot" and offer citizenship to those who "are willing to gain proficiency in English, pay a fine, and demonstrate a willingness to assimilate," both aspects of the Senate bill. Alas ...

... we find ourselves in a familiar cycle: Washington produces a massive bill full of pork and needlessly complex and unworkable rules and regulations that create more problems than they solve; then governors, businesses, and citizens are left to try to make sense of it and clean up the mess.

The "full of pork" bit is a nice addition, as the items he mentions include Nevada's seat on the border commission, which as far as I can tell costs nothing.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.