Steve King Still Has a Friend In Ed Meese

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 26 2013 9:53 AM

Steve King Still Has a Friend in Ed Meese

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Reagan-era Attorney General Ed Meese was around for the 1986 amnesty.

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

The Democratic effort to elevate Rep. Steve King's role in the immigration debate is a classic example of Alinsky's rule: Find the target, freeze it, and polarize it. Democrats didn't create King, and they didn't force his fellow conservatives to meet regularly in his office to talk over strategy. Also, it's not like those talks have more to do with the ailment of the Senate bill than the median Republican's lack of political interest in passing it.

But Democrats know how to elevate King. As an irritated Rep. Raul Labrador said this week, the media—with a push from Democrats—made King's comments from the House's new DREAM Act hearing into the only story of that day. "For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," said King. "Shame on the media," said Labrador.

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Other Republicans took the bait. On Thursday, Speaker of the House John Boehner started his press conference with a condemnation of King. "What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party," said Boehner. And in a move anyone could have predicted, King—who is fond of sticking around the House after votes are done, to give speeches—went to the floor and talked for 30 minutes about his railroading.


The message—not even counting the 500 or so points King tried to make—was that one member of the House with a big megaphone in the first GOP presidential caucus state was not going to be driven out of the debate. He has not lost any allies whatsoever. In fact, today the economist and Reagan adminstration vet Bruce Bartlett forwarded me an invitation that King was sending to other Reaganites.

Your voices are those of wisdom and experience; and Americans need to hear them. Please join former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese me and at a press conference in Washington, D.C., onWednesday, July 31, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. at the House Triangle to highlight the pitfalls of the 1986 Act and why we need to reject amnesty now. You served President Reagan in the 80's. We can serve his memory on July 31st. Thank you.

Meese, who was AG during the 1986 amnesty, has consistently attacked the idea of a new legalization bill. He's wired into the conservative network in D.C., and is probably the most famous member of the group that sends out a "memo from the movement" from time to time, calling on Republicans to back off whatever liberal feint the business community wants them to make. The anti-immigration reform forces are definitely weaker than they've been in years, but they're still working, and Democrats are working to elevate them in the hopes of embarassing the rest of the party.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.