SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Of course, everybody in the state capital loves Mexican President Vicente Fox.
Yesterday, Fox met with Gov. Gray Davis and the Legislature.
Fox is a courtly man who enjoys a common bond with his country's people. After 71 years of oligarchic rule, Fox opened the windows of an economically fetid country. He has shown great courage in taking on the country's violent drug traffickers, while challenging Mexican police to end their use of torture.
The state-run media are free to criticize El Presidente, which did not happen under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (or PRI). Still, Fox must have impressed California pols in the way his staff handled the press corps at a Sacramento press conference.
California and Mexico even share electrical grid problems. He's probably one foreign dignitary who can come to Sacramento and have no cause to complain because the air conditioning has to be shut off at night.
Both parties claim him as their own.
State Sen. Chuck Poochigian of Fresno said of Fox, "If this man were running for office in this state, he would be a Republican." Poochigian cited Fox's campaign against government corruption, his push for more competition in the marketplace and less onerous regulation, and his status as a former corporate exec.
Democrats see the Fox visit as proof of the fact that Davis and they enjoy superior relations with Mexico than former Gov. Pete Wilson enjoyed.
"Such a difference from the Pete Wilson acrimony," said Sue North, chief of staff to State Sen. John Vasconcellos of Santa Clara, referring to Wilson's support of the 1994 initiative Proposition 187. "His race-baiting was pretty awful," Vasco agreed.
Oh, yes, Wilson's race baiting. California voters approved Proposition 187 on a 59-to-41 percent vote. The vast majority of Proposition 187 voters were voting not against immigrants, but against illegal immigration. Yet the Dems can't stop painting Wilson as a race-baiter for endorsing the popular initiative and running an ad showing illegal immigrants rushing the border.
Everything was bad under the bad Republican, and California is all enlightenment now that he is gone. Just as long as the observer ignores Davis pollster Paul Maslin, who surveyed voters two years ago only to find that support for Proposition 187 was almost as high as it was in 1994. "I think the issue has ramped down a bit since then," Maslin noted this week, "but I would suspect that overall, in its original form, it would still pass and probably by a hefty margin."
That doesn't mean that Sacramento isn't rooting for Fox. As Fox and Davis noted, both countries have an economic stake in the well-being of the other. And if Fox can succeed in helping the Mexican economy grow, California stands to gain much -- a strong trading partner, friendly relations with a border country and fewer problems with illegal immigration.
As Fox noted, California has the world's sixth largest economy. "And if we put together the gross product of Mexico, plus the gross product produced by Mexicans in the United States, we are the eighth largest economy in the world."
Fox's willingness to blur borders (inconvenient to him) is where Fox goes too far. Legislators may cheer him, but his proposals to relax the U.S.-Mexico border and his suggestions that the United States should better facilitate migration is something that is in his interest, not in U.S. interest. Americans have not moved en masse to Mexico.
It is in the U.S. interest to help Fox fight the drug war and open up closed markets. It is in U.S. interest to help this great man stay in power. But Mexico has a long way to go before the U.S.-Mexican border should be open.