It's already clear that Republican candidates in the 2008 season will face a difficult political climate in light of the continued war in Iraq and the overall low job-approval ratings for President Bush. Now the president apparently wants to ensure the collapse of his party by attempting to drag GOP Senators over the cliff and into the abyss of his current immigration reform bill.
Multiple InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion surveys indicate that a majority of voters in numerous states, particularly those "red" Southern states the GOP desperately needs in order to have any prayer of holding on to the White House, oppose the president's immigration bill. It does no good to examine the minutiae of the immigration proposal, or to debate any of its potential merits. Once the public has been handed a convoluted piece of legislation in which they have no confidence, the political die is cast.
The Bush immigration proposal has no coherent or tangible aspects that would provide the average voter with answers to the many concerns they have expressed about the bill. The public does not view this legislation as punitive to those who have entered the country illegally. More importantly, the public has little trust in the legislation's promise to secure our borders in the future.
In a meeting with the president earlier this week, Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., expressed his belief that until emergency funds are appropriated to build the proposed fence that would span hundreds of miles along our border with Mexico, the public will never believe that other aspects of the president's immigration bill will be implemented. Isakson, a pragmatic conservative viewed as an extraordinarily effective freshman U.S. Senator, makes a great point. Our polling reveals that the public has little or no confidence that any meaningful immigration reform will ever take place. Securing our borders in a realistic and effective manner is, in the public's mind, of paramount importance.
But the White House is more than a day late and a dollar short in understanding the mood of the country. Just as they were insulated and unapproachable as to the public's feelings on the war in Iraq, this same White House seems completely out of touch with not only the vast majority of Americans, but with their own GOP face.
There are other instances in which presidents and Congress have gone against the obvious will of the public. There was the 1986 Tax Reform Act, which contributed to the defeat of a number of freshman GOP Senators who had come into office as part of the "Reagan Revolution." And, of course, the "read my lips" reversal on taxes by President George H. W. Bush likely not only cost Bush the White House, but also put Republicans on the ropes.
This immigration bill has the potential to be another one of those "bipartisan and seemingly reasonable" pieces of legislation that is urgently needed and supported by leaders from both parties. We are past the point of trying to provide analysis as to the merits of the bill. Now, the commentary becomes purely political and strategic.
The solution for Republican Senators in this potentially disastrous political season is simple: When you are in a hole, quit digging. To continue to discuss a complex piece of legislation that ignites this degree of virulent opposition is political suicide. Isakson's suggestion that the border fence must be built in order to gain the public's confidence should be used as the "jumping off point" for GOP members of the Senate. They should demand that the president demonstrably secure the borders, and then address the issue of those already illegally in our country. After, if they care to survive as a party, they should just shut up.
The Democratic Party has outmaneuvered the Republicans on this issue. The most significant segment of voters who would reject a candidate over their support of this bill would never vote Democrat in the first place. At the same time, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid has managed to make Bush appear weak and ineffective, while at the same time making his own members look proactive.
From the objective view of one who follows politics, the question must be asked: Who in the world is creating the Republican Party's policy and strategy? Moreover, who is responsible for communicating whatever that strategy might be? If the message is "I'll see you at the bill signing," as Bush reportedly quipped on Monday, he might as well add, "and at the conclusion of your political careers."