President Bush has announced his domestic legislative agenda for next year: Social Security reform, tort law reform, tax reform, an energy bill and conservative judicial appointments. If he gets most of that done, he will have gained a historic legislative record. While we don't yet know all the details, I look forward to strongly supporting those efforts next year.
But I have a hunch that there will be a large unwanted guest in Washington next year -- immigration and border control reform legislation. No, I don't just mean the president's guest worker proposal that is unlikely to pass the Republican House of Representatives. And I don't just mean House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner's driver license and amnesty provisions (good as they are) that were cut out of the Intelligence Reform bill a few weeks ago, and for which he has been promised a vote next year.
What I suspect may be a gathering storm on President Bush's horizon in 2005 is a confluence of factors that will force on Washington a fundamental immigration reform -- one that will seek to genuinely secure our borders. This is something that up until now neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party has wanted, and that the mainstream media have not pressured the politicians to deliver on.
As I discussed in a column last January, the Democratic Party has opposed serious efforts at border control both because they are the historic party of immigrants and because they are in the sway of radical ethnic interest groups.
And, as I pointed out then, the Republican Party has also resisted genuine reform, both because they are afraid of offending Hispanic voters and because business and agricultural interests like the constant flow of cheap labor. More subtly, both parties are disinclined to force reform because upper-middle-class Americans of both parties have come to rely on cheap domestic help, and couldn't afford such help if they had to pay Americans at substantially higher salaries.
But I suspect that these considerations may well be overwhelmed in 2005 by larger political forces unleashed on Sept. 11, 2001. The recently signed Intelligence reform bill was passed with vastly publicized claims of trying to make America safe from terrorists -- a claim that is laughable as long as illegals can enter and stay in America without obstruction. Mr. Sensebrenner's efforts both highlighted this absurdity and created an assured legislative opportunity to address it next year.
While his proposals are limited, the legislation carrying his bill could quickly become the vehicle with which genuine immigration reformers force their way through the Republican/Democratic blockade, which has for years stymied real reform.
Adding piquancy to this legislative challenge for President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress is the entrance from stage right of Hillary R. Clinton, 2008 Democratic Presidential Nominee, presumptive.
In the last few weeks, the ever cold-blooded Miss Hillary has started to stake out a position to the right of the Republican Party. Just listen to her Pat Buchananesque defiance:
[I do] not think that we have protected our borders or our ports ... we can do more and we can do better ... I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants ... Clearly we have to make some tough decisions as a country, and one of them ought to be coming up with a much better entry-and-exit system so that if we are going to let people in for ... work ? let's have a system that keeps track of them ... People have to stop employing illegal immigrants.
These are hardly idle pensees coming from The Iron Maiden of Chappaqua. Rather, it is a part, and a big part, of her calculated strategy to shed her liberal image and seize the White House from the Republicans in 2008 by attacking them on the most vulnerable part of their right flank: open borders, illegal immigration and lax anti-terrorist security.
I never thought I would write the following words, but: God bless Hillary Clinton. Though her motives are cynical, their effects may well be vital both to our national security and to our sovereign responsibility to control our borders.
Republican presidents and congressional leaders have for years effortlessly and painlessly given short shrift to conservative Republican congressmen calling to secure our borders and end massive illegal immigration. But they ignore Hillary at their mortal peril.
Immigration and border legislation in 2005 is likely to be the last chance the Republicans have to put their stamp on those issues. Their failure to do so would: 1) give Hillary three years to champion such Buchananite reform, 2) visibly split the Republican Party on the issue, 3) thereby undercut the Republican unity President Bush will need to pass his Social Security and Tax reforms, and 4) set up Hillary to patch together an unlikely, but formidable, electoral coalition of disenchanted border-security Republicans and main street Democrats for the 2008 campaign.
As Hillary knows better than most, politics makes strange bedfellows.