Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rick Perry and his "aviation assets"

Rick Perry has already shown that he bends whichever way the wind is blowing, and nowhere is that clearer than when he starts talking about illegal immigration.

As governor of the state that has the most liberal immigration policies of any state with the exception of California, as well as a law that allows some children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition in Texas college, Mr. Perry now says he wants "boots on the ground" to secure federal borders.

But, in the Republican presidential debate in Vegas a week ago, Perry stood in his boots like a Pay Per View prize fighter and spoke of using predator drones on anyone who sneaks across the border. Not only did the Texas governor endorse the use of drones on federal borders, he referred to them as "aviation assets." Herman Cain agreed, and agreed. Herman Cain blindly echoed the phrase "boots on the ground."

Though you may expect that, in future debates, candidates will try to walk about Perry's "aviation assets" phrase, and Cain's remarks about an electrified fence, this stance on immigration will be the template for the Republican nominee, and for any future Republican president, esp. one who seeks more than one term.

Too much emphasis has been placed on Cain's "joke" about turning the border into a third rail, and there's been precious little focus on the long term domestic policy implications of turning predator drones on people who try to cross our borders and, ultimately, the possibility of turning drones against U.S. citizens who disobey the law.

That any contender for president of this country could devise a euphemism like "aviation asset" for a remote-controlled killing machine, and go so far as to suggest drones be used domestically as a way to deal with lawbreaking is downright terrifying.

So, the candidate whose state has had the greatest percentage of illegal immigration of any in recent years and, simultaneously, the one who boasts of being a job creator, is now the one who has introduced the notion of using drones domestically. After all, is the border not a part of the country?

And, Ron Paul who has long been touted as the anti-war, pro-Constitution Republican candidate went so far as to say, during the Vegas debate, that he would pull all the troops out of Afghanistan and deploy them to the borders to keep the "illegals" out.

Mitt Romney was characteristically dignified when he said how much he respects immigrants, and that we are a nation founded by immigrants. That sure sounds good until you get to the part of his speech when he says, "I don't like illegal immigrants." Quite right. Mr. Romney didn't say that at the Republican face-off in Las Vegas, but in his September 2nd speech to the Republican National Hispanic Assembly in Tampa, Florida.

Romney has also said that "Illegal immigration has got to end and any form of citizenship amnesty is especially troubling."

Notably, not one Republican candidate mentioned the fact that the recession has proven to be remarkably effective in curtailing the flow of immigrants, legal or otherwise, into this country. Instead, they've virtually made immigration the bogey man of the debate, and it now occupies the same position as the "war on terror" did in the 2008 debate. It's as if national security is all about the economy.

Importantly, too, the Pew Hispanic Center shows what a straw man the immigration debate in that the number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico in the U.S., who account for 60% of those who have no citizenship papers, has declined, and that fewer than 100,000 "illegals" who come from Mexico were caught in 2010 compared to an estimated 525,000 annually from 2000 to 2004. That degree of shrinkage in and of itself show demonstrate that undocumented immigrants pose about as much of a clear and present danger as the Taliban, and still we engage in an undeclared war against them.

As other empires have found in the past, cultural agoraphobia can be a costly enterprise. Perry took cultural agoraphobia one step further when he called for cutting off funding to the United Nations.

While another Texan, Ron Paul, insists that detainees at Guantanamo Bay are suspects and not terrorists until so proven in a court of law, one wonders if Mr. Paul would stand up for the rights of those who are currently being fingerprinted, pulled over in states like Alabama, Georgia, and Arizona, and who have to produce voter I.D. cards, simply because of the color of their skin?

Perry continues to contradict himself by pandering to the far right of a party to which he only recently joined which has he coming in second only to Mitt Romney, the Texas governor seems to have missed one simple fact, and one that wasn't lost on President Obama any more than it was on George W. Bush. Both Bush and Obama recognized that the prevailing crackdown on undocumented workers is, at its core, anti-Hispanic, and both acknowledged the growing importance of the Latino vote.

And, one of the things Mr. Obama addressed shortly after his inauguration was to push for a policy that would allow those who work in this country without the proper documents to get what they need in order to work here legally, thereby also ending the exploitation of undocumented workers who are paid far less than the minimum wage.

Regrettably, serious efforts at immigration reform have been thwarted by the same group that claims to be pro-life, but who have aborted any legislation that seeks to improve the living standards of working people, and the poor in this country. Since they won the midterm election of 2010, one thing is becoming clearer every day. To the born-again neo-Con, life doesn't begin at conception; it ends there.

Not one of the Republican candidates running for president this year has accepted the need for a rational approach to immigration reform, leaving all things reasonable to their Democratic nemesis, President Barack Obama. Doubtless, Mr. Romney will capitulate, too, to the wing nuts of his party who call for airstrikes, and electrified fences.

If nothing else, the debate in Las Vegas has shown that the border that needs protecting most is the one between sanity and insanity, reason and the irrational, a border that has been largely blurred, and defaced by the obstructionists.

By inveighing against "illegals," Rick Perry has now spent what little political capital he had in the first place, and by not distancing himself from Perry on the matter of immigration as vigorously as he did when it comes to Social Security, Romney will capsize along with him. They, along with Cain, Bachmann, and Gingrich will take what is left of the Republican Party along, too. And, wherever they are now, the founding fathers must be wearing an immense grin.