I think it’s telling that the conventional wisdom has shifted as Bush’s poll numbers have fallen. It used to be that, when the president crafted policy for political reasons, there was little recognition of the stunt. Now, however, many more people are prepared to call a spade a spade:
President Bush’s plan to send thousands of National Guard troops to secure the U.S.-Mexico border is appropriately being met with skepticism. It’s a blatant attempt to appease the conservative base in an election year when his approval rating is headed toward zero.
Haussaman’s got a good entry on the subject, so check it out. Also, I would recommend this post at Think Progress that discusses the poor shape of our National Guard, whose personnel and equipment have been depleted by the War on Terra. And, lest I try to best his comments, read Kevin Drum’s impressions of the speech itself:
The immigration speech seemed like it was mostly just the same ‘ol same ‘ol. Nickel version: Beef up the borders with troops and high tech wizardry but insist that it’s not “militarization”; start up a guest worker program that’s not called a guest worker program; introduce an amnesty program but insist that it’s not an amnesty program (it’s not, it’s not, it’s not!); and crack down on employers who employ illegal immigrants while pretending that they’re actually victims of highly sophisticated fraud rather than willing coconspirators aided and abetted by the business wing of the Republican Party.
I’m wary, however, of rejoicing completely. Bush’s speech, to me, guarantees one thing: a boost in those low poll numbers I told you about earlier. I don’t think it can be avoided, because his numbers are incredibly, fantastically low. And much of the discontent has come from conservatives. With this move to appease the base, I imagine Dubya will see a small jump at least – there’s just no other direction for the numbers to go.
Regardless, the latest news from the White House is, once again, policy that offers a temporary solution. Mexico and Latin America need higher paying jobs for their residents if we’re going to stem the tide of people seeking the American Dream. And putting National Guard troops in a “support role” doesn’t put more Border Patrol agents on the ground, something lawmakers in Congress and border governors have been asking for for years.
UPDATE: More from the Carpetbagger Report:
“Bush aims for middle ground; but misses everyone”
Last night, in his first Oval Office address on domestic public policy, Bush had a few goals in mind. It’s not at all clear he achieved any of them.
Did the proposals win anyone over? Apparently not.
For one thing, the plan isn’t terribly ambitious. When the White House said it wanted to avoid militarizing the border, it meant it — the 6,000 troops won’t even be seizing illegal immigrants or patrolling the border; they’ll instead help provide logistical support and taking on administrative tasks. Conservatives envisioned Guard troops taking on law-enforcement responsibilities, nabbing those who try to enter the country illegally. That’s not Bush’s plan at all. As the LA Times put it, “[T]he president’s big initiative is heavy on symbolism but will be small in scale — and largely invisible on the ground.”
UPDATE II: There’s even more from David Neiwert:
Why, if post-9/11 border security is such a suddenly serious concern, aren’t we sending the Guard to the Canadian border? — It is, after all our longest and most porous border, and its many open spots do not entail dangerous and potentially lethal desert crossings. Perhaps more to the point, the one terrorist who did try to sneak into the USA with explosives as part of a plot to attack a major metropolitan area was caught on the Canadian border.
Ah well. We’re not accustomed to logic from this president anyway, especially when it’s a twofer: a good photo op and rescuing your poll standings with the base are all in the offing. Especially if you can do it with military troops in the picture. Too bad about those cuts in the Border Patrol staffing last year.
UPDATE III: Welcome everybody from the Council on Foreign Relations!