It’s painful to watch Bush give a speech, and his immigration address was no exception.
Hell, it was hard not to break out into guffaws when he said, “We have enough Guard forces to win the war on terror, to respond to natural disasters, and to help secure our borders.”
Anyone who has been watching what’s going on in Iraq, or anyone who saw Katrina, knows that the Guard is spread woefully thin right now, even before Bush tries stretch them from San Diego to Brownsville.
Oh, but he’s “not going to militarize the southern border,” he promised. Right.
In this age of NSA data mining and privacy invading, none of us should be keen on the idea of “high-tech fences in urban corridors,” or, for that matter, “unmanned aerial vehicles.”
What’s next? A predator missile?
The speech was obnoxious from the start, when Bush drew a parallel between the hundreds of thousands of people marching in city after city for immigrant rights, on the side, and the Minuteman vigilantes on the other.
Both are displaying “intense emotions,” he said, condescendingly.
True to his base, Bush conjured up images of immigrants committing crimes and draining our Treasury, and then he went out of his way not to insult his buddies in the business community, who are flouting the law as much as anybody.
In his speech, the employers were the victims of sneaky immigrants, not the recruiters and the exploiters of undocumented workers.
Here’s Bush: “Illegal immigrants live in the shadows of our society. Many use forged documents to get jobs, and that makes it difficult for employers to verify that the workers they hire are legal.”
This is a charge he made not once but twice. Fifteen paragraphs after the first reference, he said, “Businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees because of the widespread problem of document fraud.”
The speech was also internally inconsistent. Bush said, “When people know that they’ll be caught and sent home if they enter our country illegally, they will be less likely to try to sneak in.” A mere 12 words later, he said, “The reality is that there are many people on the other side of our border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country.”
If they are that desperate to get here, the threat of being returned home won’t amount to much.
But Bush did not address why people are so desperate to get here, and that’s, in large part, because of NAFTA, which has thrown millions of Mexican peasants off the land and led to an increase in poverty. Bush couldn’t own up to that because he worships at the altar of free trade.
Bush’s speech was a desperate ploy to change the subject.
But the subject remains his ineptitude.
The subject remains the Iraq War.
The subject remains his corporate fealty.
And the subject remains his criminality.
Matthew Rothschild has been with The Progressive since 1983. His McCarthyism Watch web column has chronicled more than 150 incidents of repression since 9/11.
© 2006 The Progressive