Rudy: Immigration Bill Is A “Hodgepodge”

From the AP:

“It has to show when you came in. It also has to show when you leave, which I can’t find (in the) hodgepodge that’s being put together,” he said. “I’ve gone over this thing about four times. I’m a lawyer. I’ve actually written laws, argued cases. I’m having a hard time understanding this law.”

Meanwhile, Liz Mair, who considers Rudy her preferred candidate, argues that he’s just “blowing smoke” by opposing the bill on security grounds.

Re: Beirut and Paul

Jim, I’m not arguing that Reagan’s Lebanon intervention “is a good model for the war on terror.” I agree that it was an ill-conceived mission in which Marines essentially became sitting ducks for terrorists, and at the time, withdrawing was the right thing to do. My point is that even in that case, in which there was a broad consensus that we needed to pull out, the act of withdrawing had disastrous long-term consequences. It demonstrated to terrorists that with all our military strength, if they caused some casualties, they could get us to surrender. The Beirut withdrawal (along with our pullout from Somalia) was an important part of the narrative that bin Laden constructed to convince his followers that terrorism works. If Paul is going to cite Reagan’s pullout from Lebanon to demonstrate that Reagan came to terms with the irrationality of the Middle East, if he’s going to lecture us on how we need to pay more attention to what the terrorists are actually saying, it’s only fair to look at the flip side and see what they say when we withdraw. And it’s worth keeping in mind as we contemplate what to do in Iraq. The scope of the Iraq intervention is much greater than Lebanon, our commitment of soldiers is much larger, and thus a defeat there is likely to have even more disastrous repercussions. Opponents of the war argue, correctly, I believe, that we went to war without giving enough thought to what would happen once we toppled Saddam. There is a danger now that in their desire to see us wash our hands of Iraq, opponents of the war are not adequately considering the consequences of withdrawal. That is not to say that this should be the ultimate trump card in any argument about what to do with regard to Iraq, but we should seriously be considering the consequences of leaving in the cost-benefit analysis of what to do there. If we can’t win, we have to consider ways to make it as little a victory for al Qaeda as possible.

In a broader sense, I’m not arguing that when contemplating military action, we shouldn’t consider how it would be perceived by those who live in the region, or whether it could motivate more terrorists than we could eliminate by taking such an action. But Jim is making an argument that’s much more rational than Paul’s. Paul is an extreme non-interventionist who is arguing that if we go back 50 years and imagine an alternate universe in which America never got involved in the Middle East, we’d be safer today. But that would mean that during the Cold War we would have faced an Iran that would have been controlled by a Soviet-friendly government instead of one friendly to the U.S., it would have meant Soviet domination of the entire Middle East during the Cold War (given that Israel would have been weaker or perhaps even non-existent), and Saddam raking in oil money from Kuwait to fund WMD programs that we know he had in the early 1990s. The world is a complicated, messy place that often forces us to choose between many undesirable options. Paul has the advantage in that his extreme non-interventionism has never been tried, so he can point to problems in the world that are the result of the world being messy and say that if only we had never meddled in the affairs of others, we’d be safe. Saying that we should be more cautious in our foreign interventions is one thing, but Paul thinks we can pretend we’re still living in the 19th century.

More Rudy on the Immigration Bill

Here are Giuliani’s full remarks on the immigration legislation, which I discussed earlier (via his campaign):

Voice 1: Mayor, can we ask you about you about the immigration bill? You’ve heard in the last couple of days that Mitt Romney’s been very critical about …and of course, for John McCain to write that bill. What’s your position on the immigration bill?

Mayor Rudy Giuliani: My position on the immigration bill is, and I’ve tried to study it as best I could – it doesn’t achieve the purpose that I would like to see it achieve. In order to then decide whether some of the things you like in it have to be balanced against some of the things you don’t like, which is after all what you have to do with complex legislation. What it doesn’t have in it is a very, very clear statement of purpose – and then a way of executing that purpose. I believe that we have to know everybody who’s in the United States…who comes hear from afar – [Applause] And I believe that is, if you make that your goal, that everything else follows from that or everything else leads to that. There should be a tamper – proof ID card, a biometric ID card that everyone who comes here from a foreign country should have. In order to make sure you identify everyone, in order to be secure – I mean the reason to do this is for necessary security. We understand that we can be penetrated now by terrorists. We also understand that drug dealers and other criminals find their way into the United States. But we want to make sure that we either stop that or we keep it to a minimum. In order to accomplish that, you have to have a goal of identifying everybody that comes in here from a foreign country, having their name, their background, their identity, their fingerprints, other identifying data that’s not too much to ask, that’s not too much to ask of any one single individual who wants to come here. It’s what most nations require, and we need to do it. And then we need to set up a database that will contain that information, and you need to have a fence – both physical and technological in order to obtain that information and to stop people from sneaking in who aren’t going to be identified. And then we need the border patrol better trained, and I think the resources for that were in the bill but not the first purpose that I was talking about. And then there should be a program by which people who are working can come forward, get identified, get their tamper – proof ID card to be fingerprinted, get in the database, and then we can concentrate our attention on the people who aren’t coming forward. Because it’s among the people who don’t come forward you’re going to find the terrorists and the drug dealers and the other criminals that hurt us. If, you know, let’s see what happens in the debates that they have now – the Senate has to debate it, the House has to debate it, let’s see if they can put something like that in it that ends up giving us more security. The present version of the bill, however, I don’t think it accomplishes that.

Ron Paul and Me

During the breakfast this morning, I got into an exchange with Ron Paul on the Iraq War and U.S. foreign policy.

It started when James Poulos asked Paul how he would respond to supporters of the war who argue that if we withdraw from Iraq the terrorists will follow us back. Paul described the major flaws in U.S. foreign policy and said suicide terrorism is caused by occupation. Over the course of his answer, he said: “Why bother coming over here looking to kill 3,000 here, when they can pick us off one at a time over there?”

I followed up by asking him whether such a statement, in fact, confirms the pro-war argument that were we not over there, they’d attack us here.

“I would say it’s a lousy trade off, sort of like taking young men and putting them out as decoys,” Paul said. In answering the question, he also once again cited Reagan’s decision to pull out of Beirut as recognition that the U.S. shouldn’t be involved in the Middle East.

Because this has been an area of interest for me recently, I pointed out that terrorists have cited the U.S. withdrawal from Lebanon as a motivating factor for them, and used it as a recruitment tool, because it demonstrated that the U.S. was weak and would pull away from the first sight of casualties.

At first, Paul said: “I don’t think so, I think it’s the fact that we didn’t really remove ourselves from the Middle East.”

I responded: “But bin Laden specifically cited our withdrawal from Beirut as showing that we’re weak and when you show us a few casualties, we’ll withdraw.” After we went back and forth about what bin Laden actually said, Paul responded:

“Which means if they resist, there are some benefits to it, which is logical. If they resist. But there’s no motivation unless we’re there, unless there’s occupation. This is the way he encourages his people, that he can be successful, which brings common sense to us. I just think we have to deal with it in the context of occupation.”

Paul’s argument, in essence, is that the terrorism against the U.S. is caused by our involvement in the Middle East and that there’s a vicious circle. We meddle in their affairs, which causes terrorism. People say we can’t back down and so we respond by meddling in their affairs more, which creates more animosity toward us and leads to more terrorism. He accepts the fact that there may be a short-term increase in terrorism as a result of our withdrawing from the Middle East until we reach the point where we can completely overhaul our foreign policy to remove the central motivating factor for terrorists-our presence in their lands.

My problem with Paul is that I don’t believe giving terrorists exactly what they want is a good way to go about discouraging terrorism, nor do I believe that the motivations of the modern Islamist movement are exclusively about U.S presence in the Middle East. They see it as their goal to remake the world according to their definition of pure Islam, and the U.S. will always collide with that vision. The “they hate us for our freedom” argument may have become trite, but it is shorthand for all the aspects of modernity that Islamists see as a threat, and the U.S. is the greatest symbol of them. Also, even if you accept the fact that our policies in the Middle East contribute to terrorism, it doesn’t mean that our actions are wrong. It doesn’t mean, for instance, that we should have allowed Iraq to annex Kuwait.

In other news, Paul identified Dennis Kucinich as the Democratic candidate he considers himself closest to (allowing for the fact that they have major disagreements on economic policy). He also responded to recent press reports of a statement attributed to him that “By far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.” Dave Weigel has the details.

Rudy Opposes Immigration Bill

According to the ABC News account:

At an event Monday in New York City, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said he did not support the “present version” of congress’ Immigration Bill.

The former New York Mayor said he would like for there to be a system or database that would allow the government to “know everybody who is in the United States, who comes here from a foreign country”.

“If you make that your goal then everything follows from that or leads to that,” he added. “There should be a tamper proof id card, biometric id card that everyone who comes here from a foreign country should have. In order to make sure you identify everyone, in order to be secure.”

Giuliani did hold out hope that through debate in Congress, the proper changes could be made to the bill.

“Let’s see what happens in the debates they have now, the Senate has to debate it, the House as to debate it,” said Giuliani. “Let’s see if they can put something like that in, it that ends up giving us more security. The present version of the bill however … I don’t think that accomplishes that.”

This is the perfect way for Giuliani to handle the sitaution. Opposing this version of the bill on security grounds is a realistic way for him to come out against a piece of legislation that has drawn the ire of the conservative base, without reversing his prior stances on the need for comprehensive reform. This ensures that John McCain will get most of the heat on this issue, and Romney can continue to look silly exploiting this situation by calling amnesty what he not too long ago said was “quite different” from amnesty. This also makes it likely that McCain and Romney will continue to escalate their war of words and makes it easier for Rudy to remain above the fray.

McCain Blasts Romney

John McCain escalated his war of words with Mitt Romney, ripping his rival for flip-flopping on the immigration issue.

Asked by Ryan Sager Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson using the immigration issue against him, McCain said he was “disappointed” in Thompson, but reserved his harshest comments for Romney.

“In the case of Governor Romney, maybe I should wait a couple of weeks and see if it changes, because it’s changed in less than a year from his position a year before, and maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn.”

Romney, of course, once called a similar McCain proposal “quite different” from amnesty, and now says the current legislation is amnesty.

With that said, I think this rhetorical battle is a win for Romney, because it cements Romney’s status in the top tier of candidates: McCain wouldn’t waste his time ripping Huckabee. It’s also interesting that Rudy Giuliani remains largely immune from this infighting. Some of that, I think, is based on a mistaken belief in the McCain and Romney camps that Rudy will implode by himself so they really need to worry about each other. But a lot of it is by design–a result of Giuliani staying above the fray and avoiding taking shots at his rivals, something which he has the luxury to do as the frontrunner. That may be one reason why he hasn’t come out with a clear position on whether he supports or opposes the current legislation.

McCain on Cornyn

On a blogger conference call, John McCain just said of his dispute with John Cornyn: “The exchange was a bit exaggerated…Sometimes we have tough issues, and sometimes we are very frank with each other.” Says he wish it could have been seen on YouTube so people could see that it has been overblown.

Obama in the Granite State

RYE/MANCHESTER, N.H — “He’s just too good to be true!” exclaimed one woman who was glowing after meeting Barack Obama following a town hall meeting in the gymnasium of Rye Elementary School.

“I’m already psyched about him, and that just sort of solidified my opinion,” said another woman, Suzi MacDonald, who came to the event with her son.

Given the youth and inexperience of the junior senator from Illinois, it is easy to dismiss him, as many political observers have, as a flash in the pan who will inevitably be annihilated by the Hillary Clinton juggernaut. But seeing the man in action and witnessing the unbridled enthusiasm he generates among his supporters makes it difficult to write off his chances.

It is particularly troubling for a conservative to watch Obama speak, because it is clear how naive his views are and how dangerous their policy implications. At the same time, it is hard to escape the conclusion that in Obama, Democrats may have finally found a leader who is charismatic enough not only to win, but to advance liberalism.

If elected, Obama would replace President Bush’s War on Terrorism with a War on Cynicism. This was apparent in three appearances Obama made in the Granite State on Friday and Saturday.

“As we’re fed this steady diet of cynicism, it’s easy to start buying into it and put off hard decisions,” he told Southern New Hampshire University graduates in a commencement address on Saturday that encouraged them to think about more than just getting rich, to cultivate empathy, challenge themselves, and learn to persevere.

Earlier that morning, he attended a rally in Manchester for about 550 supporters who he dispatched door-to-door to ask New Hampshire residents to urge the state’s Republican senators, Judd Gregg and John Sununu, to change their votes on the Iraq War. Obama has pointed out in recent campaign appearances that, “we are just 16 votes short from bringing this war to a close.” The canvassing effort served a duel purpose, as volunteers were also instructed to ask voters which candidates they were leaning toward and what issues were most important issues to them. Considering it is only May and Saturday was particularly chilly and rainy, the turnout was impressive.

If the Iraq War does not end by Inauguration Day, bringing it to a conclusion would be Obama’s top priority as president, he said at Friday’s town hall meeting. His other top priorities would be creating universal healthcare, improving the education system, and fighting global warming. Battling global terrorism did not make the cut.

“When George Bush steps down from office, the entire world will breathe a sigh of relief,” Obama said.

Obama’s foreign policy would call for negotiations with Iran and Syria, as well as the doubling of foreign aid, taking issue with the fact that “we have come to view security only in terms of military spending, and military action.” He said he has spoken to terrorism experts who have told him that there are only about 10,000 committed terrorists, and the rest are people facing hardship, or being educated in madrassas that teach hate. “That environment allows the hardcore terrorists to recruit,” Obama said.

He said it wasn’t being naive or soft to argue that humanitarian assistance could be used to reduce terrorism, but simply a matter of making a smart investment. “If you spend the money up front, you don’t end up having to spend as much money on the back end on much more costly military interventions,” he said. Obama provided the example of the Marshall Plan as an instance of foreign aid contributing to our long-term security. There is an obvious problem with that analogy. Before instituting the Marshall Plan, we had to defeat the Nazis first.

This is not to underestimate the potential appeal of Obama’s message. With Bush’s approval ratings in the gutter, public disapproval of the war overwhelming, and many Americans sick of the divisiveness in Washington, it is easy to see how voters could find the fresh-faced Obama soothing. This is especially true in a Democratic primary.

Talk to Obama supporters about why they prefer him to Hillary, and they will tell you that he’s authentic while she’s programmed, that he can bring people together while she’s polarizing, that he represents change while she is representative of more of the same, and, yes, that
he opposed the Iraq War while she voted for it.

Brenda MacLellan, an eighth grade teacher from Londonderry, said she was turned off by Clinton after meeting her at a February town hall meeting in Concord. A one-time John Kerry delegate, she is now actively supporting Obama, along with her husband.

“Here I am a woman, who wouldn’t mind a woman president, a lot of my friends are going to vote for her because of Bill, so I was really torn,” MacLellan told me after the Rye town hall meeting. “But when I think of Barack, and where he stood on civil rights, and thinking about the real people, that’s what we need again. We don’t need a Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton dynasty.”

Vacation in America

Ezra Klein points to a chart showing that the United States is the only OECD nation that doesn’t legislate any vacation. “That’s our country. Aren’t you proud?” he asks sarcastically, assuming that we should automatically be outraged by such a finding. But he doesn’t offer any argument as to why it should be the role of government to force private employers to offer paid holidays to workers. This is a fundamental disagreement as to the function of government, so I’ll move on to a few practical points.

Measuring only the number of legislated paid vacation days provides us with an incomplete picture of how many paid vacation days Americans have in reality. While the government doesn’t mandate that employers offer certain paid vacation days, there are 10 federal holidays. I don’t have the exact statistics in front of me, but I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that lot of people tend to get off for most of those days, and a certain portion of them are paid. This doesn’t take into account general paid vacation and personal days offered in many employment contracts. In other words, the fact that other countries mandate what we make voluntary may mean that the rest of the world takes more vacation, but it doesn’t mean that we get zero paid vacation days.

Obviously, there are workers who do not get any paid vacation days, so the question is what would the economic effects be of mandating that they do? Shifting a percentage of the population from work to leisure would reduce economic activity, which would hinder growth. Employers would be faced with the prospect of paying the same amount of money to employees, and getting less out of them. How would they respond? Perhaps they would find ways to either reduce wages, or limit future wage increases. If they don’t change wages at all, then it could put inflationary pressure on the economy because worker productivity would be decreasing relative to wages, and thus the same amount of money would be chasing fewer goods and services. Some people would argue that it would be worth the tradeoff, but it’s always worth keeping in mind that there’s no such thing as a free vacation.