Saturday, June 9, 2007

What do these two have in common?

Other than baring their teeth when they are unhappy, that is?

Here's a clue, from a McCain campaign stop in Newton, Iowa.

He spoke after a town hall event in Newton, where immigration dominated discussion and McCain spent much time defending the stalled proposal.

Opponents of the legislation, he said, are not listening to the public.

"People want us to resolve this issue. The majority of Americans support a comprehensive approach to it," McCain said.

The Senator has a tin ear for public opinion: he hears it, but he doesn't get the melody.

"This is a burning issue," he said. "Every town hall meeting I have there is this kind of deep concern. But there's also a desire to see us do something. They wonder, 'Why won't you fix it?' That's why they send us to Washington. To fix things."

Bear with me here, and I'll connect McCain to Paris. Lots of people are fascinated with Paris Hilton -- that's why she's a celebrity. But she -- or her counsel, or her parents, or L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, or all of the above -- badly misread public opinion when they confused public fascination with the heiress with public love and support for her. I'm sure there are many people who think Paris Hilton is the victim of a grave injustice, being tossed back into the clink after the Sheriff promised her she could go home, but far, far more Americans think she should serve her time as punishment for flouting her probation.

Which brings us back to Senator McCain and immigration. Yes, the majority of Americans want our immigration system fixed. However, that doesn't mean that "majority of Americans support a comprehensive approach to it," as the Senator claims -- at least, not the form of "comprehensive approach" that the Senator crafted with Jon Kyl and Ted Kennedy.

I believe that the majority of Americans want illegal aliens residing in this country to be given equal treatment under the law with Paris Hilton and every other person residing in this country. That is, we want them to obey the law and be held accountable when they flout it.

Senators McCain and Kyl bought into the idea that a "probationary Z-visa" is a step toward tough enforcement. However, it's anything but. The probationary Z-visa is instantaneous normalization of an illegal immigrant's status. It doesn't set a deadline for that person to resolve his illegal status, and it's voluntary. It's tied to "triggers" for border security and employment eligibility verification, along with fines and penalties, but since it doesn't set a deadline for the Federal government to activate those triggers, the probationary Z-visas can become a permanent amnesty program.

This is what drives anger at and opposition to the McCain-Kyl-Kennedy bill, and why President Bush's party doesn't line up with him on this issue. Most Americans, Democrat and Republican alike, believe that (in Bill Clinton's famous phrase) we should all play by the rules if we want the rewards of participation in American society. Senators McCain and Kyl, along with President Bush, are far too willing to overlook the fact that illegally crossing the border into this country breaks a lot of rules.

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