Today, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) proudly announced the launching of “America Speaking Out,” an ” unprecedented initiative of engagement with the American people that will lead to a governing policy agenda for America.” In other words, America Speaking Out is a website that allows visitors to vote for or against user-generated proposals. According to Pence, Republicans will use “this conversation to build on our long-standing belief in a smaller and more accountable government.” “We’ll incorporate your ideas as we develop policy solutions and concrete plans for reforming the way Washington works,” writes Pence.
One of the ideas proposed today questions the patriotism of Latinos and wonders why the U.S. would support immigration reform that would bring the country “down to the level of Mexcico [sic]“:
Fortunately, the user, Kathy Brunatti, expressed an idea that does not represent the views of the majority of the American public. In fact, a poll released today by America’s Voice shows that 76 percent of voters want Congress to take action on immigration reform now. National support for comprehensive reform jumps from 57 percent to 78 percent after respondents hear a description of the reform proposal — which does not include sending Latinos “home.”
Other popular immigration-related “ideas” on America Speaking Out include: “the influx of illegal aliens across our southern bornder [sic] is an invasion and should be treated as such,” “being an illegal immigrant should stay a Crime [sic]!!!,” and “congress should end birthright citizenship for so-called anchor babies.” Many of those users, including Brunatti, have already racked up hundreds of “action points.” While these passionate views are not representative of most Americans, they do raise the question if any of the ideas on America Speaking Out are anything other than the opinions of a handful of radical right-wingers with poor spelling skills and a lot of free time on their hands.
Who perpetrated the attacks of 9/11, and what was their religion?
Are suicide attacks or other forms of violent jihad acceptable under any circumstances, including against American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Does Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish state?
Do they agree with the State Department’s designation of Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations?
What aspects of Shariah law, if any, do they repudiate?
Will their center invite the input and participation of Muslim gay and lesbian groups?
Do they consider the Muslim Brotherhood to be extreme?
What influence will any foreign funding of Cordoba House have on its programs or on the literature it distributes?
This is pretty astonishing. Would Stephens, or anyone, dare propose a similar religious test for any other faith? What about asking Jews whether they condemn violence by Jewish settlers in the West Bank before they can build a synagogue somewhere? Or asking Christians planning a new church whether they will invite the input and participation of Christian gay and lesbian groups? You know, just as a “confidence-building measure”? Doubtful. It would be considered un-American.
Today, Senate Republicans spoke with President Obama on immigration reform, including plans to deploy thousands of National Guard troops and drones to tighten border security. Prior to the meeting, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) appeared on Fox News to announce one of the ideas he planned on pitching to the President and will also likely introduce as an amendment to the $58.8 billion emergency supplemental bill currently being debated in the U.S. Senate. Cornyn told Fox News Host Bill Hemmer that his amendment will require that unspent stimulus funds be poured into securing the border rather than boosting the economy:
HEMMER: There are unspent stimulus dollars that are still in the pipeline. You would like to take a whopping $2.2 billion of unspent stimulus money and put it towards border patrol and border security. What’s your proposal there?
CORNYN: Well the fact of the matter is we need a credible immigration program starting with credible border security. Last year we had over a half a million people detained coming over our border illegally. No one with a straight face can claim with a straight face that we’ve gotten the job done. I think is as a pre-requisite to doing other things we need to do in immigration reform, we need to start with border security which means more boots on the ground. We need the technology, the airplanes, the drones, the helicopters.
However, Cornyn doesn’t mention that violence and crime on the US-Mexico border has been “on the decline” in recent years. As Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said, the border is as “secure now as it has ever been.” ABC News reports that “cities like Tucson; Chula Vista, California; and Lardeo, Texas, have all seen year-over-year drops in violent crime, murder, and rape. El Paso, Texas, continues to have one of the lowest rates of violent crime of all U.S.cities.”
Despite the drop in crime, spending on immigration enforcement, particular border enforcement, has steadily climbed since 2002 and continues to rise under the Obama’s administration from about $9 billion in 2008 to over $11 billion in 2010. Overall, the U.S. will spend over $17 billion in FY 2010 just on enforcing immigration laws:
Comprehensive immigration reform, which would include border security provisions, but also do something about the 12 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S., would meanwhile generate at least $1.5 trillion in cumulative GDP over ten years. By creating a more flexible visa system, immigration reform would also likely allow border patrol to more effectively focus their resources on dangerous threats to public safety and national security instead of pursuing those who simply come to the U.S. to work. While quick to call for costly ramped up enforcement measures, the Republican Party has so far refused to pursue immigration reform in 2010.
The Hill reports that the Obama administration has decided to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and is requesting $500 million in supplementary funds for border security. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is prepared to file a separate amendment to the supplemental bill calling for “6,000 members of the National Guard on the southern land border of the United States during fiscal year 2010.”
some have seemed intent on rushing the treaty that’s been sent to us. According to Congressional Quarterly, “A congressional aide who briefed reporters on the treaty said Thursday that Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., intended to complete hearings ‘in time for the Senate to take up the treaty before the August recess, if it so chooses.’” I’m not aware of any similar precedent for so rushing such a treaty of this complexity.
The Republican Policy Committee report on START also previewed Senator Kyl’s remarks in a report on START that asserted, “there is no reason for the Senate to rush its constitutional duty to evaluate the merits of the replacement treaty independently.”
The GOP attack makes little sense. Giving Congress four months to assess — what Henry Kissinger today called a “modest” treaty — is more than reasonable.
What this really demonstrates is the GOP has been forced to fall back and dust off their standard obstructionist ploy of complaining about process, resulting in calls for Congress to “start over” to “slow down” or to stop “rushing.” In February, I noted that the GOP had tipped their hand in wanting to recycle the same tactics of obstruction used in the health care debate against START. As Victor Zapanta of Think Progress documented, on everything from the recovery act, to health care, to Wall Street Reform, the GOP’s “solution to everything” has been to say slow down or start over:
Claims that the New START treaty is being rushed in the Senate are ridiculous. Senator Kerry has already held four hearings on the START treaty since it was signed on April 8th and will schedule more technical hearings in the coming months on various aspects of the treaty.
Pointing to past treaty ratification times, as the GOP does, is a false comparison. Kyl noted, for instance that the original START treaty took a really long time to ratify — 430 days to be exact. But something really significant happened during that time. The Soviet Union collapsed! The treaty was signed in July of 1991 and 5 months later the Soviet Union collapsed, creating significant complications in the ratification of the treaty. Additionally, the original START treaty took a long time because it was the first time such an extensive verification system was put into place. In other words, the treaty currently before the Senate is not an entirely new treaty, as it extends the previous START treaty that was negotiated under Ronald Reagan.
Furthermore, by citing the Moscow Treaty, which was signed in 2002 and took nine months to ratify, Kyl is indicting the incompetence of the then-GOP controlled Senate. The Moscow Treaty was only three pages long and contained no new verification procedures. There was no reason a three page treaty required nine months before a vote could be held on ratification. It certainly didn’t take that long because Senators were nitpicking over the details of a three page treaty.
Finally, this treaty ratification process should in fact move as quickly as possible. The past START treaty expired December last year, which means that all the verification measures that give us knowledge and insight into the Russian arsenal are in place only on a voluntary basis and some new measures are not in place. Ratifying New START therefore will give us greater insight into Russian nuclear forces and enhance nuclear stability. For the GOP Senators that have expressed concern over Russia’s nuclear arsenal, as Senator Kyl did, stalling and obstructing makes no sense.
The fact is that Senate deliberations on this new START treaty simply do not need to take as long as past treaties. No matter what happens, the most important and detailed hearings will be held this summer in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Therefore waiting or stalling will just place these issues on the backburner. No one is disputing that all necessary hearings should be held, but at the conclusion of these hearings Senators should have the chance to vote when these issues are still fresh on their minds. Taking longer by no means promises greater scrutiny of the treaty and does not guarantee greater attention.
The fact is that four months is plenty of time for the Senate to read, review, and assess this treaty. Saying otherwise is just a call either for Senate laziness or political stalling.
Recently, a common move among the more dovish folks writing about Israel is to occasionally quote some of Leon Wieseltier’s fantastic essays that express a rather dovish view on Israel, or at least view that is starkly at odds with the “every nacht is Kristallnacht” crowd. Now, Jon Chait sees this as a way of implying that Wieseltier has changed his mind on the fundamentals of the conflict and as a slick debater’s point that’s part of an “ideologically-charged game of internet telephone.”
I obviously can’t speak for Peter Beinart or Andrew Sullivan, both of whom have done this recently and obviously have a slightly more charged and personal relationship to Wieseltier and his work, but the reason I posted a quote from Wieselteir’s 2002 essay was because I had only just read it recently (sorry, I was 12 when it came out) and thought it was quite good and that this blog’s readers would like it, not to show that Wieseltier or The New Republic has been inconsistent on Israel and win some silly point.
Another reason was that I think there’s a lot of talking past each other from the Chait/Wieseltier/Goldberg wing and the Yglesias/Beinart/Ackerman/Klein wing of the American Jewish punditocracy. Best I can tell, on matters of actual policy, they mostly agree with each other and stand opposed to the Israeli and American right on the issue. Much of the apparent disagreement seems to stem from different ways of viewing and describing the conflict (the threat from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas; the legitimacy of Goldstone; varying accounts of moral goodness; how much we should “focus obsessively on the evils of the Israeli right” and so on). There’s also a perception among some people further to the left on matters related to Israel that the TNR/Goldberg are just Commentary style hawks on Israel, which isn’t true and I think Wieseltier’s pieces, especially the 2002 one, show that very well.