Bush Immigration Speech Doesn’t Satisfy Critics

As might have been expected, President Bush’s speech last night on immigration reform, trying to outline a middle ground between the “build a wall and export all the Wetbacks” school and “bring us your poor … huddled masses” failed to satisfy anyone except Hugh Hewitt.


President Bush did exactly what he had to do tonight: Hit the middle, agreeing to the fence, to a large increase in Border Patrol personnel and funding, tamper-proof identification, National Guard back-up of ICE for at least a year, the end of catch-and-release, blunt talk on the impossibility of mass deportation, an insistence on English, and a commitment to a guest worker program that will take pressure off enforcement by funneling large numbers of immigrant workers into the legal line.

Tony Snow couldn’t have said it better. Unfortunately for the president, Hewitt disproves the old adage that no man is an island.

Michelle Malkin thinks “Bush has lost touch with reality” and finds the speech full of unintentional laugh lines.

John Hinderaker says, “He Had His Chance…and he blew it” by trying to find a middle ground on an issue without one.


The Republicans are going to lose in November, and I can’t say I’ll be tearing my hair out about it. At some point it becomes a close question whether you want the GOP to win, and continue governing against your wishes, or whether you want the Democrats to win, who will also govern against your wishes, but at least the GOP will be chastened and there will be hopes for 2008.

We’re at that point now.

John Hawkins gives the speech an initial “F.”

This was not an impressive speech. He said he’d send the National Guard to the border for a year, where they wouldn’t be actually apprehending any illegals, but everything else is the same old, same old. So, in my view, this isn’t even an olive branch to people who are serious about defending this border and dealing with illegal immigration.

He amends it to “D-” upon reflection,

At least he didn’t use the, “jobs Americans won’t do,” line. So, he did deserve a small boost for that.

Ed Morrissey says the best thing about the speech, other than the “declaration that catch-and-release would end,” was that

He may get some grudging respect from centrists and liberals for not caving to his base, but that won’t translate into support for a president they already consider the Second Coming of Richard Nixon. The only cause Bush helped tonight was the policy he has consistently put forth on immigration — which once again shows Bush as a man who follows his own lights and beckons people to follow.

Indeed, Mark Tapscott reports that much of last night’s speech was lifted almost directly from a Jan. 7, 2004 speech. He finds this puzzling:

So we must ask: If things have gotten so bad in the most recent two years despite the actions initiated in 2004 that Bush is now calling out the National Guard, is that a confession of failure of the measures detailed above, including especially those high-tech measures that were again presented tonight as the key to protecting our borders?

Or, perhaps, that Bush just figures he needs to give speeches to keep the hounds at bay and really doesn’t think illegal immigration is that big a problem.

Dale Franks and the whole QandO gang are less than pleased.

I guess the good was that the president stressed assimilation and English fluency. The bad was that it was probably too little, too late.

Even people who have more-or-less agreed with Bush all along that illegal immigration is more complicated than simply rounding up the offenders and sending them home, both from a practical standpoint and a socio-economic one, were less than impressed with the speech. I count myself in that group.

Steve Bainbridge is there, too. He asks, “Why is border security on the front burner only now? Securing both land borders, as well as the coasts and ports, should have been Job 1 after 9/11.” He also observes, “If we hadn’t gone to war in Iraq, of course, the Guard would have a lot more resources available to serve on the border.”

Steven Taylor, like me, is irritated over the troops at the border pander and especially the pretense that militarizing the border is not militarization of the border.

Overall, this went over like a lead balloon with the right blogosphere. I’m rather sure the left blogosphere didn’t like it either. But, as we’ve long known (well, most of us) bloggers and blog readers are not necessarily representative of public opinion, since we’re much more laser focused on the issues. It’ll be interesting to see the polling that comes out over the next couple of days.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ralph says:

    how about trading the expensive high tech equipment for some low tech 30 cal. machine guns.

  2. legion says:

    Well, I think the blogosphere is just more intense than the regular populace… 🙂

    The folks I’ve talked to, on both sides, received Bush’s speech with a resounding “meh”. Completely underwhelming on both sides, unsurprisingly short on specific actions that people expect to see carried out.

    My personal opinion is that this is _way_ to charged an issue for Congress to even consider touching in an election year. A handful of folks who need to rev up their bases might make some noise, but everyone else is going to be too interested in playing to the middle for the next 6 months to actually take any significant actions.