What's an amnesty among these friends?
May 22, 2007
by Wesley Pruden

The Kennedy-Kyl immigration amnesty bill has a little something for everybody. But it isn't likely to be a gift that keeps on forgiving.
The chicken-plucking, swimming-pool cleaning, potato-digging, housekeeping, diaper-changing and busboy industry gets the inexhaustible supply of cheap, easily abused immigrants it covets, and the politicians get a nigh-inexhaustible supply of exploitable new voters satisfied with a few tossed bones, promises and a bankrupt welfare state.
Rarely has an issue so naturally brought together the cynically greedy of so many political persuasions. Nothing tells the story like the photographs, seen nearly everywhere over the weekend (including the pages of this newspaper), of Teddy Kennedy, Saxby Chambliss, Mel Martinez and Lindsey Graham yukking it up after the announcement of an amnesty designed by Rube Goldberg to guarantee permanent hell on the border.
Laughter, however, has begun to die in sorrow. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, for a telling example, went home to Georgia to address the state Republican convention and heard hisses, boos, catcalls and curses when they attempted to bask in the honor and glory of it all.
The delegates sat in stony silence when Mr. Chambliss talked in loving detail of his passionate devotion to all the good stuff the government is supposed to do to secure the Mexican border, but when he began to talk about all those easily exploitable illegals on the way the catcalling started.
"We've got to face the fact that we've got to create a new, truly temporary worker program," he said, and was momentarily rattled by the boos. But in the report of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he "plowed on." The plowing was enough to discourage a Clinch County red mule. "If we don't have a meaningful, workable program we'll simply be dependent on foreign imports for food products."
The specter of goober peas from China was something new in the way of a boogerman in the night, invoked to frighten small children, but it didn't frighten very many Georgia grown-ups. The boos and hisses continued. Mr. Chambliss had been lulled by the reception that his colleague Johnny Isakson had got earlier, when he told the convention that the Kennedy-Kyl amnesty bill would solve everything by granting the 12 million illegal aliens "citizenship the right way, the naturalized way, the speaking-English way." Over in neighboring South Carolina, his constituents gave Lindsey Graham a chorus of similarly overripe raspberries.
The more the senators talked, the angrier their constituents balked. A scam to shut up the yokels once and for all had seemed so clever when they were back in Washington yukking it up with Teddy Kennedy. Now it seems maybe not even possible.
Yokelhood is not what it once was. Cable-TV and the Internet have changed all that. Yokels wear shoes now, read newspapers and even sometimes go to Harvard. This is the lesson Republicans learn over and over, always to their sorrow. Conservatives can smell a sellout even when there isn't one, and this time there's stink enough to overwhelm even the olfactorily challenged (and if that's not actually an adverb it should be). Karl Rove is sincerely seduced by the idea that he can make Christians of Muslims (in a manner of speaking) and Republicans of poor Mexicans, but he must have been smoking something stronger than Lucky Strikes to imagine he can inspire the yokels with immigration legislation with Teddy Kennedy's name on it.
George W.'s troops have already run up the white flag. "Today is a different day in Washington," Mr. Chambliss told his constituents. "Republicans are not in control. We could either sit on the sidelines and we could throw rocks, or we could become engaged and make what we knew was a bad bill, better." Mr. Chambliss and the Republican followers of Teddy Kennedy should make themselves as comfortable as they can on the sidelines, because that's where they're determined to stay.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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