The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

16 May 2006

Talk Radio, Illegal Immigration, President Bush


Talk Radio, Blogosphere Drive Immigration Debate

Is President Bush truly ready to get tough on illegal immigration, or has talk radio as well as the emerging blogosphere simply worn him down for the time being?

Nearly overshadowing policy shifts spelled out during Bush's prime-time national address last night were the circumstances behind this unusual event, his first- ever Oval Office speech on domestic issues.

With his GOP base abandoning ship in record numbers, Bush finally seems to realize he should heed the concerns of an increasingly- alarmed group of talk hosts and bloggers. Rather than as a key part of the conservative movement, many on the right now view Bush a clone of his notoriously moderate father.

To salvage his base, is it too little, too late?

When even longtime Bush defender Rush Limbaugh is openly critical of both the president and GOP senators on immigration issues, it's clear the conservative host is paying attention to his listeners. Is Rush willing to go down with the party's ship?

Obviously not.

That seeming oddity didn't escape the liberal Los Angeles Times, which noted the rare division in an article published today:

On Monday, for example, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh — normally a loyal surrogate for the Republican cause — used his show to all but ridicule the president's approach to the issue.

Asserting that Bush was trying to appeal to Latinos at the expense of his political base, Limbaugh dismissed Bush's plan to dispatch National Guard troops to the border with Mexico as mere "window dressing" that would have little effect on stemming illegal immigration.

"They'll be down there for a few weeks. They'll go home," Limbaugh said, according to a transcript posted on his website. "The border will be open as usual."

On today's show, Limbaugh reiterated his cynicism, with particularly harsh words for the bipartisan good ol' boys club that is the US Senate. Rush feels that any real illegal immigration crackdown attempt would be thwarted by a coalition of moderate congressional Republicans and Democrats.

A scan of other talk shows today found the subject dominating airtime across the board.

While conservative talk radio has been pounding on this issue for well over a decade, increasing pressure from the rapidly- growing blogosphere has served as an added rallying point for activists.

From Michelle Malkin to Hugh Hewitt and thousands of other bloggers, it must by now be clear to Bush that conservatives, not to mention many moderate and independent voters, are hopping mad about our nation's inability to secure its own borders.

A Hewitt analysis of the speech and his own dealings with administration staff seems to sum up where many on the right find themselves today: eager to again support President Bush, as soon as he gives them a reason to do so.

From his site:

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.

Now the Senate needs to add specifics (especially on the fence) and get to the conference committee asap. There is no excuse for delay.

UPDATE: My interview with Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Julie Myers staggered me, undoing in a handful of minutes my confidence in the president's commitment to border security first. Either the president's team had not communicated effectively with sub-cabinet appointees about the fence, or the president doesn't really believe in the fence, because Assistant Secretary Myers is clearly not a proponent of the fence.

Memo to Tony Snow: The blogosphere/talk radio callers/e-mailers are turning against this speech in a decisive fashion. They simply do not believe the Administration is really committed to border enforcement, and the spokespeople sent out to back up the president's message aren't doing that job. Period.

For President Bush and GOP members of Congress, the worst mistake they could possibly make is to believe talk radio hosts and bloggers will take this issue off the front burner anytime soon.

Instead of fading to the background, it's far more likely to heat up in coming months as public anger continues to increase.

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  • I'd suggest two things.

    First, re-visit the Hewitt blog. He talked to somebody at the White House today, and had his initial take on the speech validated. Miers was wrong.

    Secondly, take another look at the conservative blogosphere. Quite a few of us- I cite some at my blog- are a bit more rational than Rush and the Red Meat brigade are being at this point.

    Finally, did you catch that 79% favorable rating for the speech in that CNN poll- or the fact that support for Bush's immigration policy is now at 67%?

    By Blogger Robert Elart Waters, at 17 May, 2006 02:47  

  • Oh, and truthteller who can't spell- at least one poll has shown that two thirds of the American people approve of that spying to which you refer. It all depends on how the question is asked.

    I never cease to be amazed, btw, by the inevitable inability of people who use the word "retarded" as a pejorative doing so in posts mentioning "Bill O'riely" and "National Gauardsmen.

    By Blogger Robert Elart Waters, at 17 May, 2006 02:51  

  • Check er out if you get time
    Song Parody "It's the border stupid"
    and NO NO NO you can't stay here no more. I wrote em.


    By Blogger Admin, at 13 June, 2007 15:58  

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