Republicans' 'shocking' immigration stance: Dana Milbank Live

Oct 20, 2011

Chat with Dana Milbank about the current Republican stance on immigration issues, and why he finds it "shocking."

Read the column: A Republican hazing ritual on Capitol Hill

Good afternoon.

We migrated the regular Friday chat to today so we could talk about immigrantion, immigrants and their electrocution. 

Questions?  Quarrels?  Challenges to duel? 

Everyone's favourite truth-teller, Michelle Backmann, has said that President Obama has an aunt and an uncle who are illegal aliens, so it must be so. My question is, has anyone checked into Bachmann's family? She certainly acts like an alien life form at times.

Checking into the Bachmann family tree would be anti-American, I think.  But certainly there are suspicious elements.  Where, for example, did the Bachmanns acquire the superfluous "n."  And when along the way did she lose the second  "L" in her first name.  Perhaps it was taken away by an illegal immigrant who was not entitled to it.

I'm a reporter who has attended many, many hearings and watched administration officials get verbally assaulted by congressmen. It happens to administrations of both parties and the assaults are committed by congressmen from both parties who in many instances are taking hypocritical stances based solely on home state or home district interests. My question is this: Why don't administration officials give as good as they get? Is it their fear of losing funding for their particular agency? And what are the best examples you've ever seen of someone fighting back--not just arguing but willing to label a congressman's (or woman's) position as nonsensical, stupid, hypocritical, etc.?

A reporter on the chat!  I'm honored.

Yes, it's definitely a bipartisan tradition to harangue the administration witness.   If they don't want to participate in the hazing, they can always stiff Congress and refuse to come.   But I think they generally don't push back very forcefully because then they look as petty as the questioners, and the hostility makes everybody look bad (see also: Perry, Rick).    Sometimes it's useful just to be a punching bag and let them get out their frustrations.  Much better than getting a subpoena.


Dana: I find this a little bizarre as every statistic I have seen says that illegal immigration has declined precipitously in this country in the last couple of years, due to the recession. Also, my reading tells me that border enforcement has cut down the flow--I don't have the numbers in front of me, but Arizona, for example, has seen the percentage of illegals coming into the state drop by double digits. Is this a case, as so often happens, of "fighting the last war?" And, as you say, Hispanics are the nation's fastest growing voter group and even those who have been here since the days of Coronado (there's an area between Santa Fe and Taos NM where you can hear 16th Century Spanish idioms) have to see this as an attack on their ethnicity.

A lot of yesterday's hearing involved the Republicans charging Napolitano with cooking the books on the amount of illegal immigrants they intercepted.   True, the surest way to reduce immigration of all types is to reduce the amount of jobs available -- and we've done a terrific job of that the last few years. 


When will these obstruction artists understand that their shananigans and antics are doing nothing more than to contribute to the downfall of our nation? The American people and economy can't wait any longer for them to get over their fits and foot-dragging to feather their political nests. JC Allen, Beaumont TX

The short answer is "no." 

I had no idea there were Democrats in Beaumont.



I recently returned from visiting Dachau, Germany. The camp had a grass strip that if a prisoner walked, he would be shot, then a 10 ft deep ditch, then an electrified fence that if they touched, they would be fried. The memorial there is a depiction of the prisoners that chose climbing and dying on the fence rather than enduring the torture of camp life. How can Cain JOKE about this?

I believe we are in danger of confirming Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies -- once you compare somebody to Hitler, any chance of reasonable discussion stops.

So I'll give Cain the benefit of the doubt and say Dachau is not what he had in mind.  My problem with his plan is more technical.   Wouldn't they just tunnel under the electric fence?  Or can you electrify the ground, too?

Both sides grill congressional witnesses like this. What's the big deal this time? Why is this news?

Well, it's not "news." It was a column.  The newsworthy element, I think, is the combination of Cain's fence, the tough-on-immigration talk at the debate, and the ferocity of the challenges to Napolitano.   The combination, I think, is emblematic of a form of political harakiri the Republicans are performing with regard to the Latino vote.

Seems that Herman Cain's contempt isn't just for illegal aliens, but also for women of child-bearing age. I read that, unlike most pro-lifers, he's opposed to abortions even in cases of rape and incest -- and that he's not so sure about it even in cases of saving the mother's life (says the family needs to decide whether her life should be saved at the expense of the fetus). Do you think such a hard-line stance will win even the votes of the GOP base during the caucuses and (especially) the primaries? My only consolation is that, as a Democrat, I'm convinced that Cain couldn't possibly defeat Obama.

As regular readers of this chat will know, I am a huge fan of the Hermanator, but this affection is culinary and stylistic rather than ideological.   Certainly he's not the most, well, stable candidate on the GOP stage. But if things don't improve in the economy, I don't think it's safe to say that any of them couldn't possibly defeat Obama.   

What one has here is the problem of people who are unable to articulate their views in a logical, disciplined manner.  
We need immigration reform on four principles: 
1. Strong, effective border control 
2. identifying illegal aliens processing those for citizenship who are the most successful in leaning English and earning resources for themselves and their families in a lawful manner ,etc, while sending the rest home over a period of three years. 
3. Developing
a Western Hemisphere treaty on migration setting uniform standards for admission into a given country 
4. Economic aid for Mexico for a national electric grid and water treatment plants . 
4 can be funded by the E C U, Japan, China, and the U.S. We also need to assist them with the anarchy of the drug trade. 
This is a start

When I read the first part of your comment, "What one has here is the problem of people who are unable to articulate their views in a logical, disciplined manner," I thought you were talking about my columns. 

Your ideas sound entirely too  sensible to be considered seriously.

He reminds me of Chauncy Gardner in the movie "Being There." He says stupid things that are totally incomprehensible and people think he's profound. After this latest debate, is he nearly done?

The Hermanator is just beginning!   Although, there is a tipping point when he stops being the charming outsider and starts being the wacky pretender.  I'm thinking he reached that a couple of weeks ago.

Per you appearance on Kudlow last night, what immigration policy could Obama pursue that would further ignite the anti-immigration fight among the GOP?

A CNBC viewer!  Welcome.

Hard to imagine anything that could further ignite it, because it's already melting at the core.    Maybe he could grant a full and unconditional pardon to Mitt's gardener? 

There is "grilling" (usually fact-based and reasoned, if impassioned), then there is "vitriolic, ad hominem attacks, of which this an example. It should never be made about the person, but about the policy. Sadly, most of our current congress learned nothing in grade school about how to behave.

I guess that's why Congress resembles middle school.

In fairness, the questioning of Bush administration lawyers when they testified on the hill definitely veered into the ad hominem.   Much to the delight of the Sketchwriter.


The St. Petersburg Times reports that the birthers are calling out Marco Rubio.  They claim he is not a US citizen because his parents were not when he was born, even though Marco was born in the US. Leading conservative intellectuals such as Orly Taitz agree. I'm sure that he's Hispanic has nothing to do with it. The Times also reports that the Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a class-action lawsuit against Florida for denying in-state tuition rates to children of illegal aliens even if the child is a natural-born citizen of the US. See This punishes American citizens for the actions of their parents. If this argument picks up steam amongst the teahadists, how badly would it hurt the GOP with the Hispanic vote? Finally, under this theory, would a Native American be eligible to be President? Reservations are, to a real extent, sovereign nations under the law.

Wow.  Thanks for pointing that out.  At least the birthers are non-partisan.   I can only look forward to Trump jetting down to Florida to straighten this out.  

The Tea Party is calling for a nationwide strike of small-business owner to NOT hire anyone until Obama is out of office. Part of the new pledge: "I, an American small business owner, part of the class that produces the vast majority of real, wealth producing jobs in this country, hereby resolve that I will not hire a single person until this war against business and my country is stopped. I hereby declare that my job creation potential is now ceased. I'm on strike!" Source.  The Tea Party is the gift that keeps on giving. 9-point-whatever unemployment, and they wanna keep it that way. (I just hope that someday we find out James Carville is the secret Wizard of Oz behind the Tea Partiers. I mean, it's either him or Michael Moore or Dave Barry.)

This is terific.  I think I'll just have you guys write my Sunday column and I'll take the afternoon off.   Send it to my editor by 5 pm.

A majority of the country is now pro pot. FDR repealed prohibition to popular delight. Shouldn't the GOP or Obama take up the cause? That would disperse OWS real quick. I want cheap weed.

This WOULD solve a lot of problems.  Could hand out the pot to the illegal immigrants before electrocution, to calm them.  Could give it to people who aren't getting jobs because of the no-jobs pledge.   Could give it to the Republican candidates before the next debate so they can take things down a notch.

Saw him on Piers Morgan last night. He's one of those mid-company CEOs who's so thrilled with himself for, for instance, having the bright idea to include chicken strips or left-over crust on the menu of a pizza chain.

What, pray tell, is your problem with chicken strips and pizza crust?

It seems the GOP gets meaner every day. The party slogan should be: Let sick people die and immigrants fry. or maybe Your life sucks, and its your own [darn] fault.

Was that applause I heard in the audience?

I'm going to have to say that my small business $10 per hour job is not "wealth-producing."

But it comes with internet access during lunchtime!

Um, I think you've got an oxymoron there.

Yes, I believe the poster meant to write "leading conservative dentists such as Orly Taitz."

History ends with a whimper not a bang. I used to always watch Palin on Greta but since she didn't run my interest has dried up. Has she irrevocably entered the diminishing marginal returns phase? Time to do porn?

No, she dried up about a year ago.

Is it time for you to do porn?  Hard to say. I would ask Hax.

Someone needs to dig up that scene where they get fried by the electric fence. Never mind that 40% of illegals simply overstay their visa.

So what we need is a mobile electric fence.  Kind of like those barriers they put up around protests or construction sites.  In fact, they could electrify the barriers around a construction site, or a restaurant, and only turn off the juice when somebody produces a birth certificate.

"Natural born citizen" isn't really defined, which is why these issues are around. They are saying the same about Jindal, by the way, that he can't be president either.

Uh oh.  My daughter was born by Caeserean section, so I guess she can't be president.    Will they start checking to see if would-be presidents'  mothers were given epidurals?

Will the Dems be able to run on defending medicare or will Obama try to cut it too?

He will offer to cut it just enough to deny Democrats the ability to make it a campaign issue.

What was it that Herman Cain said about homosexuality? I am gathering Cain is not seeking the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans?

He said it's a sin and a personal choice, but that's nowhere near Man-on-Dog Santorum.

Quick question. Why does everyone assume when there are hard policies on fighting illegal immigration it will upset Hispanics? The Hispanics that can actually vote are legal citizens that went through the process the correct way. My thinking they should be some of the strongest proponents against people who jump ahead in line illegally. Thoughts?

It is an interesting topic.  I think the attacks on illegal immigrants is seen as an attack on Latinos generally because of a general suspicion of anybody of that skin color.  The Arizona law is particularly egregious in this respect.

What is it with hazing? The Celebrity forum has a chat on sorority hazing. At least Republicans only haze with biting words, although, as we know, words can hurt more than sticks and stones and paddles.

Talk about hazing:  You should have seen all the Jack Daniels they made me drink at the high-school reunion last week.  Fortunately I was able to avoid the Southern Comfort.

I guess I can never be President. I was born in Manhattan, and the we all know the birthers consider Manhattan a foreign place.

This is why Bloomberg had the presence of mind to be born in Massachusetts.  Or maybe that's not any better.

"I don't recall ever hiring an illegal" key word recall. Why did Romney have to wait for the Boston papers to point out twice over a year that he had illegals working for him? After the first time why didn't he make sure? Of course it was because he didn't want to write a bigger check, no?

The more troubling phrase was when he said he made sure he didn't have illegals working for him because he was planning to run for office.

pick your seconds. Meet me at dawn by the alley with the dumpsters.

Don't tase me, hermanator.

Even if we can't legalize marijuana, may we at least approve medical marijuana, which appears in most polls to have the acceptance of 70% to 80% of the public? The Post recently had an article that marijuana may be the only effective drug for post-traumatic disorder. For many cancer or other disease patients, it is the best pain relief with the least side effects, and it allows chemotherapy patients to want to eat to maintain their strength. Or, if not medical mariquana, maybe we could have medical Godfather pizza?

Publishing this for the subject line alone.

All I know is Hillary Clinton goes to Libya and the next thing you know Gaddafi is dead.

I know.  Has anybody heard the rumor she's replacing Biden on the ticket?   (They haven't denied it for a few days. . .)

I think Perry missed an obvious response to Romney's challenge. Texas is still attracting immigrants because its economy hasn't stagnated like Cali and Florida. That accusation is actually powerful proof of Texas' success.

When you've had as much Red Bull as Perry had, it is not always easy to be cool and logical.

He's dead.

Yep.  Got the bastard when he tried to climb the electric fence. 

Well, thanks for chatting.  Speak to you next week. 

In This Chat
Dana Milbank
Dana Milbank reviews the political theater of the nation's capital in his editorial-page column. His most recent book is "Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America;" his other books are "Homo Politicus" (Doubleday, 2008) and "Smashmouth" (Basic Books, 2001). Milbank joined The Post as a political reporter in 2000 and wrote the "Washington Sketch" column for nearly six years. He lives in Washington with his wife and daughter. • Dana Milbank Bio & Archive
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