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Tilting at Windmills

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August 10, 2010

14TH AMENDMENT REPEAL PUSH CAUSES GOP RIFTS.... Just over the last few weeks, the notion of repealing part of the 14th Amendment -- or, at a minimum, holding congressional hearings to discuss a partial repeal of the amendment -- has been endorsed by the Senate Republican leadership, House Republican leadership, and several likely 2012 GOP presidential candidates, among others.

Several former Bush administration officials, who, for all of their faults, weren't necessarily wrong about immigration policy, believe their party is making a big mistake.

[I]n recent days, former aides to both Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush, who pushed for comprehensive immigration reform, have condemned the calls by top Republicans to end birthright citizenship.

Cesar Conda, who served as domestic policy adviser to Cheney, has called such proposals "offensive." Mark McKinnon, who served as media adviser in Bush's two presidential campaigns, said Republicans risk losing their "rightful claim" to the 14th Amendment if they continue to "demagogue" the issue.

"The 14th Amendment is a great legacy of the Republican party. It is a shame and an embarrassment that the GOP now wants to amend it for starkly political reasons," McKinnon told POLITICO. "Initially Republicans rallied around the amendment to welcome more citizens to this country. Now it is being used to drive people away."

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, Bush's former chief speechwriter, added on ABC over the weekend, "That is the wisdom of the authors of the 14th Amendment: They essentially wanted to take this very difficult issue -- citizenship -- outside of the political realm. They wanted to take an objective standard, birth, instead of a subjective standard, which is the majorities at the time. I think that's a much better way to deal with an issue like this."

I happen to agree, but Republican officials and candidates are clearly in a very different place right now. This once-nutty idea -- repealing part of the 14th Amendment -- has gone from fringe nonsense to a widely accepted party principle in record time.

Indeed, a week ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went so far as to say he doesn't think "anybody" is "comfortable with" the notion of birthright citizenship. It was a striking argument -- as far as the Senate's top Republican is concerned, the law of the land for the last 142 years, written into constitutional stone, has gone from being universally accepted to universally reviled.

I'm glad former Bush/Cheney aides are willing to call out their GOP brethren on this. In fact, I wish the "loyal Bushies," as they were called by some of their own, would step up even more often to note when their party launches these ridiculous crusades. For example, the Bush White House wouldn't have gone for the Cordoba House hysterics, either.

But the fact that these rifts are occurring at all serves as an interesting reminder -- as disturbing as Republican politics was during the Bush era, it's clear that the GOP's excesses have gotten considerably worse since.

Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Yes, their excesses have got a lot worse. But they've clearly made the calculation that, with the reduced turn-out in an off year, they can reach enough voters with this stuff to get their people elected. The frightening thing is that they might be right. Look at how close the polls are in Nevada.

Posted by: davidp on August 10, 2010 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP is a big tent party so it's not surprising there are diverse views on issues.

Only democrats want to terminate First Ammendment rights to free speech by forbidding discussion on the 14th ammendment.

Posted by: Al on August 10, 2010 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

How sad is it that we're at the point of longing for the sanity of the BUSH White House? In 2 years, he's gone from being deeply unpopular amongst the majority of the country for his staggering failures, to being deeply unpopular amongst his party for being too moderate. I never thought that I'd type that George W. "Shock and Awe" "Axis of Evil" "Jesus is my co-pilot" Bush was too moderate.

Posted by: Sisyphus on August 10, 2010 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

The Tea Party GOP keeps handing Democrats "can't lose" issues such as this one. Dems should make all the elections about these issues. Give the Tea Party GOP what it wants - a referendum on lunacy.

Posted by: tomb on August 10, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

They're getting the history wrong still. The reason for the citizenship provision being so clearly spelled out in the 14th Amendment was to overturn the Dred Scott decision, which held that no black person could ever be a citizen of the United States because from the outset that had never been the intention of the framers. Eliminating that provision is ignoring the fact that the very purpose was not to focus on immigrants but on blacks--even free blacks--who were being denied citizenship. The very reason that birthright citizenship was included was to overcome the history of racism that had been built into the Constitution from the outset. This is the story that need to be played up--not the namby-pamby "Republicans moving away from their original goals" BS.

Posted by: Anonymous on August 10, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Be careful what you wish for.
We have a lot if ignorance, stupidity and insanity in this coutnry right now, and if we have a "referendum on lunacy,' we may lose!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on August 10, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

We need to revise the statue of liberty. She needs to be holding a Bible [in English] and a shotgun. And the inscription on the base needs to read:

You filthy immigrants! Get your Goddamned filthy children off my property or I swear I'm going tag every one of your brown asses!

Posted by: chrenson on August 10, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

tomb - these are "can't lose" issues in a large turnout election, which no one is sure we will have. In 2010, with a dispirited Democratic body, a downbeat economy, and a well-nigh hysterical GOP base, the 14th amendment is a perfect way to get people into the voting booth.

GOP has failed on the issues for many years now, as polls have repeatedly shown. But they are experts at whipping up these bullshit, never-happen amendment parties. Burning the flag, balanced budget, now let's gut 14th amendment to give a whispered promise that that change will magically, overnight solve our illegal immigrant problem. It's sheer madness, but it puts voters in booths.

Posted by: Rathskeller on August 10, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Politics aside, birthright citizenship is an issue all over the world. Given technological change, i.e., ease of travel, it is easy to see why. Like other nations, the US should look closely at the issues around birthright citizenship.

You may now resume politics.

Posted by: Bob M on August 10, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

I have to echo what others have said. This stuff WORKS at the voting booth. Especially in a country where 45% voter turnout is considered 'high'.

However you want to characterize them; angry-white males, Tea Partiers, anti-government types, Republicans, Religious Right, they actually SHOW UP and VOTE. They show up for local elections (why do you think so many school boards end up dominated by right-wing canidates), state-wide elections, off-year elections, special elections. They exercise their primary right as citizens and that gives them power.

Until the left figures out how to turn its supposed demographic advantages into actual votes at the polls, and not just every four years, but consistently in every election cycle, the right will continue to enjoy a huge advantage in shaping the national debate.

Posted by: thorin-1 on August 10, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Demagoguery works most effectively upon unassuming ignorance the way a bright light works upon the moth or a bright shiny lure works upon a fish - oh how the Republican party has descended from its heritage as Lincoln's party to that of a freak show working to fleece the American middle class! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on August 10, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

A clarification is needed...

"Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went so far as to say he doesn't think "anybody" is "comfortable with" the notion of birthright citizenship."

to complete the sentence, add "...for black and brown and yellow people."

Can Al or any other troll explain to me what the Rethug party has had to sell for the past several decades besides fear and hate?

Posted by: AngryOldVet on August 10, 2010 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

I know the polls don't show it now, but I honestly believe were seeing the end game of the "southern strategy" and the modern Republican party. The GOP has completely lost the ability to make any strategic long-term calculations that political parties are supposed to make. That's the sign of party that's lost it's bearings.

Alienating latinos is a horrible political strategy especially since unlike what happened during the civil rights movement, the groups that would be receptive to that type of politics are already voting GOP

Posted by: Archon on August 10, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Come on...you know the Bitch McConnell's ALWAYS poll these things before they wonder down the road to more insanity. Their constituents are stark raving loonies comprised of Tea baggers, Bushit dead-enders and low information voters looking for patsies to blame for their stupidity and poverty. Blame it on pregnant, hispanic/black woman. That, for those counting, is a trifecta of bigoted,mysogic,and fear.

Perfect for the McConnell's of the world. Nauseating...

Posted by: Stevio on August 10, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

One thing I haven't heard enough of in this recent discussion of the 14th Amendment is that fact that the 14th Amendment is not just a part of the Constitution. It is the foundation of our post-Civil War Constitution. Arguably, the 14th Amendment is the most important five paragraphs of the entire document. Anyone who wants to amend the 14th Amendment is rejecting the very notion of what most people think of as "the Constitution"-- even the Bill of Rights only apply against the states by way of the 14th Amendment.

Posted by: nazjake on August 10, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

I think the media is making a BIG mistake in portraying the push to modify the 14th Amendment as just another example of Republicans going off the deep end.

We were discussing this at our weekly poker game Saturday night, and despite the fact that most of us are pretty liberal Democrats, nobody seemed to have a problem with requiring that birthright citizenship be contingent on the mother being a legal permanent resident of the USA, for example.

Anybody who thinks it's just crazy conservatives who view illegal immigration as a problem has their head in the ground. There are plenty of independents and Democrats who, while very supportive of legal immigration, are just as upset about illegal immigration as the GOP is.

Posted by: mfw13 on August 10, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

"Only democrats want to terminate First Ammendment rights to free speech by forbidding discussion on the 14th ammendment."

Loudly mocking a meretricious argument is only the same as "forbidding discussion" inside your muddled little mind. In the real world, they are quite distinct.

Posted by: Jon on August 10, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

I hear RW constitutional scholars are also planning to overturn the 73rd Amendment.

Posted by: Billy1299 on August 10, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Those on the right wrongly assume that being an 'anchor baby' citizen is a passport to lifelong welfare, healthcare, retirement benefits, and final internment in Arlington National Cemetery.

I think there are a few U S citizens, by birth or otherwise, who would disagree with that.

Posted by: DAY on August 10, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

McKinnon's sentiment is nice, but please: the Republicans ceased to be the "party of Lincoln" in 1964, when their presidential candidate opposed the Civil Rights Act, and have depended on the votes of bigots ever since.

Posted by: kth on August 10, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: yiranzaijian on August 10, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

So, we need to adhere more to the 10th; revise the 14th; revisit the 16th and 17th; add a flag burning amendment, and a marriage amendment, and ... whew! It will be a busy busy session if the R's ever get back in power ....

Posted by: bigtuna on August 10, 2010 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

One of Bush/Rove's big projects was to make Latino voters feel welcome within the Republican party. This isn't that the Bush White House was more tolerant than the current Republican party, it's just that they're getting one of their projects stepped on.

One faction believes in winning elections by demonizing Muslims and gays, the other believes in winning elections by demonizing Muslims and Hispanics. Nothing has changed except the volume.

Posted by: mcc on August 10, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans better be careful this could come back to bite them. One of their up-and-comers Bobby Jindal had parents who - GASP - emigrated from India and he was born in Baton Rouge.

This puts him squarely in the segment of the population that GOP hacks are currently demonizing. Wonder how he is feeling about that?

Posted by: ET on August 10, 2010 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

What it boils down to is that the modern Republican party has turned into the People of the Wedge. A major part of their campaigns is to demagogue wedge issues that fire up parts of their base.

It started with race in the 1968 and beyond Southern strategy, based on the use of code words and effectively getting most of the Southern Democrats that opposed civil rights to become Republicans. That worked for a couple decades.

Then, as the GOP coalition came to have a bigger religious fundamentalist component, it moved to abortion and gays, most recently the plethora of anti-gay rights amendments that were on the ballot at the state level in 2004.

Now, they have moved on to immigration and Islam. It's just the latest part of a pattern.

They're People of the Wedge.

Posted by: threegoal on August 10, 2010 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK


The GOP is a big tent party so it's not surprising there are diverse views on issues.

Too true, the GOP ranges from racists, to fascists, to nazis, to drooling morons, to war criminals, to insane fundamentalists, to violent terrorists, to confederate-sympathising traitors.

Yep. Big tent. Hope it's flammable.

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on August 10, 2010 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Republicans better be careful this could come back to bite them. One of their up-and-comers Bobby Jindal had parents who - GASP - emigrated from India and he was born in Baton Rouge."

Did they emigrate legally?

What is going on here? Has it become so much the norm that repubs are wacko that we just assume everything they propose is wacko?

If you can find anyone who is proposing that we even talk about totally doing away with birthright citizenship, fine, a wacko.

But that's not the real issue here.

Posted by: agave on August 10, 2010 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Agave - your post got cut off, right where you were going to say what the real issue is.

Posted by: Rathskeller on August 10, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Well the GOP going after innocent Children ,can just consider themselves just like Pedophiles that prey on kids! If they were smart they wouldn't Tow the Line for the group that wrote Arizona's SB1070 (F.A.I.R & I.R.L.I) Getting rid of the 14th Amendment (Anchor Babies) has been on of their causes here in Arizona! The Tanton Dream Act!! I've lived here (Az.)for 50+ yrs
Latinos are part of my family,
Wht Norweigians is now mixed w/ Latino blood!

Posted by: Craig on August 10, 2010 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget the move to "restore the original 13th Amendment." Newsweek has an uncharacteristically acerbic takedown here:

Posted by: neil b. on August 10, 2010 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

"One of Bush/Rove's big projects was to make Latino voters feel welcome within the Republican party." It will be interesting to see what happens if/when Texas starts tilting Democratic due to increased numbers of Hispanic voters -- how can a Republican win the White House without any large states ? Right now, Bush barely won with Texas, Ohio and Florida, so there's little way a Republican could win without Texas.

Posted by: H-Bob on August 10, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

mfw13 said what i would have said. i think there are a lot of people out there, not just "angry white men," who are uncomfortable with birthright citizenship, and you dismiss that viewpoint at your own peril. sure, it's fun to mock, but i have yet to see a cogent argument--and no, "republicans hate the constitution," or "birthright citizenship makes me feel warm and fuzzy" are not real arguments--as to why we should NOT amend to get rid of it. seriously. why, empirically, are we better off with it?

Posted by: go on August 10, 2010 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK



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