Since there is only One of woman born who was perfect, it's hardly a news bulletin that Ron Paul, though a decent and principled man, is susceptible to error.
It's easy to make allowances where Dr. Paul is simply mistaken, since he has proven repeatedly that he's willing to change his views as dictated by the facts, while remaining true to his principles. But it is disappointing to see him succumb to the impulse to pander to a certain slice of the GOP's activist base, as is the case with his most recent campaign ad on immigration policy. (See it here or at the bottom of this essay.)
One suitable definition of the verb “to pander” would be: “To promise something clearly impossible in the hopes of winning votes.” By that definition relatively little in that advertisement qualifies as pandering.
Three elements of the five-point plan recommended by the ad – no amnesty for illegal immigrants, no welfare benefits for the same, and an end to “birthright citizenship” -- are either sound or at least defensible. But they are sandwiched between two thick, crusty slices of pure pandering – the promise to secure the border physically, and to end “student visas from terrorist nations.”
It's always a bad sign when a candidate begins his pitch by offering something that is impossible. It is entirely impossible to create a physical barricade around our nation that will prevent illegal immigration. Attempting to do so (as I've pointed out before) will cause immense harm to the property rights of American citizens who live near the border. And with the Regime increasingly taking on the character of an undisguised garrison state, do we really want it to be in the business of sealing up the border?
Dr. Paul, an immensely intelligent man, knows all of this, which is why this element of his ad is particularly disappointing.
In his critique of the Paul campaign ad, Justin Raimondo correctly points out that the second slice of unmitigated pandering – the promise to end “student visas from terrorist nations” -- traffics in “the concept of collective guilt....[I]s every citizen of these unnamed `terrorist nations' to be declared persona non grata on account of the actions of a minuscule number of their countrymen?”
If we're going to get into the business of assigning collective national guilt for the terrorist actions of a few, how could we object if Americans were subject to international travel restrictions because of the crimes committed by Bush and Cheney and their ilk?
While the other points presented in the ad are worthier of Dr. Paul, the same can't be said of their presentation. The imagery of dusky-skinned immigrants swarming into the country is a classic Brown Peril trope, as is the ominous voice-over informing us: “Today, illegal immigrants violate our borders and overwhelm our hospitals, schools, and social services.”
Why the border fence won't work, assuming it's ever built.
Speaking on his own behalf in the Republican debates, Dr. Paul has dealt with the same subject in a way that addresses the fundamental economics of the issue: We cannot have a centralized welfare state and a fiat money economy and long, permeable borders without having immigration-related problems of the sort under discussion.
Witness Dr. Paul's comments during the Univision debate earlier this month. Taking issue with the idea of a “tamper-proof ID for illegals or immigrants,” which he said (correctly) would lead to a national ID card, Dr. Paul offered a brief lecture on the economics of immigration:
“But we have to realize where the resentment [against illegal immigrants] comes from. I believe it's related to our economy. When the economy is weakening and there's resentment because of our welfare system – jobs are going overseas; our good jobs, [and] pay is going down.... There's a lot of resentments because the welfare system is based on mandates from the federal government to put pressure on states like Florida and Texas to provide services which the local taxpayers resent. Some of our hospitals are closing. So it's an economic issue, too. If we deal with the welfare state and a healthy economy and a sound money [system] and all this wasteful spending overseas, we would have a healthy economy; I think this problem [with illegal immigration] would be greatly reduced.” (Emphasis added.)
This analysis puts the blame for overburdened “hospitals, schools, and social services” on the central government and its onerous mandates, rather than placing it entirely on the backs of the swarthy northbound masses from Latin America.
Lest it be thought that Dr. Paul was pandering in that answer – seeking to ingratiate himself in a Spanish-language debate before a Latino audience – it's worth recalling what he did just a few minutes later.
In one of the most insanely courageous acts of political principle I've ever seen, Dr. Paul – speaking in the teeth of outraged boos from the audience – defended re-opening diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba and Venezuela on the basis of the principles laid down by George Washington. He then managed to win over at least part of the house by explaining that “we create the Chavezes of the world, we create the Castros of the world, by interfering and creating chaos in their countries” -- a process which also does quite a bit to generate pressures that lead to illegal immigration.
In an interview with Newsweek, Dr. Paul reflected on the fact that as an obstetrician (is there any profession that can more properly be described as “doing God's work”?) he delivered children now referred to as “anchor babies” -- US citizens born to parents here illegally – who were “immediately put on [welfare] benefits. They can get housing allowances, food allowances, and Americans resent it because our economy is weak.... I want a healthy economy. Then we will be able to have a much more generous immigration policy, which would fit my personal philosophy and our Constitution.” (Again, emphasis added.)
Perhaps his clearest expression of this point came in Dr. Paul's interview with an Iowa newspaper editorial board, in which he elaborated on the dangers of government-enforced multiculturalism, including compelled bilingualism and welfare benefits for non-citizens.
Something to remember, lest we get just a little too sanctimonious in decrying the immigrant "invasion"....
After reiterating his complaints about the impact of those policies on local communities, Dr. Paul cut to what he considers the nub of the issue: "I'm also convinced that if we didn't have the welfare state, this would be a non-issue. If we had sound money, no welfare state, and we were thriving.... It's because we're having these economic problems that I say the illegal alien becomes an easy scapegoat."
There's the word that only Ron Paul, of all the Republican contenders, would have the candor and credibility to use. And that's the word, tragically, that best summarizes the use of illegal immigration in the most recent Paul campaign ad.
That ad is redolent of the influence of opportunistic PR flacks -- people who reflexively seek to blunt principled messages, as if they're afraid of cutting themselves on sharply defined positions. It certainly doesn't reflect what Dr. Paul has described as his "personal philosophy" regarding the issue. It also suggests that Dr. Paul needs to impose some message discipline on his campaign right now, before it falls victim to consultants and others lured by his fundraising achievements -- the sort of people who would re-brand him as the thinking man's Tom Tancredo, as if such a creature could exist.
Dum spiro, pugno!