Sunday, June 04, 2006

McCain's Principled Stand

McCain's Stand & Bilbray's Demagoguery

By Ruben Navarrette

SAN DIEGO -- Despite some earlier evidence to the contrary, John McCain is careful about the company he keeps.

When the senator from Arizona traveled to Liberty University a few weeks ago to appear at a commencement with the Rev. Jerry Falwell -- a man he once labeled as one of the "agents of intolerance'' -- I worried that the conductor on the Straight Talk Express had lost his way.

Then came news last week that McCain had canceled an appearance at a San Diego fundraiser for former Rep. Brian Bilbray, the Republican nominee in a nationally watched June 6 runoff election to replace Randy "Duke'' Cunningham, who is in prison for taking bribes.

I wouldn't call Bilbray an agent of intolerance. He's more an agent of opportunism. While in Congress from 1995 to 2001, and later as a lobbyist and national co-chairman of the anti-immigrant outfit, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Bilbray has milked the immigration issue dry.

Hard-liners such as Bilbray are good at sound bites and bumper-sticker slogans. They just don't have a good answer to the big question: What do we do with the 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants?

All they have is this quaint theory that if we crack down on employers, let local cops enforce immigration law, or put troops on the border -- all of which Bilbray supports -- illegal immigrants will find it so inhospitable here that they will simply self-deport.

It could happen -- as soon as hardened criminals self-arrest, self-convict and self-imprison.

Bilbray also wants to build a 2,000-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants -- unworkable and un-American ideas that even the House Republican leadership wanted nothing to do with.

In fact, Bilbray brags that while in Congress, he wrote legislation to limit "birthright citizenship" only to the children of U.S. citizens and legal residents and combat what right-wingers call "anchor babies.''

Big-name Republicans have stumped for Bilbray. They included Vice President Dick Cheney, even though Bilbray had told USA Today that the Bush administration was permitting illegal immigration and that President Bush himself "ought to be investigated for not enforcing immigration laws on employers.''

Enter John McCain, who was scheduled to speak at a breakfast fundraiser for Bilbray last week that was supposed to raise $65,000 for what is now a close race with Busby.

Exit John McCain. In a last-minute e-mail to the Bilbray campaign, a McCain spokesman noted that the two men "disagree on some of the issues related to immigration reform.'' And, the spokesman said, McCain wanted to "avoid distracting'' from the event.

Bilbray supporters called the snub petty and vindictive.

It wasn't. It was principled, honest and morally consistent. How could McCain have appeared at a fundraiser for someone who has tried to get political mileage from blasting a major McCain initiative? Talk about awkward. The senator was right to stay away.

It's fine to be an opponent of illegal immigration. But somewhere along the line, Brian Bilbray became a crusader. Then, he morphed into a zealot. And, frankly, on this explosive issue, Congress has enough of those already.

Full Article

Now I seriously doubt that any of those who were attacking McCain for his speech at Liberty University are going to actually take the time to add this piece to the puzzle. He's still the same principled moderate that he's always been. What has changed are the odds of him being the Republican front runner in the 2008 elections which has resulted in him changing fromthe left's favorite Republican to one of the left's favorite targets. That change is only in its infancy now but I'm willing to bet that the closer we get to election season the faster the transformation from "media darling" to whipping boy will occur.