Immigration reform opponents on the right have a tricky problem: So many of their conservative superstars support comprehensive reform that it’s hard to make it out to be a liberal scheme to snooker the public — well, unless you airbrush some people out of the picture.
Buzzfeed caught the very anti-immigration National Review removing Grover Norquist’s image from a press conference photo featured on the cover, leaving the impression that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was standing only with the dastardly Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.)
In an unusually snarky e-mail, editor Rich Lowry claimed: “Sorry, Grover. But our extensive market research shows that partially obscured bearded anti-tax activists do very poorly on our covers. In addition to a partial Grover head, we removed a detached arm and a few other random heads from the image to make it more visually clean and to focus on the politicians in the foreground. The table of contents of the issue contains this disclaimer: ‘The cover image was altered slightly, to remove people standing in the background.’”
But that doesn’t explain why a very clearly photographed Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) — a favorite on the right — was also removed from the shot. Norquist sure noticed.
In an e-mail, Norquist told me: “More interesting is that they deliberately excised the fully-in-focus Jeff Flake. This is the photographic continuation of leaving Senator Rand Paul, Congressman Paul Ryan, George Bush 41/43, Ronald Reagan, Governor’s Walker and Jindal ‘out of the picture.’ ” Norquist suggests that immigration-reform opponents are stuck in the past and forget that “being pro-immigrant was always the Reagan Republican view.”
Indeed, immigration reform opponents are going up against conservative, pro-growth economists as well as some prominent evangelicals and hawks. Can all of these people be dupes of the White House and Chuck Schumer? Moreover, a large majority of Republican voters (maybe not National Review readers), when told the central planks of the Gang of 8 plan, approve of it.
Worse still, immigration reform opponents are lined up with and should denounce some pretty flaky types. We’re reminded of that this week in a Huffington Post report on a pathetic turnout of a whole 20 people to protest Rubio’s immigration reform proposals. The crowd, all 20, were rustled up by controversial radio talk-show host Joyce Kaufman, a follower (as are some prominent anti-immigration groups) of the Zero Population fringe movement. She’s infamous for her incendiary anti-immigrant insults.
The irony in all this, of course, is that most of the top Republicans favor a Gang of 8 plan, and it is warmly embraced by fiscal, social and national security conservatives. That’s because there is little conservative virtue in opposing a plan that is good for the economy, embodies religious values and helps secure the border, in contrast to the current de facto amnesty situation.
Legitimate opponents of the legislation would be wise to denounce the kooks on their side but also to recognize that a good deal of the conservative movement disagrees with them. Their opposition is not all that “conservative,” although it does bespeak a lack of confidence in the ability of conservatives to appeal (as George W. Bush did) to Hispanic voters.