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John Derbyshire On Rand Paul And Ann Coulter: Lose Some, Win Some, The War Grinds On
“One in, one out,” my mother was sometimes heard to remark after her regular evening perusal of the Northampton Chronicle and Echo. We knew, without needing to ask, that this was a reference to her favorite section of that newspaper, the “Births, Marriages, and Deaths” columns—the “Hatched, Matched, and Dispatched” in our household’s micro-dialect. Her meaning was that some family we knew had been blessed with a new baby while some other family had suffered a bereavement.
This past week was a bit like that on the patriotic immigration front. We lost one big name, but gained another.
Two and a half years before that I had actually asked Paul face-to-face for his thoughts on immigration. This was during his Senate run in 2010. He had dropped in to the National Review offices to give us face time, as candidates do. (See Ten Things You Should Know about Rand Paul, by Kevin D. Williamson,[July 13, 2010] which doesn’t mention immigration).
I can’t locate any video of the meeting, and all I can find in my notes is:
immigr: not much clue
…but I am a poor note-taker, so that can’t be taken as dispositive as to Rand’s 2010 immigration position.
Paul made his exit from the zone of immigration patriotism—or, if you prefer, made it indisputably clear that he had never really belonged in that zone—with a disgraceful speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.
For Senator Paul to speak at all to an organization whose name contains the word “Hispanic”—a bogus ethnicity concocted for political purposes by Nixon-era bureaucrats—was sufficiently regrettable.
But Paul compounded the offense by delivering part of his speech in Spanish. John Quincy Adams refused on principle to use his fluent German when courting German-speaking voters. However, “on principle” is not a phrase that leaps to mind when one surveys the present-day Republican Party. (With a few honorable exceptions.)
Nor does the actual content of Paul’s speech bear very close inspection. One-third of the Spanish-language section was given over to a quotation from poet Pablo Neruda. Like Paul, Neruda served in his nation’s Senate…but representing the Chilean Communist Party. Neruda’s poetry may be first-rate for all I know, and it has often been remarked that politics makes strange bedfellows; but it seems odd for a libertarian to seek inspiration from a recipient of the Stalin Peace Prize.
The rest of Paul’s speech is a drivel of clichés, drawn about equally from George W. Bush’s fatuous “compassionate conservatism” (“we also must treat those [illegals] who are already here with understanding and compassion”) and from the left-activist prompt book (“the struggle for a good education is the civil rights issue of our day”). (In regard to that latter, I note once again in passing the now-routine yoking of the two great soft-headed feel-good fantasies of our time: educational romanticism and immigration romanticism).
Of course, Paul’s defection—clarification, whatever—is a blow to patriotic immigration reform. The man is a national legislator, a United States Senator. He is also an adornment of the Tea Party, which can fairly be credited with the GOP’s 2010 triumph in the House of Representatives. Rand Paul is a serious congressional player, directly and indirectly. That the congressional Treason Lobby has acquired a new recruit is a major reverse for good sense on immigration.
Looking at wider trends, Paul’s defection represents a triumph of globalist, nation-denying neolibertarianism over paleolibertarianism, defined by Arthur Pendleton on VDARE.com as “the once-promising intellectual movement that stayed true to libertarian principles while opposing open borders, libertinism, egalitarianism, and political correctness.”
What made this happen? Did the money people get to Paul?
I have trouble believing this. Paul seemed to me, face to face, to be a decent person from the same mold as his father. It’s hard to imagine either man selling out his principles for campaign cash…though I suppose the shade of Britain’s notoriously cynical eighteenth-century Prime Minister Sir Robert (“All those men have their price”) Walpole is chuckling somewhere out of sight.
In seeking an explanation, I am more inclined to impersonal historical forces. Reading Paul’s speech, in fact, what came to mind—and I mean no disrespect to the dead—was that awful story out of Florida a few weeks ago, about the poor chap who was swallowed by a sinkhole while watching TV in bed.
Rand Paul suffered some analogous political fate. Playing the part of the Florida terrain here is the intellectual framework of our current politics: a thin crust of firm civic republicanism overlaying a deep wet karst of utopian romanticism. Playing the part of aquifer depletion is the draining away of national spirit under the forces of multiculturalism and ethnomasochism. Playing the part of gravity is the Republican Party’s current, powerful death wish.
GLWOOP! There goes another one.
And, as always in human affairs, sheer stupidity and sloth are not to be neglected. Given that Rand Paul’s speech was stitched together from the stalest, most threadbare clichés—the kind of thing immigration patriots have been debunking for a decade and more—you have to wonder how much time the junior Senator from Kentucky put into reading up on his chosen topic.
Indeed, you have to wonder the same thing about most of the people in public life who make policy on, or even just pontificate about, immigration. I should be very surprised to learn that more than half our national legislators know the difference between immigrant and nonimmigrant visas; or that more than a tenth of them could distinguish an H-1B from an H-2A.
Policy wonkery can sometimes be annoying, it’s true. But on the whole knowledge is good, especially when one is debating critical national policies.
For example, it could have saved Paul from today’s further embarrassment:
Sen. Rand Paul said Thursday that the nation’s current immigration policies are “de facto amnesty,” hitting back against his conservative critics—including Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh—who say he’s supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Rand Paul: ‘De facto amnesty’ already here, By Kevin Cirilli, Politico, March 21, 2013
Paul apparently thinks (or has been told) that this is an original and compelling argument. But in fact, of course, it has long been debunked and discredited.
We peg away at explaining, exposing, chronicling, and documenting; yet somehow none of it, not a word, reaches the aery heights in which dwell our political masters. They run on fumes: fumes from half-baked, half-remembered sophistries they read somewhere or heard from a lobbyist, and from faddish pseudo-emotions barely reflected upon. Data? Who needs data?
So much for the “one out.” The “one in” was Ann Coulter, who told CPAC last Saturday afternoon:
I'm now a single-issue voter against amnesty…We offer hope, opportunity, and jobs. And I hope that we offer a change to our absolutely suicidal immigration policies.
Ann is not a legislator, although I understand that Peter Brimelow is having some COULTER FOR PRESIDENT lapel buttons made up. She is a brilliant and popular polemicist, though, and her speech—and the applause it got from the CPAC crowd—could be a milestone on the road back from the demoralized GOP’s surrender on immigration.
It is good to know, too, that the lady has decisively unhitched herself from the gun-controlling, border-opening Chris Christie. Ann signaled her refusal to be embarrassed about that error by opening her CPAC talk with a Christie joke: “The sequester’s really ruined everything, hasn’t it? . . . Even CPAC had to cut back on its speakers this year by about 300 pounds.” (At 20 seconds in here.)
The chutzpah is characteristic, and welcome in a movement that has all too often in recent years been timidly deferential to the established liberal order.
Ann does not embarrass easy. When National Review dropped her from its contributor columns in October 2001 for urging missionary wars against terrorist nations, she famously described its editors as “girly-boys” and scoffed:
“If National Review has no spine, they are not my allies. I really don’t need friends like that. Every once in a while they’ll throw one of their people to the wolves to get good press in left-wing publications.” National Review fires Ann Coulter, By Anthony York, Salon.com, October 2, 2001
I want to hear what Ann has to say about legal immigration—about the lottery, chain migration, the “refugee” and “skilled worker” rackets—before I buy one of those lapel buttons. But I welcome her into the stockade.
And I wish her all the luck in the world at surviving what will now be thrown at her by the forces of Conservatism, Inc.
So: one out, one in. You win some, you lose some. The war grinds on.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.
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