Dick Armey's "Better Angels" And The Continued Uselessness Of The Beltway Right
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September 29, 2009

By A North Carolina Reader

Peter Brimelow writes: I remember then-GOP Majority Leader Dick Armey reacting with utter amazement when I raised the subject of immigration with him in a meeting he had with the editors at the pre-purge National Review. Perhaps ten years later, Armey made an appearance in VDARE.COM as a Washington lobbyist extorting money from the various special interests behind the Kennedy/ Bush/ McCain amnesty, an unedifying process that he dignified as follows:

"There's two voices right now, and the noisy one is what I call the slam-the-borders crowd…The voice we want to speak with and the one that will be in unison with President Bush is the voice that echoes those marvelous words on the Statue of Liberty. To me, the Tancredo wing appeals to the more prurient character of our nature…We want to talk to the better angels of our nature."

In other words, Armey did not know that Emma Lazarus was not one of the Founding Fathers, and that her scrap of verse is not an article of the Constitution.

He's learned nothing, judging from this report from a VDARE.COM reader in North Carolina who saw him speak there last Friday. Not only does Armey still share the Beltway Right's studied blindness on immigration, but he still hasn't even the slightest awareness of the counter-arguments ("we can't run all these people out, it would be a humanitarian disaster").

Note also that Armey stuck to anti-tax boilerplate and avoided identifying with the "birthers". The Beltway Right is maneuvering to benefit from the anti-Obama backlash. But it did not create it and will not take risks for it.

The gathering was largely attended by a bunch of really old [Sly gay in-joke term for Tea Partyers insinuated into public discourse by Andrew Sullivan puritanically deleted by VDARE.COM], a few local Republican officeholders, a pair of local snoozepaper reporters; and was bannered under Armey's FreedomWorks. Total in attendance: about 80 in a county of 140K at a meeting called on short notice (60 hours) due to a cancelation or logistical problems somewhere else on his speech circuit.

The majority of Armey's 45 minute speech focused on Obamacare, the recent political miscalculations of the current regime, some fairly enlightening remarks on how cynics run the sausage-making machine in Washington D.C. and the seeds of socialism that the current regime has been planting.

As public speakers go, Armey is rather charming with his feigned Texan loyalist persona, with tongue in cheek/self-deprecating quips about how everything and everybody is bigger, better, and badder in Texas. Sort of like a Phd.-degreed, profanity-free Ron White.

At one point he made an offhand remark that Bill Clinton was the first president in history to decline to give his medical records to the Surgeon General upon his assumption of the presidency.

At the Q & A session following the speech, I was first up, referring to his remark about Bill Clinton's medical records with: "Isn't a birth certificate part of someone's medical records?"

Armey said that he didn't know the answer to that question and quickly deflected on with some other remarks about Obama and some remarks about Bill Clinton's right to medical privacy, neither making a direct reference to nor taking a side on the "birther" issue. You could feel the tension in the room.

Next, some elderly man with some articulation handicaps was up with a question about illegal immigration and illegal aliens getting into post-secondary schools in North Carolina. Armey responded with something like "Yeah, I don't like it any more than you, but you know what, the INS is one of the rudest and most dysfunctional government agencies there are, and if we could just fix that problem. . ."—obviously a practiced shtick.

I didn't make notes on the remainder of the audience questions he fielded, but none were significant.

At the very end, Armey did some gladhanding at the door and a short interview with the boyz from the snoozepaper. I hung around for the kill.

I introduced myself by name and asked him if he were open to a few hardball questions. He consented.

Me:   You are an economist by academic background, correct?

DA: Yes

Me:   Then you are familiar with the textbook definition of economics?

DA: Huh? What do you mean?

Me:   You know, the one on page one, chapter one of the Econ 101 Textbook: "Economics is a social science concerned with the study of how a society allocates its scarce resources among its members, those resources classically being land, labor, and capital—a more contemporary definition also includes entrepreneurial talent".

DA:   Oh! Yeah! Yeah! Now I know what you're talking about.

Me:   Well, I've seen the video of a speech you gave at a FreedomWorks gathering about two years ago in which you were talking about running a broken red light in the middle of the night to go get medicine for your sick child and so on.

[YouTube: Dick Armey of Freedomworks Wants Liberty for Illegal Aliens 'Bless Their Hearts' in which Armey said "The biggest immigration problem we got in America is a government that's not doing its job…I don't like illegal immigration, but I'll tell you something: I don't run stop lights. But you put me out on the road at two o'clock in the morning on the way to the all-night drugstore to get medicine for my babies, and you give me a stop light that is stuck on red, and no traffic in sight, and I'm gonna go through that red light." Armey was using the defense of necessity to justify illegal immigration, an extremely false analogy—living in Mexico isn't fatal.]

DA:  [Nods to acknowledge the record reflected in the video.]

Me:   Well, I think that it is certainly reasonable to say that you probably wouldn't see eye to eye with Pat Buchanan, Peter Brimelow, or your economist colleague Edwin Rubenstein on matters related to immigration.

DA: [visible facial signs of agitation] Well, yes, you're absolutely right.

Me:   Let's go back to the formal textbook definition of economics for a moment.


Me:   If we have a situation in which the policy makers in a given society, either by processes of neglectful inaction or active political processes, allow or cause the composition of the society to change against the expressed wishes of the overwhelming majority of that society's established citizens, haven't the legitimate economic functions and order of that society been corrupted?

DA: Well, you know, let's place the blame for this problem where it belongs and that is with the dysfunctional border patrol trying to do the impossible task of securing our borders; and our broken immigration service.

ME:   What do you mean, "trying to do the impossible task of securing the borders"? We seem to be doing a better job of securing other nations' borders than our own and you seem to think that we can't solve the problem we have here.

DA: But we can't run all these people out, it would be a humanitarian disaster.

Me:   What kind of talk is that? Who said anything about running anybody out? How about locking up some more chicken plant executives?

DA: You mean to say that chicken plant executives should have to bear the responsibility for solving a problem that the federal government has failed to deal with, particularly with its bad border security and dysfunctional immigration service?

Me:   This matter has to resolved by internal enforcement and border control. Right now though, I'm afraid that we have a situation so out of hand on our southern border that the border control component of solving this will ultimately have to involve a border strip zone where "the birds don't sing".

DA: Huh? What do you mean?

Me:   As in a militarized border.

DA:   I'm sorry, but I have to speak with these last remaining gentlemen before we leave.

Estimated time of interaction: 5-6 minutes.

(See also Armey brings FreedomWorks message to Burlington, by Robert Boyer, Burlington Times-News, September 25, 2009).

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