Some headlines like the AP's GOP leaders: Anti-immigration stance hurts party [January 14, 2011]are pretty self-explanatory. Yet reading others, you might think that immigration was completely ignored. Issue is 800-pound gorilla at two GOP efforts to reach out to Hispanics says the sub-headline of the National Journal's piece on the event. GOP event dodges immigration says the Politico [By Carrie Budoff Brown, January 14, 2011]. Frank Sharry of the pro-amnesty America's Voice in the Huffington Post echoes this: GOP Hispanic Conference Highlights Deep Denial on Immigration.
Looking at the newly-built website for the Hispanic Leadership Network, it appeared like the organization is not eager to discuss immigration. The content on its Perspectives page consists of the usual platitudes:
"At its core, faith plays an integral role in the traditions and heritage of Hispanic voters. Their values are consistent with those of right of center voters, such as supporting a culture of life, and respecting the dignity and value of every human being"
Conspicuously absent is immigration.
However, a quick scan of the conference agenda and a little further reading shows that what The Politico and company mean by "dodging" immigration is that the conference was not solely dedicated to promoting amnesty and attacking the Republican Party for being racist because it supports some immigration enforcement.
The Hispanic Leadership is a project of The American Action Network, a 527, and its non-profit wing The American Action Forum. The organizations were founded by McCain advisor Fred Malek. The American Action Network's board boasts pro-amnesty former Senators Norm Coleman and Mel Martinez, along with neoconservatives like former Congressman Vin Weber. The non-profit wing the American Action Network is headed by Jeb Bush, along with many of his brother's cabinet members, such as Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge—both of whom vigorously hyped Dubya's amnesty bills. The only prominent Republican with a not entirely pro-amnesty record (though not particularly great one) is former Senator George Allen, who is hoping to reclaim his seat against Jim Webb in 2012.
Similarly, the line-up of the conference was stacked heavily with Bush lackeys and other pro-amnesty speakers including Coleman, Martinez, Jeb Bush, along with Carlos Gutierrez, Lincoln Diaz Balart, Leslie Sanchez, and token Hispanic Republican columnist Ruben Navarrette.
The buzzword for the meeting was "tone".
"We have tonal problem,' said Alex Castellanos. And Jeb Bush similarly went on about "tone." The idea is that if Republican ideas could be expressed in a "kinder, gentler" way, Hispanics would be totally receptive.
Ruben Navarrette was not happy about this. In an interview with America's Voice, he said that Republicans can be split into basically two groups:
"Republicans who believe that there is a serious breach and a horrible relationship between us and Republicans and believe they can fix it."
Navarrette put Newt Gingrich, Norm Coleman, and Jeb Bush in this camp.
The other camp believed that
"We have no problem whatsoever. We are still doing fine with Latinos. Republicans full speed ahead. Next week we are going to change the 14th Amendment and we're going to deny citizenship to the US born children of illegal immigrants and everything is going to be groovy. You guys are not going to pay a price for it. Come with me."
This group includes Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith.[Navarrette gives us his take on the Hispanic Leadership Network Conference in Miami, America's Voices TV-YouTube, January 14, 2011]
Navarrette said the take-away was that there was another split within the pandering group—between those who thought the issue was "tone" and "messaging" and those who thought the GOP's policies on immigration were bad.
Speaking at the conference, Navarrette made it clear which camp he belonged to:
"If you come away thinking that this is all about language and tone, you will miss the point... You are always going to be number 2... The problem is not the tone. It is the message itself—it is offensive, racist. You've got to fix the product. Miami is not a Third World country." [Live Blogging from the Hispanic Leadership Network Conference in Miami, America's Voice, January 14, 2011]
Navarrette is of course referring to Tom Tancredo's (entirely factual) statement made four years ago. Tancredo's truth-telling still upsets many at the American Action Network. Washington Post token (neo)con Jennifer Rubin wrote:
"[American Action Network President] Malek was blunt: 'If we are seen to be the angry, intolerant and punitive party, that isn't going to work.' While talking to Republicans on Capitol Hill, I have found Republican staff, senators and congressional leaders quite sensitive to the issue of how immigration rhetoric plays in Hispanic communities. Gadflies such as Tom Tancredo, who infamously dubbed Miami a 'third world country,' continue to provide fodder for the media." [Hispanic Leadership Network meets in Florida, January 17, 2011]
Tancredo is no longer in Congress and even left the Republican Party to make a heroic race for the Colorado governorship. You have to wonder why they are still so concerned about him.
After Malek said that "tone" is the most important things Republicans need to change to appeal to Hispanics, he made this interesting qualification: the problem, he said, is only with a small intolerant minority of Republicans: "It's not officialdom, it's voices, not many but loud ones who get picked up by our friends in the media."
But if this is the case, then the Republicans do not have a problem with "tone"—they have a problem with the Main Stream Media.
Jeb Bush knows there is nothing he can do about Tom Tancredo. But he still drummed the point over and over, and added a few other things the Republican Party should do about tone,
"If you send the signal of them and us, you are not going to be able to get the desired result…Leaders have to lead. They have a responsibility of civility and having a tone that draws people towards our cause."
Bush went on to suggest that Republicans bribe Hispanics with Affirmative Action hires:
"Embracing diversity means that if you are a governor of a state that you recruit well qualified people that represent the diversity of your state. ... It is a huge opportunity to build a connection with emerging groups by using your power without people watching. To appoint people of diversity to your cabinet, or to commissions, or your commissions."
[Bush At Hispanic Leadership Conference, YouTube, January 18, 2011]
He added in the Q&A that the Republican Party cannot be "The Old White Guy Party" and that "The majority of conservatives want to see comprehensive immigration reform after there's border security and oppose ending birthright citizenship." [Ex Florida Governor Jeb Bush (Part two), America's Voice, YouTube, January 14, 2011]
Norm Coleman's discussion of "tone" was similar. The Post's Jennifer Rubin reported
"First, 'immigration is a tone issue, but it is more than tone.' He said that conservatives need to be the party of 'the rule of law,' so border enforcement is a necessity. But he added that the GOP should explore whether some formulation of the DREAM Act is supportable and work toward developing a comprehensive immigration plan. Interestingly, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) was at the conference and reminded the audience that he supported the DREAM Act in committee. But, he argued, the Democrats, anxious to use this as a wedge-issue against Republicans, refused to allow amendments, making the final bill and the process untenable for GOP senators."
The big problem with all this: some 90% of Republican voters are white—and 80% of illegal aliens are Hispanic. [Estimates of the Size and Characteristics of the Undocumented Population - Full Report (PDF). Pew Hispanic Center, March 21, 2005.]
Enforcing what Coleman called the "rule of law" inevitably ends up becoming an "us against them" issue, whether the GOP likes it or not.
This is not to say that there are not a sizable percentage of patriotic Hispanics who do not support enforcement. But dealing with illegal immigration in any way other than amnesty is going to cause the Republican Party to be accused of "racism" and "divisiveness" from the ethnic lobbies, no matter what its "tone"
And the fact is that virtually all the mouthpieces at the Hispanic Leadership simply used the "tone" issue to preface their support for the DREAM Act, anchor baby citizenship, and "comprehensive immigration reform". Which tells us a great deal.
Jeb Bush's claim that the Republican "officialdom", much less the rank and file, support "comprehensive immigration reform" and that's it's just a few loudmouths creating the contrary impression is simply wrong. The Republican Party has made huge progress on the issue of immigration in the last few years—basically since Bush's appalling brother led the party to disaster and the election of Obama. And it's all been in the direction of patriotic reform.
George W. Bush got dozens of Republicans Senators to support "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" a.k.a Amnesty in 2006 and 2007. But only three voted for the much more limited DREAM Act amnesty last December. Dubious motives notwithstanding, the entire GOP Establishment from John Boehner to Mitch McConnell now say they oppose birthright citizenship.
The American Action Network represents the old Bush/McCain Republican Party. With help from the MSM, they are creating a phony narrative about the Hispanic vote to try to appear relevant again.
If the Republican Party wants to build on its gains last November, it must ignore those responsible for its losses in 2006 and 2008—and for the utterly wasted opportunity of the party's years in power.
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.