A couple of months ago, I got pulled over because I was driving with an expired license plate. The cop asked for my driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.
According to Michael Gerson, writing in the Washington Post, what I should have said when the cop asked for my documents was "Go to Hell."
Mr. Gerson, who had been an aide to President Bush, was not, of course, referring to my traffic stop in Pittsburgh, but to how he thinks people in Arizona should respond if police there ask them for proof of legal residence.
Mr. Gerson thinks the law Arizona just passed to authorize state and local police to enforce federal immigration law is "dreadful," which makes him among the milder of the law's critics.
The law is a racist abomination, said Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. It reminds them of apartheid, said Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal Constitution and former New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse. It reminds them of Nazi Germany, said Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo, and Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla.
These are largely the same people, you'll note, who think it beyond the rhetorical pale for tea party protesters to describe President Obama's policies as "socialist."
Mr. Robinson is exercised that legal immigrants would be required "to carry papers proving that they have a legal right to be in the United States." Mr. Robinson evidently is unaware that federal law has required that for half a century.
Mr. Robinson, Ms. Tucker and Ms. Greenhouse engage in fact-free journalism when they assert the law permits Arizona cops to stop people on the street and demand they produce ID, like the Gestapo did in those World War II movies.
There is really no excuse for this, because the Arizona law is not a 2,700-page monstrosity like Obamacare, or a 1,400-page monstrosity like the financial "reform" bill. It's just 16 pages long, and it's written in simple English.
The key provision is this: "For any lawful stop, detention or arrest made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency & where reasonable suspicion exists that a person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person."
In other words, if you're stopped for a traffic violation and can't produce a valid driver's license, the cops are authorized to call ICE and ask about you. The same is true if you are caught breaking into a house, or selling drugs on a street corner. But not if you're just standing around the 7/11 hoping to get day work.
What is scandalous about the Arizona law -- besides the misreporting of it -- is that it's necessary at all. Arizona has authorized state enforcement of federal immigration law because the federal government won't enforce its own laws.
Narcotraficantes are waging a bloody civil war against the Mexican government and each other -- 22,000 have been killed in Mexico in the last five years -- and the violence is spilling across the border. There's a kidnapping every 35 hours in Phoenix. On Friday (4/30), a Pinal County sheriff's deputy was shot by illegal immigrants bringing marijuana across the border.
Arizonans are understandably concerned about the threat to their lives and property posed by the increasingly brazen narcotraficantes and coyotes (people smugglers). A Rasmussen poll indicated likely voters in the state approve of the new law, 64-30. This includes roughly half of the 30 percent of Arizona's population which is Hispanic.
The proper response in Washington to passage of the Arizona law should have been shame -- shame that Arizonans felt compelled to do the federal government's job for it.
But Washington's response has been snark and condescension. The privileged in politics and journalism, who live far from the chaos and anarchy on the border, respond to the pleas for help from those who do live there with name-calling.
Little better illustrates the widening gulf between the Court party, which Princeton Prof. Angelo Codevilla said is "made up of the well-connected. . . who see themselves as potters of the great American clay," and the Country party, "the many more who are tired of being treated as clay."
The Court party rules now. But the Country party votes in November.