Jewish World Review May 9, 2006/ 11 Iyar, 5766

Wesley Pruden

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A modest proposal: Save America first | You can make a pretty good argument for the ancient axiom that "when a public opinion is almost universally held it is almost always wrong."

If true, George W. Bush and the Republicans can take heart because nearly everyone thinks the Grumpy Old Party is on the slide toward oblivion, at least for this year. But it's cold comfort. The public-opinion polls are nothing short of devastating, suggesting that the very folks who put George W. in the White House and kept him there four years later are the most upset of all, feeling used, betrayed and played for fools. Nobody likes that feeling.

"One of the things that's clearly happening is a breakdown of the coalition that elected and re-elected the president," John Zogby, one of the most reliable of the medicine men, says of his polling. He finds that fewer than half of the president's most faithful friends — stock-market investors, NASCAR racing fans, gun owners and Roman Catholics — are still with him, and evangelical Christians are still with him by only 51 percent. In the most stunning statistic of all, since this is the killer issue of the year, only 13 percent of the conservatives like the president's amnesty proposal, and only 9 percent think he is properly protecting the nation's porous southern border. When fewer than one in 10 of his friends think the president, any president, is taking care of first things first, he's in what this president's daddy would call deep doo-doo.

Disappointed and disillusioned friends are angry about several things, even though they concede George W. has done many good things. Putting two fine conservative judges on the Supreme Court, for example. Most important of all, Muslim red-hots have been unable to mount another attack on the United States. Nobody with knowledge of the Islamist threat, including the Democrats, believes this is coincidence. Nevertheless, George W. has played to public ingratitude with stubborn willfulness, determined to approach issues more like a Harvard MBA who can't let go of classroom theory than a politician who learned the trade in the trenches and knows when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. His guru, Karl Rove, can't let go of the idea that he can forge a permanent Republican majority with a coalition of naturalized Muslims and illegal aliens, if the president can tranquilize his old friends.

Nice work if you can get it, but it's late for tranquilizers. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the "governator" of California, has never been one of the president's die-hard fans, but he spoke for a lot of the president's friends the other day with blunt remarks about immigration and the tide of illegals that has already swallowed Southern California.

"I think that all of this comes down to one thing," the governor, a fairly recent (legal) immigrant himself, said. "The federal government has failed the people of America in a terrible way, in a disastrous way, when it comes to this immigration situation." The feds have let the border problem "hang out there for 20 years and not do anything about it, when they knew this is a problem. To have a border that is not secure is to me staggering."

It's not just this president; it may not be even mostly this president: "For Congress to go home for spring break and not really take care of it when they know this was boiling here in this country is also irresponsible."

The White House reaction to the governor's remarks showed just how little the events have moved classroom theory. The president acknowledged the "need to do more," that he's for border security, interior enforcement — and of course his guest-worker program. Everyone understands that "guest worker" is code for "amnesty," that amnesty is the point of "comprehensive" reform. Once Congress approves amnesty the rest will wither away, as it always has.

The president could energize his friends and astonish everyone else by protecting the border first, whoever, whatever and however it takes. With first things taken care of first, showing his long-suffering friends that there's good faith on this issue after all, he might then, but only then, get something for his guest workers. Or he might not. But the border would be secure, and most Americans think protecting America first is worth doing.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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