Jewish World Review May 19, 2006/ 21 Iyar, 5766

Wesley Pruden

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A word that dare not say its name | Plain talk gives politicians severe heartburn. The most successful pols learn to speak only in euphemy and obfuscation.

President Bush, no doubt smarting from the slapping around from his once-reliable conservative base, spent yesterday on the Arizona border trying to talk the talk to please Americans fed up with the federal government's inability or unwillingness to protect its borders, a failure unprecedented among the nations of the world.

"America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society," he said in Yuma, "and we don't have to choose between the two."

Perhaps not, but the feds long ago did choose, going all the way back through several administrations of both parties. We put out the welcome mat together with a sign inviting the illegals to walk on us if they preferred that to the welcome mat. How else would 12 million illegals get here — and stay here? The meager measures the president finally agreed to this week, none of which will actually do very much to relieve the growing problem, are intended not to strengthen the border, but to placate the credulous few among his old friends. Calling out the National Guard makes big headlines, but nobody is very impressed because the imagery is so transparent.

It's not fair to blame only George W. for this fine mess. He's only doing what presidents and other pols have done before him. Anyone who expects dramatic differences between politicians, even presidents, is begging for disillusionment. Some of the biggest business contributors to both parties lust for as many of the poor slobs as they can get, to put them in the crappiest of jobs at the crappiest wages. For their trouble, the pols get — or think they will — a lot of the easily deluded who will vote the way they're told. This is how the Democrats held on to the Solid South for so long. The planters paid the poll tax for poor blacks, usually at a dollar a head, and kept the receipts in the plantation safe until election day, when they armed their field hands for the trip to the polls with the receipt and instructions on how to cast their vote. Only the methods change.

The president addressed a group of wealthy contributors Wednesday night in Arizona, and reminded them not to use the word "amnesty" to describe "amnesty." George W. is not the first president to indulge in happyspeak. Gerald Ford was so upset by the word "inflation," all but falling on his WIN button at the sound of it, that his frustrated chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers started using the word "banana" as the code word for inflation. "No, we have lots of bananas." Maybe George W. could substitute the word "enchilada" when he means "amnesty." No amnesty, but we have lots of enchiladas, and every one comes with a certificate of citizenship.

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There's nothing wrong with playing the game; politics is what Washington is all about. It's only when the pols pretend not to be playing that the odor of guile and gullery overpowers the debate. The president has been a keen foe of building a border fence in the past, but yesterday he kind of said he approved, sort of. He thinks a partial fence is OK, but not the whole thing. As long as there are big gaps in it to enable torrents of aliens to come through. "Whatever works," he said. "And that's why I'm down here talking to these commanders on the ground to find out exactly what they need to get the job done." And only six years late.

The president almost, approximately, nearly but not quite, even withdrew the accusation that the amnesty chorus has lodged against the people begging him to protect the border, that they're "racists" and "bigots" and "nativists" and maybe even guilty of mopery. "I think it would be too harsh to say that somebody who doesn't support a comprehensive immigration plan is a racist." Harsh is OK, just not too harsh.

This is stating the crashingly obvious, but the president's friends can be grateful for the civility, such as it is. But if they want to see the border protected, they'll have to keep up the pressure. All pols are fluent in pressure. Pressure is the only language pols can't abuse.

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

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