- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

With his buffoonish complaints about talk radio and its role in educating the American public about the flaws in the Senate immigration bill, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott has done much to energize the conservative Republican base and jeopardize the chances of its passage. Earlier this month, open-borders advocates came up 15 votes short when they attempted to shut off debate on the immigration bill, and nothing that has taken place since that time leads us to believe that the Bipartisan Alien Amnesty Caucus will fare much better on tomorrow’s cloture vote — the most critical one on illegal immigration during the current Congress. If open-borders advocates fail again tomorrow, don’t be surprised if President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, their poll ratings already abysmal, conclude that this isn’t the way to build their respective political legacies.

Poll after poll shows the American people are, to put it charitably, very skeptical about the bill. In the past few days, we’ve seen Republican senators like John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who were thought to be in the undecided column, announce they would vote against cloture. Georgia Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, original supporters of the “compromise,” are expected to oppose cloture tomorrow. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has made statements generally supportive of the bill and helped work out a “compromise” agreement with Mr. Reid to bring it back to the floor, now says he is not sure how he will vote. While many factors have helped drive down support, it’s increasingly clear that Mr. Lott’s over-the-top efforts to silence amnesty critics have backfired and become a rallying point for conservative critics of the legislation.

On June 7, Mr. Lott delivered a Senate floor speech in which he lavished praise on Sen. Edward Kennedy, the most fervent liberal advocate of the bill (and whose staff is most likely responsible for writing the parts of the bill that make it easier for illegal-alien gang members and alien absconders to remain in the United States). Mr. Lott attacked critics of the immigration bill as “mice” and accused them of trying to “slither away from this issue.” The Massachusetts Democrat responded by giving Mr. Lott a verbal pat on the head, thanking him for his “constructive and positive attitude.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Lott was just warming up. The following week, he spoke to the New York Times about the Senate’s difficulty passing an immigration bill: “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.” After talk-radio hosts from around the country reacted furiously (and properly so) to Mr. Lott’s menacing tone, the Mississippi Republican complained to The Washington Post over the fact that angry callers protesting the amnesty bill had jammed his phone lines for three weeks. He appeared to suggest that the telephone calls were an effort by ignorant non-Mississippians to “intimidate” him.

During yesterday’s appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Lott was asked about television ads run by NumbersUSA criticizing him for joining with Mr. Kennedy in “selling out Mississippi” by supporting the Senate bill. In response, Mr. Lott’s arguments for the amnesty bill included the following: “We need to make sure we know who these people [illegal aliens who benefit from the amnesty bill] are, where they’re going, that there’s a job for them, that they’re not treated like animals.” Leave aside for a minute the insulting suggestion that if you have an honest disagreement with Mr. Lott over the merits of this bill, you favor treating people in a subhuman way. Mr. Lott’s assertion that the immigration bill will enhance our ability to keep tabs on potential security threats only shows that he knows very little about what is in his bill or is desperately spinning. As we noted in some detail in our lead editorial on Friday (“The Terrorist Facilitation Act of 2007”), the Senate bill includes provisions that will make it absurdly easy for a potential terrorist to obtain a “probationary” visa and create a fraudulent new identity for himself with the assistance of the U.S. government.

Mr. Lott’s comments about the immigration bill are unfortunate in their own right. But his suggestion that talk radio is a problem that someone has to “deal with” because it makes it harder to ram the immigration bill through the Senate is even worse, because it raises the specter of reviving the “Fairness Doctrine” — the Federal Communications Commission policy (repealed in 1987 at President Reagan’s urging) that effectively barred any serious political debate from occurring on the airwaves. The result of the demise of the “equal-time rule” has been the rise of issue-oriented talk radio — perhaps the one area of the media where conservatives dominate. So, liberals who say they believe so strongly in the First Amendment want to revive the doctrine in order to prevent talk radio from doing what is has done on the illegal-immigration issue: educate people about what has been jammed into this massive bill and how it affects their country.

We note that left-liberals like Sen. Dianne Feinstein, along with research organizations like the Center for American Progress headed by Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, are pushing to revive the Fairness Doctrine — which would make it much easier in the future to pass open-borders immigration bills before people understand what is in them. We trust that those Mississippians who are making their opinions on illegal immigration clear to Mr. Lott will let him know that they are watching very carefully what he does regarding the “Fairness Doctrine” and other efforts to shut talk radio up.

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