- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2007

President Bush yesterday renewed his attack on Republicans who oppose his immigration bill, again charging that they are trying to “frighten people” and calling on supporters to rally around the compromise.

The president pleaded with senators to “show courage and resolve” to withstand outrage from voters in their districts.

“It is right to argue for what you believe and recognize that compromise might be necessary to move the bill along. And it is right to take political risk for members of the United States Congress,” Mr. Bush said in his second impassioned plea this week on the issue and the second time that he has accused Republicans of trying to scare voters by labeling provisions in the bill an “amnesty.”

But many Republican senators say the bill is both an amnesty and unworkable and argue that Mr. Bush’s barbs are off the mark.

“I’m not going around frightening people. People are frightened, and they’re trying to scare the politicians into voting the way they want them to,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, whose opposition to the bill has earned him standing ovations at speeches and events back home during the past week.

Mr. Bush’s challenge followed a speech in Georgia on Tuesday that infuriated Republican opponents of his bill. And the renewed challenge came just a day after White House press secretary Tony Snow said the administration was trying to “lower the temperature and get people to talk about basic principles.”

The fight is taking a serious toll on Republicans. The Washington Times reported yesterday that small donations to the Republican National Committee have dropped by an estimated 40 percent and that a grass-roots rebellion over immigration is part of the problem.

The immigration “grand bargain” was the product of closed-door negotiations by a small bipartisan group of senators and the Bush administration. It offers a multistep path to citizenship to illegal aliens, creates a new guest-worker program for some future workers and rewrites the definitions for future immigration to cut out extended-family immigration and give an advantage to those with needed skills.

Senators will try to finish up the bill next week.

Briefing reporters yesterday, two of Mr. Bush’s Cabinet secretaries also took shots at critics.

“To sit on the sidelines and criticize the bill and nitpick the bill, use one-liners and one word, anyone can do that,” Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said.

He and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the bill is the result of a number of tradeoffs. They challenged opponents to put forward another solution that takes account of what Mr. Chertoff called “real life, as opposed to theoretical arguments about what would be nice.”

He said that the details are important and that he hasn’t heard any other alternative that has a realistic chance of passing.

But Mr. DeMint said the details of the legalization and guest-worker parts of the bill are almost irrelevant because the voters he has talked to don’t trust the government on the security parts.

“There’s just a complete lack of trust, and that’s really where the anger is from,” he said.

That anger has played out on talk radio and in blogs and columns in the past few weeks, with some opponents going so far as to say Mr. Bush should be impeached and some administration allies accusing the opponents of bigotry.

The Times reported yesterday that the RNC has been facing fundraising difficulties, in part because of anger over immigration, and that the party fired all 65 of its telephone solicitors.

Overall, morale at the RNC has been edging steadily downward for more than a year, Republicans with close ties to the party told The Times.

Many qualified and experienced operatives have left the RNC, which has drawn frowns from the White House, where such desertions are considered disloyal.

In some instances, those who left the RNC joined the nascent organizations of Republican presidential nomination hopefuls. Others jumped the RNC ship to take better-paying and “less-stultifying jobs” in the private sectors, some former political operatives said.

This week, the latest desertions include several RNC staff members leaving the research, finance and other departments to join the undeclared Republican presidential campaign of former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Republicans close to the RNC told The Times in separate and confidential interviews.

Staffers at the RNC operate in a closed, closely watched environment, with the White House in full control of virtually all movement, current and former Republican officials said privately.

Some of these RNC staff members — in what one committee insider described as “responsible positions” — are eager to find a more ideologically compatible employer in a “less-confining environment” and think Mr. Thompson’s informal campaign is the answer.

Conservatives who have been in the movement for many years, however, say these dedicated operatives scurrying off the RNC’s “listing ship” may find that Mr. Thompson has sold himself as the savior of conservatives, much as Mr. Bush did when he was the governor of Texas and preparing for a presidential nomination run in 1999.

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