Admittedly, as Emerson instructs, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Still, Washington at the moment seems to be suffering from notably “large” and “inconsistent” minds.
There is, of course, the hilarious inconsistency and largeness of John Edwards charging $50,000 to give a college speech on poverty; specifically noting that we live in two Americas, one rich (those who get paid $50,000 for a half-hour speech) and one poor (those who have to take out a long-term loan to pay for their college textbooks — and whose college payments paid for Mr. Edwards’ $50,000 speaking fee).
Also, and now famously, there is Al Gore: the energy-gobbling, carbon-emitting, endomorphic carbon-based life form who morally condemns all who gobble energy and emit carbon.
Not to be outdone, the last few years have seen rock-ribbed conservative Republicans calling for limited government and balanced budgets — while spending the country into bankruptcy at the urgings of their friendly former staffer/lobbyists who funneled money to their re-election campaigns.
Well, at least all these inconsistencies are understandable as the natural product of the universal human yearning to enrich oneself and feather one’s nest.
But there are other inconsistencies currently afoot in Washington which are a disgrace to man’s proud claim to be a reasoning beast.
Consider the current arguments about the immigration bill. For oh so long, the supporters of the bill have been making two points: 1) It is impossible for the U.S. government to actually identify and round up all the illegals in the country; and, 2) a fence on the border is bound to be ineffective as well as immoral. Indeed opponents of the fence have idiotically compared it to the Berlin Wall — although one protects a free country from illegal intrusion while the other kept enslaved people from escaping their slavery.
Now, suddenly, these same people claim that the same previously nitwit bureaucracy will not only be able to find all 12 million (or 20 million) illegals, but will be able to flawlessly run background checks, and to positively identify each individual as well as monitor all American businesses to make sure no new illegals are being hired and the newly legal are in perfect compliance with their limited status. Oh yes, and they also will be able to test all 12 million to assure us they can all speak the queen’s English at least as well as does William F. Buckley Jr.
Also, suddenly, they have lost all their moral outrage about the fence: “You want a morally offensive fence, no problem, you got a fence. What, me worry about moral consistency?”
Of course, it has to be pointed out that those of us who have called for strict enforcement of existing law are now putting forward the argument that the bureaucracy that we used to think could protect the country if only the federal government would let them do their job, now insist that there is no way our federal bureaucrats could possibly enforce the proposed new law.
Regarding the fence, the supporters of the new immigration law, are, with the exception of the president and Sen. John McCain, mostly people who oppose the surge in Iraq. Yet, while they require that the Iraqi surge have specific performance measures to justify continued funding (e.g., perfectly functioning Iraqi government, no more violence, etc.), they are perfectly happy to measure the success of the new proposed Mexican border fence by inputs — rather than results.
That is, once the 5,000 new border agents and the new fences are in place, they will deem the border secure, thus triggering the Great Amnesty of 2007-08. They would hardly apply that logic to Iraq. If they did, they would have to deem Iraq a success as soon as the five new surge battalions are equipped and deployed to Iraq. (Obviously, they don’t care whether the border fence works or not—they just want the amnesty — and the voters that follow. And they don’t want success in Iraq, so they will tightly define success with performance criteria that would measure WWII an utter failure.)
We Americans famously lack historical memory. This has its advantages, as we don’t get tied down by historic enmities too well remembered — but rather we think about how to shape and adapt to the future. But it would be nice if we could remember the arguments the politicians and commentators made only last Thursday. Just a little intellectual accountability might yield a more considered and rational policy-making process. Silly me.