The Free Exchange (15-005)

The Free Exchange features your comments on my articles. In this series, I respond to some of your comments in an effort to clarify or correct my own statements, and expand debate on political topics. I welcome your comments (positive or negative, but preferably clean) here, on Twitter, on Facebook or via email. Thanks for reading and participating.


Loretta Lynch is a Hostage. Who are Her Captors?

Black and Red Fan says:

Excellent piece. I love it as usual. However I have a more angering and disgusted reaction than you. That’s not to say you aren’t disgusted, but your piece here is civilized, well reasoned, and absolutely true. But you are your usual calm and reasonable self which is what I may be in court. But as a normal human, I find these tactics to be thug-like and completely lowlife.

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for such lies and foul behavior. I find myself getting more angry, toxic, and having a more in-your-face and visceral reaction. No more of this gentlemen response anymore. I just want to call it what it is, the absolute, unfiltered truth: a despicable, disgusting, lowlife, thug-like, desperate, pathetic, dishonorable, malicious, intentional lie.

I find the these people like Durbin, Howard Dean and Michael Moore, to be loathsome and morally equivalent to many of the criminal I prosecute and place into prison. I am not saying they should be thrown in jail. But the mentality and personality of them are identical to those that I prosecute. And so morally, they are on the same ground. I can go on, but I am sure you see my point. Thanks for being the reasonable and persuasive gentleman.

J Hunter:

I would share your outrage more on this item if I weren’t happy with what the Republicans are doing. This episode feels like the beginning of sweet revenge to me. We got shut out of stopping Obamacare when it passed because we lost a momentous election. Now, we shut them out and make things right. If Democrats want Lynch confirmed, and they do, then they need to recognize that elections have consequences and give us what we want–protection of the unborn, protection from a government forcing us to pay for killing babies.

Their political tactics are pathetic. I don’t think they’re working. Race relations have gotten worse since the Obama presidency. The Democrats are clearly dividing the country up along racial lines every time they cry wolf and play race games. My sense is that people are pretty tired of it. More importantly, I don’t think anyone will remember the Loretta Lynch confirmation battle, except Democrat politicians.

This is good. This is how Congress balances power. I think that if Ruth Bader Ginsburg were to retire today, we shouldn’t fill the position until after the 2016 elections. Let’s have the fight.

Thank you!


The Complexities of Identity Politics

Black and Red Fan writes:

Maybe you have done this, but have you written about illegal immigration in one of your prior Black & Red essays? I have a faint memory of something you did but maybe I’m getting something confused with perhaps one of our many conversations? I would to hear you expand on this importance of having the right tone with specific examples what has not been said well by Republicans/conservatives & what has been said well.

One of my favorite Republican and my secret wave-my-magic-wand-to-make-president person is actually Susana Martinez. As you know, she gave the BEST speech I’ve ever heard in terms of an introduction. She is a Mexican American and has some great views on this subject that I’ve read. I wonder if you think how she’s handled this issue is one of the good examples that you’ve seen? Curious to hear your thoughts.

J Hunter:

I wrote a little bit about illegal immigration, and my own opinion on the matter has changed over the years–starting with the push for comprehensive immigration reform under George W. Bush. I learned from a lot of the mistakes I made during that time, and I hope that Republicans will continue learning from some of those same mistakes.

First, Republicans took a stand on principle that we didn’t balance with a concern for people. (This is a problem that plagues us still.) During the Bush immigration push, the loudest voices said that anything less than crippling businesses that hired illegals, deporting all illegals once found, and erecting a near-impenetrable wall along the Southern border equaled amnesty. For starters, I define the “loudest voices” as those I was reading at the time, many of whom I don’t anymore: Michelle Malkin, Thomas Sowell, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Pat Buchanan, Sean Hannity, etc. (I still read Sowell.)

From these highly visible parts of the conservative movement, there was a stiff resistance to any new legislation on immigration. The cry was “Enforce the laws we have on the books!” These conversations were usually accompanied by self-righteous stories about European ancestors who “legally” immigrated to the U.S., learned English and happily assimilated into American culture. These narratives created an unfortunate image of illegal immigrants as “the criminal brown masses.” We saw images of illegal immigrant groups marching with Mexican flags making demands upon us. I went to town hall meetings where speakers would argue that these demonstrations could never occur in the countries the immigrants came from. In Mexico, I heard, immigrants can’t buy land. Simple things can land you in prison, and Mexican prisons are Draconian compared to ours.

What gets lost in this heated, passionate rhetoric is a concern for people and a positive appeal to our ideals and to facts.

In the first place, typically, those who call for us to abandon an immigration fix and simply “enforce the law” tend not to know what the law actually says. Often, these are the folks who view being in the country illegally as a serious crime when our criminal justice system treats it as an infraction. Talking to people who emigrated from countries like Haiti, Belize, Mexico and Honduras, we discover that our immigration laws need updating and we could do more to expand opportunity for businesses who rely on immigrant labor and the immigrants who want to work here.

Referring to efforts that call on illegal immigrants to come forward, pay a fine, pay back taxes and wait to earn legal status (not citizenship, but legal status) as amnesty is dishonest and unhelpful. That doesn’t stop Drudge Report headlines from accusing politicians who try to seriously address immigration as “pushing amnesty,” or “caving on amnesty.” Amnesty is allowing people to break the law without penalty. Fines, back taxes and a longer wait time to earn legal status is an appropriate punishment for people who have immigrated here illegally, and by definition, is not amnesty. The word “amnesty” has become a four-letter word among our brothers and sisters on the right akin to “racist” among people on the left. It’s meant to shut down debate, chill speech, and shame dissenters from an untenable idea of shipping 12 million people back to their countries of origin.

Shipping people back home, breaking up families, or sending children to countries that they never knew because their parents risked their lives to give their family what they couldn’t in the home country is absurd. It’s also impractical. How do we find the 12 million? Where will they be detained while awaiting trial? How do we afford ferreting them out, detaining them, trying them and sending them from the country? What impact does this have on businesses?

We know that our immigration courts are overrun with cases that don’t receive the attention they deserve. There are fewer judges adjudicating an increasing number of cases and the result has largely been arbitrarily expelling people (sometimes to a country they never knew). This kind of policy punishes everyone in exactly the wrong way: businesses lose good employees, families are split up, and the rule of law is undermined by arbitrary enforcement.

A comprehensive immigration plan is exactly what’s needed. Fighting comprehensive immigration reform is defending the status quo. The status quo allows illegal immigrants to live and work in the U.S. without penalty. The status quo is amnesty.

The Republican tone needs tweaking. We are the party of freedom and upward mobility. Therefore, we should not stand in the way of people who want to come here to attain freedom and opportunity.

We’re also the party that believes in principle and the rule of law. We understand that allowing illegal immigration undermines our laws, is unfair to legal immigrants, and patronizes coyotes and thugs.

Seeing how important it is for the GOP to “care for people like me,” we need to take Arthur Brooks’ advice and stop fighting for things (abstractions) and start fighting for people.

For starters, we might want to consider referring to illegal immigrants as undocumented workers. This is something the left has done that is very effective. The term illegal immigrant boils a person’s identity down to a negative act. It doesn’t invite them to come forward in contrition. It negates the fact that most of the people who come here illegally are generally law abiding. They have to be for fear of deportation. Most of the people who come here illegally work. They can’t receive government assistance. A conservative objection would be that illegal immigrant is accurate, whereas undocumented worker assumes they are all working when they are not all working. This is true, but is a rhetorical point that makes little difference in the grand scheme of things. We could refer to illegal immigrants as unrepentant sinners–that would be accurate, but unhelpful. It wouldn’t show our concern for people. Even if undocumented worker rubs us the wrong way, we must come up with a phraseology better than illegal immigrant.

We must stop demonizing efforts at reforming our immigration system. That means reserving the word amnesty for true amnesty. That means understanding the differences between legal status and citizenship. That means understanding that our system needs reform.

We should remember that illegal immigrants are people who like us. They want to be part of us. They may have gone through more hell to be here than we have ever experienced. Our rhetoric should reflect that.

One of the many reasons I am proud to be a Republican is because I believe the GOP is the serious party. We take on real issues: our complicated tax code, Islamic radicalism, entitlement reform, school choice, human life, immigration. The Democrats don’t. As the “adults,” I think it’d be best if we were the ones shaping immigration policy. We’ll lose that chance if we give the impression that electing us means implementation of harsh policies. Our ideas are right. We simply must speak to people as people and not as abstractions.

This answer may be a bit to wade through. I hope I’ve been clear. If not, please ask any question you have or challenge any assertion I’ve made. I love talking about this. I know you do too.

Thank you for your comment.


Colin Powell and the “Dark Vein” of Intolerance

Black and Red Fan says:

Sorry I haven’t checked your blog in a while, holy cow look at these articles! I feel like Christmas and I’ll catch up to all the articles soon. I have some questions regarding the Powell comments.

I see what you are saying and agree with everything you wrote. It’s important what you have said here and I wish there was a greater dialogue about this subject on a national level within the GOP. I particularly love all the things you said about how the GOP doesn’t reach out and just write off blacks. I agree; of course our values with resonate with blacks. And over time, such planting of the “seeds of truth” in their minds will be invaluable. I loved what you said about this.

I also hear you in terms of not purging or being intolerant of internal GOP criticism. It sounds like Powell is no longer part of the Republican Party and supports the Democratic Obama. But I see your point about taking what he says seriously and substantively and not just writing him off. This is a significant point.

My only question is whether what you say about seeing the “strands” of racism in the Republican Party and not disagreeing with Powell’s statements is true regarding the Democratic Party. I am guessing that your answer is yes. Since racism was such a part of our history and we are a flawed people, such strands are still there in the GOP, I would think that such strands are there in the Democratic Party as well.

In other words, the silent, unspoken, powerful implication is that the GOP has these sinister sounding “dark veins” of racism but the Democrats do not; that the GOP was founded and filled with racism all this time but there is nothing like that said about the Democrats. And so the silent implication is that the GOP doesn’t care about blacks and that minorities and others who doesn’t tolerate racism should support the Democrats and not the Republicans.

This implied, undercurrent of a narrative is what I have a problem with. Yes Powell may be technically correct in his statements. But it just serves their entire demonizing and smear campaign of us being racists to get black votes. I am sure you find these tactics as disgusting and thug-like as I do. And since Powell stands with the left on voter ID laws, sticking with Obama & Biden through a second term, being pro-choice, being pro same-sex marriage, repealing the don’t ask, don’t tell policy, and being in favor of gun control to some large extent, I just figured he is more comfortable being a liberal and feel more at home in the Democratic Party. I would expect him to continue to endorse Democratic candidates from now on. And as part of being a good Democrat, he seems to have gotten on board the Democratic strategy of smearing GOP with the racist claims.

That’s my thought and I would love to hear your thoughts on the next Free Exchange. Thanks for your thoughtful comments and I’ll be reading through and commenting on the other articles past the Hillary one. Talk to you soon.

J Hunter:

Thank you for the comment. I couldn’t agree with you more. The question George Stephanopoulos asked Colin Powell pertained to the GOP. Stephanopoulos, a former Democratic political advisor, wouldn’t ask those kinds of questions about the DNC. The fault lies primarily with the host (who would defend himself by saying that he simply asked Powell about his own former statements). I agree with you, though, that the implication is the tired, old line that Republicans are racist and Democrats aren’t.

I believe that the irony is that the Democrat Party is far more racist than the Republican Party. Democrats take blacks for granted and only talk to them about racism, as if blacks don’t care about education, immigration, defense and social issues. Democrat support for abortion is support for the killing of millions of black and brown babies. Talk to any liberal about this and they argue, essentially, that a baby born into poverty is better off dead. The left’s argument that loosening marijuana laws will improve black lives by reducing black involvement with law enforcement assumes that blacks cannot be expected to follow laws like whites–that black criminality should be met with acquiescence because blacks just can’t help themselves. It’s disgusting. It’s sickeningly racist to the point of moving me emotionally.

Indeed, Democrat policies are rife with racism and I actually don’t think they know it (I don’t want to believe they do). While I was growing up, my father used to always say, “Pigs don’t know pigs stink.” Referring to political opponents as pigs is something Harry Reid did, so I want to avoid that by rephrasing the axiom in the way my older brother used to say it: “The ass can’t see its own ears.”

As for Mr. Powell, I think of him as a Republican, still. He self-identifies as Republican even as he probably doesn’t call himself a conservative. He probably thinks of himself as a moderate, and moderates (though wrong) should be tolerated in our Party. There were many Republicans who voted for Barack Obama in 2008. There were some who voted for him in 2012. I see our challenge as making a place for these people in the Party. Educating them, but not running them off.


I thank you for your readership and for your insightful comments as always. I ask that you follow me on Twitter, support me on Facebook, and continue to visit Black and Red for more political commentary. The podcast is coming together (slowly, but surely).

4 comments

  1. Thanks for your comments as usual! I’m glad you and I could at least connect and keep in touch through this means. Now if only we can do so on a more personal level; we will have to work on that.

    In terms of the Loretta Lynch subject: I am looking at the despicable lies by themselves since they are separate issues than whether the Republicans should move to confirm her now etc. On that issue, I’m agnostic. We may differ here but my philosophy is that even though we control the Senate, since they won the executive branch they have the right to appoint whoever they would like to such a cabinet position such as the AG. As long as the person is qualified and competent, I think it is the mature thing to just confirm Ms. Lynch. Of course we’re not going to like her views and all that, but the way solve that is to have won the presidential election back in 2012.

    My reaction was only t look at their race-baiting tactics alone which it deserves. I don’t think this should be related to whether we should confirm her or not. I feel the same way with Supreme Court nominees. And so I don’t really care what the Republicans are doing or how impotent the GOP’s response is. That’s a separate topic to me. What do you think? I would love to hear whether you separate such subjects or not. Thanks. I’ll be commenting on the other pieces you wrote in a separate comment.

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  2. I just finished reading your comments on illegal immigration. I love it. This is the most clear and most organized groups of words on this topic that I have read. It makes total sense to me. Your words reflect Prager’s view who said that illegal immigration is not an immoral act, only a technical violation of the law. I agree with that completely. I actually supported the President George W. Bush/Edward Kennedy comprehensive immigration bill back in 2007. I was sad that it did not pass thanks to the Republican Party. I think what you said here is exactly what the GOP needs to do.

    One interesting aspect of this is whether our viewpoint on this would be considered leftist or liberal or moderate conservative. I ask this because I don’t know about your experience, but this is the one issue where I’ve heard fellow conservatives be surprised that I have this “soft” view. Since they know me to advocate staunch and strong conservative viewpoints on just about every issue, they figured that I must have some liberal viewpoint on some issue and they think this is it. Frankly I don’t care. I don’t take a position on an issue because it is conservative. I follow the Bible and think out the issue and the conclusion I arrive at just all happen to be conservative viewpoints. I guess this is the one possible exception. Again it doesn’t matter in terms of the substance of this issue (which I agree with 100% of what you wrote) but just on a political theory nerd intellectual perspective, I wondered where we would fall on this issue. Thanks and I look forward to your comments if any.

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  3. Thanks for your additional comments on the Powell piece. I think you covered everything. Another great conversation that I’ll be keeping for my own website.

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