The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

A new sign of the apocalypse

April 27, 2006

The Washington Post:

The Senate voted this afternoon to cut some of the money President Bush has requested for the Iraq war and use it instead to increase border patrols against illegal immigrants and buy new boats and helicopters for the Coast Guard.

Who voted for it?

Mr. Gregg angrily rejected as “pure poppycock” any suggestion that his measure would deprive front-line troops in Iraq and Afghanistan of what they need. Fifty-two Republicans and seven Democrats voted for Mr. Gregg’s measure. Three Republicans voted against it.

The Democratic proposal, which failed:

Another measure, to add the border-security money but not subtract from the Pentagon, failed by 54 to 44. It was offered by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic minority leader.

Bush is really in trouble when his own party votes to decrease funding for ongoing military operations overseas. I guess they can say they “were for the funding before they were against it,” eh?

More interesting are the continuing efforts to force Bush to “clarify” his stance on immigration.

Mr. Reid, a regular critic of Mr. Bush, praised the president for bringing the two sides together and said, “Senator Frist and I have to work out a way to handle the procedural quagmire that the Senate is, and we’re going to try to do that.”

Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, one of about a dozen senators at the meeting, said the session was significant because Mr. Bush seemed to be talking about “not automatic citizenship but the path to citizenship,” though Mr. Boehner said that he had no stomach for such a provision and that he hoped Mr. Bush would ultimately not support the Senate bill.

Though senators from both parties said afterward that Mr. Bush seemed to support the bill in principle, they said he did not flat out endorse it.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in an interview that Mr. Bush would have to take a more forceful stand to clear up any ambiguity, but White House officials have said that he is trying to stay away from endorsing any one piece of legislation so he can help broker compromise with the House, which is pushing a bill focusing only on enforcement.

Bush’s own ambiguity suggests that immigration may be a wedge issue — for the Democrats. We’ll have to see, but as long as he doesn’t take a clear stand he seems to be pissing off both Hispanic voters and nativists. It wasn’t that long ago when calculated ambiguity helped Bush rather than hurt him. I suspect those days may be long over for The Decider.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.