National Review Editor Discusses "Rubio's Folly" on Morning Joe

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on May 3, 2013

This morning's "Morning Joe" program featured a discussion of "Rubio's Folly", the National Review cover story written by CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian. Host Mika Brzezinski launched the conversation — which included National Review editor Jay Nordlinger, Huffington Post correspondent Sam Stein, and Donny Deutsch, by reading this excerpt from the article:

Conservatives looked hopefully to Rubio as their representative on the Gang of Eight, someone who would make sure its plan didn't turn out to be a call for de facto open borders. Early on, Rubio may well have seen that as his role. But he is now much less the conservative ambassador to the Gang of Eight than the gang's ambassador to conservatives.

NORDLINGER:National Review

is against this bill. We want immigration reform, but this is a great big bill with a lot in it and too many loopholes, we think. It's 800 and some pages. And we think this is bad policy for the country. The politics may be something else. ... We at our magazine are big, big fans of Marco Rubio. I think we helped him get elected down in Florida. But we think he's in error on this. And I have a feeling he might be a little bit nervous about it as well. He said the other day that the bill would struggle to get through even the Senate and that the bill as currently written would not get through the House. I imagine he knows. I imagine that's right.

DEUTSCH: What's wrong with the bill?

NORDLINGER: Well, it seems like amnesty with a promise of enforcement, law enforcement. And we've had this before. We have the experience of the 1986 bill, Simpson-Mazzoli as we used to know it. And so some of us feel a little bit like the famous Charlie Brown cliche having to do with Lucy and the football. We've seen this before. We don't want to get suckered again. And a lot of us think that it would be better to do the border enforcement and other law enforcement provisions first — things that both parties can concert on, get a handle on it, and then discuss some sort of generous amnesty. I'm for the enforcement first and the amnesty second. And I'm afraid this is the other way around.

But this is a very difficult issue for conservatives and, I think, everyone. Because there are all these — I would say competing American values. On the one hand there's generosity, inclusion, hospitality, a nation of immigrants, Emma Lazarus and "The New Colossus". I remember Alan Simpson … . During the first amnesty, he'd say, "No fair quoting the Statue of Liberty". … But yet, there is a certain romanticism in America about immigration. I have this romanticism myself, although I think I've been sobered over the years. And on the other hand, there's the issue of the rule of law. What do you do about a welfare state coupled with mass immigration? What about the issue of assimilation?

BRZEZINKSI: [Reads from Rubio's op-ed on the Wall Street Journal, in which Rubio says he was open to changing the bill and added] But defeating it, without offering an alternative cannot be the conservative position on immigration reform. That would leave the issue entirely in the hands of President Obama and leave in place the disastrous status quo."

Does he have a point, Jay?"

NORDLINGER: Oh, yes. Of course. There has to be something. I think there are parts of this gigantic bill that can be taken and worked on. There are portions that a lot of people agree on. If E-Verify, for example, is a good thing, let's have it. If visa tracking is a good thing, why not? Securing the Mexican border, why not? These are things we could have had years ago. But this is a so called comprehensive bill and includes what a lot of us regard as amnesty first. And we've been down this path before and we think we have to learn from experience.

STEIN: From the vantage point of a Democrat, what you're saying is absurd. … [The border] is more secure now than maybe at any time in our history. There's been countless resources poured into it. … We just had an election, and this was litigated very much during the election. I think the results are pretty obvious and clear. The voters, including Hispanic voters by a large margin, supported this. And they continue to support it in public opinion polls. … Haven't we had a referendum on whether to do a comprehensive package vs. a piecemeal approach?

NORDLINGER: I don't think all 867 pages were voted on. The American people have all sorts of views, and polls tell you different things. … I think everybody wants some kind of immigration solution. There's a sense, there's an attitude, and I have some of it myself: let's just get this done. It's a long-standing and festering problem. Let's just do something. Get it off our plate. Let's just call immigration done. That is a very strong temptation, but I think it should be resisted. … You remember what Nancy Pelosi said about the health care bill — we have to pass it in order to know what's in it. Well, there's a lot in this bill, and I think the thing should be done judiciously and people ought to know what's in it. And what we who are journalists care about and, I suppose, most people care about is: what's best for the country, not what's best electorally for a particular party. If the Republicans are wrong, according to popular opinion, they'll pay for it.

DEUTSCH: They have.

NORDLINGER: Well, there you go. But that remains to be seen. I'm not so sure that's so.