Politicians Do It Comprehensively

By Mark Krikorian on August 19, 2009

Kathleen Parker's column today has a great paragraph that could apply to any number of policy areas:

"Comprehensive" may be the scariest word in the English language when it tumbles from the lips of a politician. Instead of trying to revamp every aspect of the *********** system, Congress should follow Mackey's lead and tackle a few fixable problems with consensus and support from Americans, who, though frustrated with the status quo, aren't quite ready to surrender self-determination.

Of course, instead of asterisks she had the word "health-care," but she identifies the problem with "comprehensive immigration reform," as well. Nothing Congress and the administration would come up with under that rubric would be good (in fact it would also require us to surrender our self-determination). Instead, they should "tackle a few fixable problems with consensus and support from Americans," like employment verification, Social Security no-match letters, and getting rid of the Visa Lottery.

But even the pro-amnesty crowd might be getting the message that a "comprehensive" approach isn't going anywhere. While I've heard advocates and administration officials categorically reject addressing amnesty in small pieces, they may be changing their minds; note this from the San Antonio paper:

Obama has said he's willing to move forward if the votes are there, said Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio. "It doesn't look like we have the votes, in all honesty." He said Congress might instead address reform "partially."

Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, agreed. However, he thinks the Senate will introduce a bill before year's end. . . .

But the congressman added that if a comprehensive bill isn't passed, "We'll try to do it piecemeal."

He cited the Dream Act, introduced in March, which would extend permanent residency to immigrant students who came to the United States as children and have graduated from high school.

The Dream Act is bad legislation, but even the unlikely of its passage would have a bright side — it would doom any broader amnesty because Blue Dogs and others would be able to brush off further demands for amnesty votes by saying they took one for the team and had no intention of talking about the issue again for a long time. I think that's why the pro-amnesty side has resisted, for years, the idea of a less-than-comprehensive approach to immigration, but maybe they now figure they don't have any choice.