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I remember the sort of helpless feeling many of us had in those days of conservative ascendancy. The early 1970s were a sort of tug of war between despair and retrenchment. Endless conflict in Vietnam, a rollback of Civil Rights, the disrespect for individual rights.
It wasn't that we hadn't felt the rumblings.
We had all heard of the Watergate break-ins. Low level operatives of the Republican campaign had gone renegade and, unknown to managers, had burglarized the offices of the Democratic National Committee. Another burglary was less well known. Someone had broken into the offices of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist.
But very few of us thought any of that would lead to anyone who worked in the White House. That President Nixon would have been directing it - breaking and entering or covering up or anything else - was unthinkable to those of us who imagined ourselves on the sane side of the lunar orbit.
The degree of certainty that was required to imagine President Nixon as a guilty party was higher than the clouds. The sky eventually got closer as evidence became hard to avoid.
But only when tapes were discovered, when the President himself could be heard directly ordering crimes, did the dominoes fall. Some orders were carried out: break-ins, cover ups. Some of the President's orders were received but were never actually acted upon. The Brookings Institution, for example, was never actually firebombed as President Nixon had directed.
As astonished lawmakers listened for themselves, conservatives eventually led the way. President Nixon became former President Nixon.
Here in Missouri, young dynamic Governor Kit Bond and his crusty old Lieutenant Governor Bill Phelps, both Republicans, had yet another falling out.
Kit Bond was part of the new Republican generation, open minded, pro-civil rights. He supported the Equal Rights Amendment for women. He rooted out old discriminatory laws. He led education reform involving parent participation.
Bill Phelps was older, crusty, and suspicious of anything newer than the Hoover Dam.
The split on Nixon was a surprise. Crusty old Bill Phelps demanded the President resign. Now! Young Kit Bond defended Nixon to the bitter end.
Two decades later, impeachment didn't work so well for opponents of President Bill Clinton. In 1998, Republicans became the first opposition party in 176 years to lose congressional seats.
At least they had a modicum of legality to hang themselves on. President Clinton had lied in a legal deposition. He was told to give the identities, for the record, of all women with whom he had a romantic contact while in public office.
As I saw it, he should have suggested the interrogator perform an anatomical improbability. Instead of refusing to answer such a question, he lied on the record. That was then.
Today, the attitude of the Republican base toward President Obama is transparent. The polite fiction is that he is opposed for policy reasons. In fact the evidence supports a different conclusion. From the top down and from the base up, the record is one of motivations that are far less pristine.
For many of us, the election of our first black President was a healthy repudiation of the most shameful parts of our history. It seemed like evidence the page had turned to a new chapter.
But, from the beginning, that was not a universal view. There are many, too many for comfort, who regarded Obama as someone who simply did not belong, as a usurper, an outsider, an alien, as some sort of horrible accident.
The most visible part of that opposition comes from an incautious Republican membership. Racist signs at protests are not an aberration. They are a fact of conservative life. They are part of the Republican foundation - the base.
And the view from that base seems to mirror the view from the top. The idea that opposition to the President is a natural result of some flaw in his own policy or personality is counter to documented evidence.
On the very night of President Obama's first inauguration, a group of top Republican lawmakers and strategists met. The country was in peril, teetering on the edge of a mammoth economic depression rivaling that of Herbert Hoover.
Hours into the new presidency, the conservative group decided to bring Obama down, no matter what it took. They determined they would obstruct, in every way possible, anything and everything the new President would ever, could ever, propose. It did not matter what, they would oppose it.
The newest mantra from the base is coming slowly to the surface of public discussion in Republican circles. This time, impeachment needs nothing more than a vague sense that something is wrong. There are no specifics. But the feeling is strong that all of the debunked scandals must still contain something of substance: Benghazi, the IRS, Obamacare, the economic bailout, something has to provide grounds for removal from office. The impostor must be turned out.
The case for impeachment, when it is attempted, will follow a familiar pattern:
President Obama is guilty.
The only decision left is: Guilty exactly of what?
From the Wall Street Journal:
Staples Inc. made the State of New York quite a promise: Buy your office supplies from us, and we'll sell you a bunch of things for a penny apiece. This unleashed a rush on the retailer as government offices and qualifying organizations across the state gobbled up the one-cent items.
A Brooklyn charity benefiting disabled people ordered 240,000 boxes of facial tissue and 48,000 rolls of paper towels, according to documents obtained in a public-records request. Rome, N.Y., wanted 100,000 CD-Rs. A State Department of Motor Vehicles office ordered 8,000 rolls of packaging tape.
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Paul Ryan, Immigration, Full stomachs and empty souls
Click for Radio Podcast: Immigration ‑ Demonstrations of Empty Souls (6:05)
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She once met a young boy from a very poor family. And every day at school he would get a free lunch from a government program.
He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown paper bag, just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him.
This is what the left does not understand.
- Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), March 6, 2014
The story was a reminder that compassionate conservatism was alive and well. And it illustrated the fatal flaw of those of us who do not recognize the virtues of conservatism. We know the value of material things, but not the value of love.
Representative Ryan had heard the story of the unloved child from a member of the cabinet of Governor Scott Walker, also Republican, also from Wisconsin. Eloise Anderson is the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. She had testified a few months before, telling Paul Ryan's committee of her own experience, meeting with the youngster.
You know, a little boy told me once that what was important to him is that he didn't want school lunch, he wanted a brown bag because the brown bag that he brought with his lunch in it meant that his mom cared about him.
- Eloise Anderson, Testimony before House Budget Committee, July 31, 2013
In fact, the little boy who hated federal supplemental nutrition programs because they lacked love was a little boy who did not exist. At least he had never spoken with Secretary Anderson.
The story had been taken from a book by Laura Schroff. She had met the little boy as he had been begging on the street for lunch money. That was 28 years ago. The youngster is now in his mid thirties. They appeared together on the today show:
He said if you make me lunch would you put it in a brown paper bag. And so I said, do you want it in a brown paper bag? He said, I don't want your money, I want my lunch in a brown paper bag. Because when kids come to school, and they have their lunch in a brown paper bag, that means somebody cares about them.
- Laura Schroff, on Today Show, December 24, 2012
The now grown man described his primary thought as he first met Laura Schroff.
To this day I can still feel the pain of my stomach hurting from not eating for two days. And God sent me an angel.
- Maurice Mazyck, on Today Show, December 24, 2012
The controversy began soon after Paul Ryan gave his speech about how conservatives have an understanding of love that others simply do not share. Representative Paul Ryan issued a clarification. He said did not know the story was false. Governor Scott Walker had no idea. A spokesperson for the department led by Eloise Anderson, who gave the false testimony, said she had simply misspoken. "...a little boy told me once" should have been "Once I heard someone say".
The point Representative Ryan had been making does survive the controversy. Conservatives understood that the health of the soul is more important than a full stomach. The story was simply an illustration of that point.
What they're offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul.
- Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), March 6, 2014
I was thinking of that young man, now grown, as I heard about an emotional interview.
At the urging of the United States, Mexico has been intercepting youthful refugees fleeing the violence of Guatemala and Honduras. That interception has provided a unique opportunity for researchers to engage in a morbid study. What is the fate of kids turned back regardless of what they face as they return?
One researcher, Elizabeth Kennedy, followed 500 children who fled from El Salvador, were caught by Mexico, and then rapidly returned. Among those interviewed was a 12-year-old kid fleeing gang threats. He had an additional reason.
I'll just tell you the story of one 12 year old boy who came to us with no shoes because he had been robbed, he had been beaten. Everything had been taken from him. And I sat down next to him and I said, "Are you going to try again?"
And he just burst into tears. And he said, "What would you do if you were me? I haven't seen my mom and my dad in 10 years. I've got a little sister I've never met. And no one here loves me."
- Elizabeth Kennedy, interviewed by NPR, July 24, 2014
That "no one here loves me" brought to mind the contrast suggested by Paul Ryan between conservatives and everyone else.
As I have watched anti-immigrant demonstrators screaming at little kids in recent weeks, it occurrs to me that the contrast embraced by Paul Ryan is not appreciated by at least some conservatives. Statements from Tea Party leaders and supporters in Massachusetts were not untypical.
"The state can’t take care of the children in its own care, yet these immigrants are coming in and skipping the line."
"I just believe this state is giving away its money — our money."
"It’s not a matter of ‘not in my backyard,’ it’s a matter of they shouldn’t be coming here to begin with."
The protests signs held by those screaming at youngsters in Berks California were also representative:
"Berks does not want or need illegals"
"Illegals not welcome."
It is obvious that some conservatives already have what Representative Ryan spoke about so eloquently: a full stomach and an empty soul.
We all share the anger about the crimes, the murders, the victims. It is not in spite of that rage. I am against the death penalty because of that rage.
The Mississippi Tea Party telegraphs how the future of the Republican Party will play out.
Conservatives have been splicing videos to make opponents seem to say the opposite of what they actually say. Now they do it to each other.
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Tommy Christopher, at the Daily Banter, looks into political martial arts by the White House, involving a lawsuit vote, impeachment talk, and an unhappy Speaker of the House.
Conservative James Wigderson provides the briefest, and most complete of explanations for public interest in Michele Bachmann.
Michael Scott of Mad Mike's America seems sad but unsurprised as Pat Robertson tries speaking for all Christians, Jesus, and God. Robertson advises parents to throw out the young girlfriend of their son after he got her pregnant. Because discarding a sinner is what Jesus would do.
- Why do we have to do this, Sir? explains to his classroom how parables bring us to deeper spiritual wisdom.
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Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful -- like something any one of us might experience in our final moments.
- Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, U.S. 9th Circuit Court, July 21, 2014
Alex Kozinski is a conservative Reagan appointee with a penchant for controversial language. His statement was part of a dissent. Judge Kozinski wanted to put a legal hold on an execution. His fellow jurists on the 9th Circuit Court went the other way, refusing to review the death penalty decision of a lower court.
The sentence in the case has quickly become famous. It became the third botched execution in recent weeks. It was expected to last for ten minutes. But Joseph Wood struggled to breathe for an hour after lethal drugs were administered by the state of Arizona. The entire procedure took about two hours. Descriptions of the gasps and snorts are graphic. It must have been ghastly.
Joseph Wood is not an ideal poster child for abolition of capital punishment. Before committing murder, he was the classic abuser, habitually beating the girlfriend who provided financial support during his long periods of unemployment.
When she finally had enough and left him, going to live with her parents, he went into a stone cold rage. He showed up at the little auto shop where she worked for her father. He waited for the father to finish a telephone call, then smiled and shot him to death.
He walked through the shop until he found his estranged girl friend. As she pleaded for her life, he was heard explaining it all to her. "I told you I was going to do it, I have to kill you."
Then he pulled the trigger of the gun he had pressed against her chest.
Before the execution of Joseph Wood began, he turned and smiled at the family of the two victims. His final statement was that he had found Jesus. There was no apology for the family, but the murderer hoped they would all be forgiven.
The reaction of the family is understandable. In my heart, I do believe it would be close to my reaction if I ever found myself in their place. The brother-in-law of the young woman:
This man conducted a horrifying murder and you guys are going, "let's worry about the drugs." Why didn't they give him a bullet? Why didn't we give him Drano?
Other executions, botched or otherwise, have similar stories of brutal crimes. How can some sort of retribution be far from our thoughts?
The bloodless answer Mike Dukakis gave in 1988 may have cost him an election.
"Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?"
"No, I don’t, Bernard, and I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don’t see any evidence that it’s a deterrent and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime."
I think of a fictional account of a fictional President pondering whether to save a murderer slated for execution. He asks the survivor of a murder victim for his opinion. Your mother was killed in the line of duty, wasn't she? The young aide answers yes. Would you want her killer executed? The young man says no, he would not want the killer to be executed. The fictional Commander-in-Chief nods. Then the aide continues: I'd rather kill him myself.
My own journey on the issue has been a slow one. I was swayed by a crooked governor. 13 convicted murderers on death row were exonerated by evidence discovered after their very fair trials. During that time, another 12 inmates were actually executed. Governor George Ryan (R-IL) suspended all death penalties pending a careful study. He eventually commuted all death sentences in Illinois.
The idea of executing innocent people is, and ought to be horrifying. As the possibility went to plausibility, it was enough to convince me. I could not think of a way to execute the unmistakably guilty without eventually executing innocent people.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing for the Atlantic Monthly, presents the case of the youngest person executed in the United States, George Junius Stinney. In retrospect, it is clear he was railroaded. The fact that the kid was black carried the day in 1944. Two little white girls, whose bodies were later found, had spoken with the youngster and his sister shortly before they disappeared. That was enough.
Today we can say those days are behind us. In a sense we would be right, but only in the sense that all past is the past. We face new demonstrations of bigotry, some subtle, every day. As Coates puts it:
The "Hey Guys, Let's Not Be Racist" switch is really "Hey Guys, Let's Pretend We Aren't American" switch or a "Hey Guys, Let's Pretend We Aren't Human Beings" switch. The death penalty—like all state actions—exists within a context constructed by humans, not gods. Humans tend to have biases, and the systems we construct often reflect those biases.
The anger that reacts against injustice is often what impels us along the arc of the moral universe. It is part of what bends that arc toward justice. If not channeled, it becomes the violence itself.
So, yeah, if my family was victimized, I would want to kill those responsible. Personally. Slow, torturous death would not be a flaw, it would be a feature. I wouldn't want to be deterred by process, or by appeals, or by the microscopic possibility that I might have the wrong guy.
I would likely be the one who wants to pull the switch. I can see myself as the one who hopes the killer suffers at least as much as his victim. Two hours to die? Good.
The same would be true if a victim of murder was from a family down the street. The same might even be true if the family was in the same courtroom while I deliberated guilt or innocence.
That rage inside of me is a large part of why I have to be against the death penalty.
From the Dallas Observer:
As they've been doing on each third Saturday for months, advocates for the open carrying of firearms gathered -- semiautomatic weapons in tow -- at Dealey Plaza over the weekend. As usual the demonstrators, who call themselves Come and Take It Dallas, handed out literature and preened with their armaments of choice.
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Money from Haley Barbour went into a campaign to demonize and vilify you as a racist.
It goes to show that there are elements within our own party that have to be purged. There are elements within our own party that have no business being Republicans.
- Radio interview, July 18, 2014
The Mississippi food fight that was once a Republican primary has also become a crucible, a sort of lab experiment that provides insights about the inner workings of the ascendant Republican right.
The loser of the Republican primary for United States Senator is understandably upset. State Senator Chris McDaniel got more votes in the first round. He not only came out ahead. He was substantially ahead. But he fell a little short of a majority. There had to be a runoff.
No problem. Polls showed Republicans in Mississippi intended to elect Chris McDaniel by a substantial majority when a head-to-head vote was taken.
The victory was widely anticipated by the most conservative wing of a party that has no non-conservative wing. Incumbent US Senator Thad Cochran has been elected 6 times. He is one of the most conservative members of the Senate. Chris McDaniel and his supporters say Thad Cochran is not conservative enough.
State Senator McDaniel has had a history of statements, votes, and actions on race and slavery and women. He spoke before an enthusiastic audience at a neo-confederate event. He has earned his place to the far right of movement conservatism.
And he was about to give the far right a trophy by winning Mississippi.
Then, to the shock of Chris McDaniel supporters and the profound surprise of everyone else, Chris McDaniel lost.
McDaniel cried foul. Thad Cochran had won by campaigning in mostly black areas, asking black people to vote in the Republican primary.
National Republicans have been making a show of appealing to minorities in recent months. Their efforts have included showcasing black politicians who have forcefully reminded voters of Abraham Lincoln on the one hand, and racist Democrats of the past on the other. The awkward fact that those racists pretty much all migrated to the Republican party has been kind of put on the back burner.
Many of us felt that the minority effort was aimed more at white people of good will than at black people. The Cochran win has been awkward for the GOP. When it comes right down to it, the conservative wing of the most conservative party did have a point.
Their case of election fraud hinged on one argument. The national outreach effort is a polite fiction for polite company. In reality, meaningful numbers of black people would never, could never, be genuine Republicans.
To many of us, that seems to be a conclusion that needs little more than observation. How many C-PAC pro-slavery conference discussions do we need?
Racism, to conservatives, is primarily a rhetorical weapon. It is no more than an arrow in the quiver of the enemy. It is the perennial false charge, unfairly made against good, solid American people, many of whom have best friends who are black. It is a double edged sword, one to be turned against those liberals whenever the opportunity comes. After all, only racists play the race card, accusing good folks of racism.
The featured speaker at pro-confederacy conferences, rousing cheers from those longing for the good old days, lights up another leg on the path to the future. Accusations of racism are not only to be themselves condemned. Those using them are to be banished.
We who predict the eventual demise of the Republican party depend on the party continuing to shrink. Our argument hinges on the hardest of hard bitten conservatives driving out those who are insufficiently fervent. As less conservative conservatives leave and the party becomes smaller, it becomes even less tolerant. So those less hard than the hardest are encouraged to leave.
That is why the choice of words strikes a chord. Mississippi provides a glimpse into what will come.
"There are elements within our own party that have to be purged."
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Sheriff Claude Screws was more than a little ticked off at Bobby Hall. The reason is largely lost to history.
In those days, it didn't really matter. In Baker County, where Claude Screws was Sheriff for twenty years, even incidental disrespect toward any white man or woman by any black person was informally considered a capital offense.
As day turned to night on January 29, 1943, Sheriff Screws and two other officers of the law were drinking and talking. Most of the talk focused on Bobby Hall. The sheriff told the other two that he was going to get Hall. A bartender overheard the conversation and urged the three to leave Bobby Hall alone.
Instead, the three went to Bobby Hall's home and arrested him for stealing a tire. Evidence was later found that the arrest warrant did not exist on the night of the arrest. Hall was handcuffed and taken away. Before they arrived at the Baker County jail, the officers beat the handcuffed prisoner with their fists and with an eight inch solid bar blackjack. They beat him until he was dead.
They got off. Not unusual in those days.
Sheriff Screws ran for the State Senate in 1958 and won.
Shirley Sherrod, a cousin of Bobby Hall, was not yet alive when the killing occurred. She was born in 1948. She remembers hearing of the murder as a lynching. Conservatives have described her memory as a lie because no rope was actually used during the killing. It seems conservatives are capable of fine distinctions.
In 1965, Shirley Sherrod's father was murdered by a white farmer, shot in the back. She was a teenager by then. A white grand jury ruled the murder should not be pursued. A cross was burned on the family lawn.
In 1984, Shirley Sherrod was working for the US Department of Ariculture. She met a white farm couple who were being ... well ... pretty much screwed over by banks. She made peace with her feelings and fought hard. She helped that couple save their farm. She won on their behalf. She also won their friendship. The story was significant for her because she had to overcome her own resentments toward white people.
In 2010, she told her story to a rural Georgia chapter of the NAACP. They laughed with her as she described the mental convulsions of discovering that her own attitudes needed healing.
A noted conservative, Andrew Breitbart, posted on the internet a heavily edited, severely distorted video of her speech. His false version had her boasting of finally being able to deny help to a farm couple because they were white. The NAACP group was shown applauding, not because of her winning an inward struggle, but because she had used her position to hurt white people.
Fox News promoted the Breitbart story. Others picked it up. The national NAACP was fooled, and condemned her speech. The Department of Agriculture fired her.
Fortunately, the speech had been recorded by a member of the audience. The real and unedited version was eventually posted. The white farm couple appeared on television, angry that their friend, Shirley Sherrod had been smeared. The government apologized. The NAACP apologized.
Breitbart, before dying of a heart attack, went on to post heavily edited videos of others. A couple of University professors here in St. Louis lost their jobs. They were made to seem to say things they did not actually say.
Andrew Breitbart has gone to the Great Beyond. But breitbarting lives, having become a bit of a conservative art form.
CBO Director Doug Elmendorf is occasionally breitbarted by the Weekly Standard, the National Review, and others.
Self-proclaimed Christian historian David Barton even breitbarts the founding fathers, editing documents to mean the opposite of what they actually say.
Now the slice and dice video distortion technique is being used by conservatives on each other.
Conservatives hate taxes. If they say "No new taxes" then reluctantly agree that some taxes sometimes have to go up, they become clones of elder Bush being taken down by Pat Buchanan. Conservatives hate taxes like crazy, especially taxes on the job creators, which is to say the fabulously wealthy.
Here's what one conservative said, trying not to over-promise:
So everybody assumes that if you're going to hold spending - I'm not saying I'm going to cut spending, I'm saying I'm going to hold spending flat. So hey, if we employed everybody in the state government this year that we have with this spending, we can do it next year spending the same amount of money.
- Tom Foley, candidate for Governor of Connecticut, June 12, 2014
That strikes me as a silly promise, whether by a candidate for President or someone running for Governor. Inflation does go up. No business, household, or government can make such a promise.
But that's what he said. He promises to hold spending flat. Cutting spending is left up in the air.
Connecticut's Legislative Minority Leader, John McKinney, also wants to be the Republican candidate for governor. He wants it so bad, he does a little editing for a campaign ad. Here's what Tom Foley didn't really say.
I'm not going to cut spending.
- Tom Foley's words, edited for radio by John McKinney
Somewhere in the hereafter, at a location uncertain, Andrew Breitbart nods approvingly, wishing only that the distortion was directed at some liberal.
The Immigration crisis is about violence, strength, and character. What sort of country are we prepared to be?
Not oil. Not a daddy complex. Not profits. Not weapons of mass destruction. Here's the real reason we invaded Iraq.
Gun Safety - the Personal Amplifies the Principle (4:37) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Unregulated gun violence advocates will continue to win - until they don't.
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Vincent at A wayfarer's notes takes us on a journey of spiritual renewal as he watches, from his home, the rebuilding of an abandoned factory into residential dwellings. The photographs he includes are a guide through the process.
Michael Scott at Mad Mike's America is not only a friend, he is a mentor. He occasionally honors us by cross posting FU pieces at his site. In his analysis of Biblical literalism, he seems to conflate fundamentalism with all Christians.
That is, until he brings it all together with a few meaningful distinctions. Although he ends up sort of excusing many of us from his harsh analysis, I do believe he could have gone a little farther. It might be useful for those of us who worship to consider his "outside" views as a trumpet call of sorts. We should not, by omission, allow the intolerant to speak for us. We need to speak out for the vision we have embraced.
Tommy Christopher, at the Daily Banter provides an account of kids versus Republican special interests. I always have liked a fair fight. Of course, it helps that the kids and their parents also have the First Lady of the United States standing with them.
Rumproast brings an account of the advice Ms. Renee Ellmers gives to fellow Republicans. If you want to attract women to the GOP, you have to stop making things so complex. For one thing, Republican candidates must stop using facts, statistics, and especially charts. Keep the message simple enough for women to grasp and they'll calm down and follow wherever you want them to go.
Conservative James Wigderson likes the clash of ideas and ideologies in primary elections. He doesn't much care for the sneak hit piece attacks on fellow conservatives by a group called Media Trackers.
At Tim's Thoughtful Spot, Tim McGaha goes all eclectic on us, somehow combining a reenactment of the first moon landing, Tarzan, a pirate, an Islamic heavy metal band, and Weird Al. Tim manages to tie it all together.
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Watching the hordes of seemingly ordinary people screaming at busloads of little kids, it is a struggle to keep in mind that rumors, misinformation, and the ancient blessing/curse of fear can combine into a perfect storm. But the search for mitigating factors can only go so far before it overlaps into excuse mongering.
It is true that those swept into an ugly tsunami of emotion are not representative of the national ideal. The likelihood is they are not representative of citizens at large. We can hope.
And we do see counter demonstrations, people of good will showing up in a testimony by presence that hatred of the helpless does not represent the heart and soul of the nation.
There are occasional absurdities in the mix. A congressional candidate who organized one protest offers emotional personal sympathy for the kids he reluctantly opposes. He saw the fear in their faces as they rode by.
I was able to actually see some of the children in the buses and the fear on their faces. This is not compassion. When you have a rule of law and a secure border and citizenship and an immigration and naturalization process that works, you don't see this.
- Adam Kwasman (R-AZ), July 15, 2014
When told the kids were local school children on their way to a YMCA summer camp, he fumbles for a response. He is sure he saw facial fear. It must be because those local kids share the fears of adults at the waves of scary immigrant children.
Conservatives sense a political or ideological opportunity. The President is responsible, they reason. He supports a bi-partisan Dream Act that would offer a way to citizenship to those who were brought here as small kids, then raised here as Americans. The logic balloons into a case of false but completely predictable global rumor, a rumor with appeal to anyone in economic destitution. If you send your kids to America, they will become Americans.
Facts do tend to get lost in the shuffle. If the global rumor theory held true, other countries in Latin America with similar economic conditions would experience a similar exodus of kids on their way here. But only those few countries with a surge of violence and with corrupt or non-functional governments are increasing the flow.
Reporters backtrack some of the stories and verify. Rather than children fleeing from an unhealthy general environment, they discover specific, credible threats against individual kids. Parents who have already lost sons or daughters who were targeted and killed by gangs, react when their surviving children are then targeted.
The evidence so far does not fit economic motivation. As parents send their children on a potentially deadly journey with a strong possibility those children will not survive, it turns out to be less because of opportunity and more because of desperation. The possibility of death on the journey is outweighed by the near certainty of death at home.
A procedure advanced by a Republican administration, passed by Congress, then signed into law by President Bush, mandates investigation into immigrant claims of physical danger. The process is slowed by a shortage of legal staff and judges to hear cases. President Obama asks for millions to recruit and hire those needed to speed up the process. His request combines those millions with the billions Congressional conservatives have demanded to increase border security.
Congressional conservatives say no.
Demands to increase border security are themselves misplaced, at least in these circumstances. The arriving children are not caught by border agents. They seek out those agents and surrender. Increasing border security would be effective only if we want to give these children the opportunity to surrender multiple times.
The bottlenecks are in adjudicating claims of violent threats, and the need to feed and shelter those kids in a safe and humane environment.
Conservative arguments against following the law approach tragic-comedy. One Congressman who has visited the centers now holding children says he has a way of cutting through established procedures. You don't need complicated hearings and investigation to find out who should go and who should stay. The Congressman can pretty much tell by looking.
It’s very heart-wrenching as a father to see that — mothers with their babies. I also saw some 17-year-olds that I thought looked more like a threat to coming into the United States.
- Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman, House Homeland Security Committee, July 13, 2014
Other Republicans insist that they regard pretty much all of the influx of children as dangerous gang members.
We can hope the national character is not reflected by such proposals. The mobs and the public officials who react to them do say something about individual character.
Two conservative members of the United States Senate suggest the cheapest solution of all. Forget all those namby pamby procedures. Push aside any concerns about law and justice here, and the violence where the children grew up. Just put every little kid on a plane back where they came from.
If they are met on the tarmac by the same gang members they were running away from, well death is part of life, isn't it? If a few kids, some as young as 8, are killed, we should take the long view.
After all, life is filled with little trade offs.