End this stupid shut­down

Tampa Bay Times - - Opinion - Peggy Noo­nan, who was a pri­mary speech­writer and spe­cial as­sis­tant to Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for com­men­tary. This col­umn orig­i­nally ap­peared in the Wall Street Jour­nal and is reprinted with per­mis­sion.

After 20 years of ar­gu­ment we all kind of know ev­ery­thing about il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, don’t we? And in a funny way, most of us agree on the es­sen­tials.

Amer­ica is for le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, al­ways has been. It is against il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

Whether you see what’s hap­pen­ing on the bor­der as a gen­uine cri­sis or merely a man­u­fac­tured one, we agree there’s a prob­lem. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple a year are try­ing to en­ter Amer­ica il­le­gally. We need to make the sit­u­a­tion more se­cure and or­derly, less cruel.

Both sides agree the prob­lem has a hu­man­i­tar­ian di­men­sion. Democrats speak quickly of women and chil­dren be­ing di­vided and abused once they make it to the bor­der. This is a real prob­lem. Repub­li­cans speak of women and chil­dren be­ing abused on the way to it. That’s a prob­lem too. There’s a lot of suf­fer­ing go­ing on.

Both sides agree at least for­mally that a sov­er­eign na­tion has a right to have bor­ders, even a re­spon­si­bil­ity to have them. Bor­ders say here’s where our land stops and yours be­gins. They say this is where your laws per­tain, this is where ours do.

We are noth­ing with­out the rule of law. It is what al­lows Amer­ica to op­er­ate each day.

Al­most ev­ery­one would agree we have a right to de­ter­mine the rules by which le­gal en­try is at­tained. Most Amer­i­cans would agree it is de­sir­able to set those rules ac­cord­ing to the na­tion’s needs. Amer­ica is be­gin­ning to ex­pe­ri­ence a short­age of reg­is­tered nurses. Have you no­ticed? You will. Wouldn’t it be good to ad­dress the short­fall through im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, invit­ing nurses from other coun­tries to be­come le­gal res­i­dents and cit­i­zens? My peo­ple, from Ire­land, were wel­comed be­cause the dy­namic Amer­ica of 1900 needed la­bor­ers and do­mes­tic work­ers. That, luck­ily, is what my peo­ple were. Two gen­er­a­tions later I worked for an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent. What a mir­a­cle this place is. Let’s keep that up, the mir­a­cle part.

Those of us who are not politi­cians agree that nei­ther party has re­ally wanted to solve the prob­lem. Both played it for their own gain, cyn­i­cally, as if they weren’t even in­vested in this place. They should be ashamed.

It was not in the in­ter­ests of the Repub­li­can Party to ad­dress the bor­der prob­lem be­cause that might leave them open to charges they were driven by ques­tions of race and color. Also their ma­jor donors didn’t mind il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, which was good for busi­ness. It’s al­ways con­ve­nient when you see things the donors’ way! The af­flu­ent and pow­er­ful in Amer­ica en­joy feel­ing lib­eral and are un­in­ter­ested in how poor Amer­i­cans view chaos (as a threat — Amer­ica is all they have; they don’t have two pass­ports and a share on a plane) and jobs lost to cheaper la­bor.

Democrats never in­tended to con­trol the bor­der be­cause they think do­ing noth­ing marks them as the non­racist party, the com­pas­sion­ate, gen­er­ous party that His­pan­ics will see as home. They would reap the elec­toral re­wards in a de­mo­graph­i­cally chang­ing coun­try. They will own the fu­ture! Their big donors, too, op­posed bor­der strict­ness. They don’t think about se­cu­rity a lot, even after 9/11. I think it was Mur­ray Kemp­ton who said Repub­li­cans are al­ways hear­ing the creak of the door at night. It’s true. Democrats are less anx­ious about se­cu­rity. It’s fair to point out they tend to be more af­flu­ent and have the pro­tec­tions money can buy. Their fear­less­ness is not brav­ery but obliv­i­ous­ness. They off-load anx­i­ety onto Repub­li­cans, who are al­ways mys­te­ri­ously ea­ger to take it up.

I’ll throw in some­thing else I think we agree on. Gov­ern­ing by shut­down is ig­no­rant, cow­ardly and de­struc­tive. It is un­just to the in­no­cent, who are forced to deal with re­duced ser­vices, closed agen­cies and missed pay­checks. It’s dan­ger­ous: Some­thing bad will hap­pen with air se­cu­rity, food in­spec­tion — some­thing. It’s de­mor­al­iz­ing: It makes Amer­ica look in­com­pe­tent in the world, un­sta­ble, like an empty ad­ver­sary and in­ca­pable friend. It harms the demo­cratic spirit be­cause it so vividly tells Amer­i­cans — rubs their faces in it — that they’re pawns in a game as both par­ties pur­sue their self­ish ends.

And here is the part we won’t all agree on:

The pres­i­dent at the cen­ter of this drama is an un­se­ri­ous man. He is only episod­i­cally sin­cere and has no ob­serv­able tropism to­ward truth­ful­ness. He didn’t get a wall in two years with a Repub­li­can Con­gress and is now in a fix. He is han­dling him­self as he does, with blus­ter and ag­gres­sion, with­out sub­tlety or win­ning ways. He likes dis­or­der.

But the game didn’t start with Don­ald Trump. Two decades of cyn­i­cal, game-play­ing fail­ure pro­duced him.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer have been just as un­se­ri­ous. Brinkman­ship and in­sults — “mal­ice and mis­in­for­ma­tion,” “soap opera,” “tin­kle con­test,” “as if man­hood could ever be as­so­ci­ated with him.” They are play­ing to their new, ris­ing base and smirk­ing slyly as the bear ties him­self in knots. They de­manded time to re­but the pres­i­dent im­me­di­ately after his Oval Of­fice speech. By tra­di­tion the net­works of­fer re­sponse time after the State of the Union, not after ev­ery pres­i­den­tial ad­dress. This is be­cause of a cer­tain def­er­ence to the of­fice. You al­low a pres­i­dent — even if you hate him — to speak in the clear. He’s try­ing to lead; you let what he says set­tle in. Then the next day you for­mally hand him his head. If ev­ery pres­i­den­tial ad­dress is fol­lowed now by swift and fu­ri­ous re­but­tal, we’ll never achieve any rough unity again.

In the end, Mr. Schumer and Mrs. Pelosi’s speech was no more a suc­cess than the pres­i­dent’s: it broke no new ground, didn’t even try to per­suade. Trevor Noah caught the mood: They looked as if the host­ess at IHOP just told them there’s no se­nior dis­count.

Mr. Schumer and Mrs. Pelosi should stop. They should end the drama.

Who cares if it’s a wall, a fence, a bul­wark, a bar­rier, smart tech, in­creased per­son­nel? Get it done. Climb down. Make a deal.

Who cares how both sides spin the out­come, claim brag­ging rights, is­sue the clever­est taunt? Just solve it. It’s been 20 years.

They should trade bet­ter bor­der se­cu­rity for a deal that pro­tects the Dream­ers, who were brought here il­le­gally as chil­dren. This would ac­tu­ally be good for the coun­try. Not to be ir­rel­e­vant, just thought I’d note it.

All of Mr. Trump’s foes think they do what they do be­cause of him. Ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances de­mand ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sures. They be­come like him to fight him.

But some day Don­ald Trump will be gone. What will we have then? His tor­men­tors think we’ll go back to nor­mal. We won’t, in part be­cause of how they acted in op­po­si­tion. They think ev­ery­one will re­vert to cour­te­sies, but they will have killed the old ways.

Mr. Trump never had the power to lower ev­ery­thing. He had the power to lower him­self. Ev­ery­thing could be low­ered only if he and his sup­port­ers plus his op­po­nents de­cided “ev­ery­one into the pool.”

Stop this. It’s em­bar­rass­ing. And it’s wrong. Make a deal.

As­so­ci­ated Press

This im­mi­gra­tion game didn’t start with Don­ald Trump, or Mike Pence or Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer. Two decades of cyn­i­cal, game-play­ing fail­ure pro­duced this.

PEGGY NOO­NAN

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