Missed Opportunities

Wednesday, the day after the US Department of Justice announced its suit against the state of Arizona, politicians all across the state rose their press operations in protest.

It started with the more conservative crowd in TN-03, then the inevitable announcement from Ron Ramsey, and finally the surprise of the day Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee Mike McWherter, who released the following statement:

“I think the administration is wrong on this one. Arizona’s trying to get a handle on the immigration policy because of Washington’s total failure to deal with the real problem. Immigration has become another political football in Washington and this lawsuit only continues the game, rather than solve the problem. We need to control the border, crack down on businesses that employ illegal workers, and give businesses the tools to quickly and reliably verify a job applicant’s status.”

This means that every candidate for Governor in the race favors Arizona on this issue.

Or maybe not.

McWherter stopped short of saying he supported having a similar bill in Tennessee. Further, he didn’t place blame on the people who are illegally crossing, but the Federal Government, whose job it is to deal with immigration policy, and the employers who hire illegals.

This is an important distinction. Its one thing to say that the Federal Government has failed in its duty to protect the borders, but quite another to say that we should build a legal moat filled with alligators around the state.

That, however, was not the message that came across on a day that could have gone in so many other directions.

Reaction has been strong and relatively swift from the left side of the ‘sphere, starting with Aunt B and Braisted, followed by LWC and Southern Beale.

Then, yesterday the TNGOP released this little gem, which was both predictable and probably intended to distract from their other problems.

While the meat of McWherter’s statement isn’t really all that different from what he’s said before, by invoking Arizona at all he, at least gave many the impression that his position was indistinguishable from the three Republicans in the race.

The fact is, McWherter didn’t come out in support of the Arizona law, and hasn’t voiced any support for trying to enact such a law in Tennessee. McWherter said that the Feds were misdirecting their attention in the case of the lawsuit, that’s it.

But such nuance is lost in most cases, as Al Gore and John Kerry can attest. People rely on contrast to make decisions, and while McWherter’s statement is different, he effectively framed himself as supportive of the law and made himself indistinguishable from the Republican candidates in the minds of those precious few voters who are actually paying attention right now.

I understand that this is an emotional issue for many people in the state. I also understand that this issue probably polls very high among the electorate of the state. But folks, seriously, even the Republicans couldn’t figure out how to get a largely ceremonial joint resolution passed in the legislature on this issue. McWherter could have simply repeated his prior position without invoking Arizona, in doing so he would have remained consistent with previous statements, and not pissed off a bunch of people who already feel marginalized.

So that, in my mind is a missed opportunity, but it’s not the only one.

On that same day, reports of per diem abuses hit the news, as did the TNGOP FEC violations, and reports of questions about the citizenship of two Puerto Rican born children in Dyersburg. Talk about opportunities to offer distinctions!

I know these things are usually planned out far in advance, and that some of that news broke after the McWherter statement, but I wonder about the value of issuing such a statement in an echo chamber of seemingly similar statements from decidedly different political positions. It seems to me that on wedge issues such as this one, if McWherter wants to distinguish himself from the Republican field, he should give them the opportunity to beat the hell out of each other, then strike the final blows, at least until the Republican Primary is decided August 5th.

Hindsight is 20/20, I understand that, but in a melee such as this, the last man standing is the guy who throws the last punch. In this case, that may be the biggest missed opportunity of them all.

8 comments for “Missed Opportunities

  1. Leigh
    July 9, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Steve,
    Thank you for clarifying McWherter’s statement. My reaction was indeed more emotional than rational. I am just so disappointed in my choices for candidates at the state level. Bah!

  2. Shea Flinn
    July 9, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I dont get the hubbub, wouldn’t anyone running to head a state, be more for self determination of the state? (Important note: I have not followed the arizone law, and I will not get swept up by it, because I live in Memphis not phoenix, nuff said). But if the issue is state power versus federal power, again, wouldn’t anyone running for a state job, side with the states?

  3. July 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    The thing is this, McWherter is right.
    Sadly, so is Arizona in principal. I lived in AZ, people. That shit is so out of control you have to see it to believe it.

    The legislation that allowed cops to racially profile was way beyond reason, but there are certain behaviors that are associated with Illegal Immigrants and in AZ, those displaying those behaviors are almost always of Hispanic origin.
    Mexican drug cartels have invaded and hold US soil. That is a fact and it cannot be tolerated. Their insanity gets worse every day.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/23/us/23border.html

    The border has to be sealed and those illegals who have not established themselves as solid, well meaning citizens must be driven out.
    This should have been done long ago. Obama, Bush, Clinton etc…All are guilty of ignoring this crises for political reasons. We want Hispanic votes, they want exploitable labor. The States have no choice but to act in lieu of federal failure to handle the situation.
    If a given state legislature is infested with morons, like ours, the legislation will be severely flawed. If the Fed get’s it’s head out of it’s ass and comes up with sweeping immigration reform, we will see better times.

  4. Dave Cambron
    July 9, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    My only question is if any of us were stopped and asked to prove we were a citizen, how would you prove it? Who carries their birth certificate or their passport? Is a driver’s license sufficient proof?

    Our daughter was born in Colombia and becase a citizen when she was 2 or 3 months old. Her papers are locked in our safe deposit box. She does not have a green card and her birth certificate is from Colombia.

    She does have a welcome to the Uited States letter from Bush 1. Does that count?

  5. Scott Banbury
    July 10, 2010 at 11:56 am

    McWherter needs to put ME on his payroll 😉

  6. July 10, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Heh, I’m not sure they’re actually hiring. As for the hammocks, that sounds very relaxing.

  7. AuntEm
    July 11, 2010 at 10:31 am

    As for McWherter’s request that employers have access to a means to quickly verify eligibility status of new hires, there is one. It is available thru the Immigration & Citizenship website, and it is called E-verify. It is free to sign up. If, as an employer, you sign up for this program, you must check the validity of ALL social security numbers for ALL new hires. There is a provision in the Arizona law to go after employers also. I am not defending the AZ law, because it could very well be a vehicle for racial profiling. (Being a parent of an internationally adopted child, I am acutely aware of this.) However, there is a drug war going on in Mexico right now, and it is spilling over into border states. These drug mafias are paramilitary organizations, they are much better armed than local law enforcement, and they are staffed by people who have military training. They kill and kidnap with a cold professionalism. Border states need some weapons in their arsenal to fight incursions by these narco-terrorists, and that is why many Democrats are reluctant to object too strongly to this law. Quite franky, after reading the law, I am not sure it will provide adequate protection from these bad guys, but it makes people feel as if they are doing something. It is a complicated issue, and not one that lends itself to knee jerk reactions from either side of the aisle.

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