Tom Tancredo has appeared on thousands of radio talk show programs while serving in Congress and has experienced every variety of host interviewers, good, bad and indifferent, but Hugh Hewitt is in a category all to himself. That he is raising more doubts about his own credentials as a conservative pundit than Congressman Tancredo's credentials as a conservative leader has evidently not yet dawned on him.
Hewitt's stubborn blindness on immigration reform has been a source of consternation for many of his regular listeners. Unfortunately, he adds to this blindness a personal animus against Tancredo that is baffling. Maybe it makes good "political theater," but he only embarrasses himself when he turns a debate into a shouting match.
Hewitt is not alone among political pundits in asserting some "insider status" as a justification for his hubris, but in reality, his record as a political prognosticator is no better than average. Does he still hope to attend the inauguration of President Bill Owens?
Tancredo probably feels there are worse fates than being attacked by Bush acolytes for his unwillingness to join the hallelujah chorus behind the latest White House amnesty plan. But Hewitt ought to take notice that the proposals now being floated by the White House make some major concessions over the bill passed out of the Senate last spring (S.2611). The House Republicans' steadfast support for the "enforcement first" strategy -- which Hewitt has consistently ridiculed as "extremist" - undoubtedly has something to do with the White House's newfound flexibility.
Tancredo spelled out his own proposal for immigration reform in a speech at the Heritage Foundation in September of 2006. He pointed out that while areas of compromise can be conceptualized, the real obstacle to reform is the federal government's lack of good faith in enforcing the law. That history has been demonstrated again with the Bush Administration's unwillingness to build the border fence authorized by Congress. DHS Secretary Chertoff insists on building a "virtual fence," which will be worth, well, virtually nothing. Perhaps if we paid Chertoff's salary in "virtual dollars," he would understand the difference.
What in the world is Hugh Hewitt smoking when he comes up with a hypothetical "Kennedy-McCain-Tancredo" bill? Hewitt claims the Hagel-Martinez bill of 2006 is the best we can hope for, and that Republicans like Tancredo who opposed that amnesty bill will bear responsibility for a worse bill yet to come. However, Hewitt has it backwards. John McCain is busy putting distance between his presidential campaign and the 2006 McCain-Kennedy bill. Is that because McCain finally recognizes that he has a snowball's chance in hell of getting the Republican nomination if he is in bed with George Bush and Ted Kennedy on the amnesty issue?
Hewitt derides Tom Tancredo for being a "dissident" in the Republican Party when almost everyone else in conservative circles recognizes it is his hero George Bush who has been out of step on immigration reform, not Tom Tancredo. Maybe it will come as news to Hewitt that Tom Tancredo received four standing ovations at the Arapahoe County Republican Party Assembly in March of 2006 and that the Colorado Republican Party passed numerous resolutions at its state convention opposing amnesty and demanding border security. The Republican Party in Tancredo's home state is unified behind border security and immigration law enforcement, unlike the disunited Republican Party in Hewitt's home state of California.
Hewitt has tried for over a year to paint Tancredo as an extremist on the issue, but he ignores the obvious fact that most conservatives agree with Tancredo, not Hewitt. National Review Online on April 3 affirmed its opposition to any guest worker program that is not preceded by the actual demonstration of genuine border security: "Before any amnesty or guest-worker program goes into effect, the government should be able to demonstrate that border control has been achieved-not just that resources had been thrown at the problem." That sounds an awful lot like Tom Tancredo talking, yet Hewitt persists in the laughable project of casting Tancredo as a zealot.
Many smart people are puzzled why the White House has been tone deaf on this issue. Why did the White House spin masters send National Guard troops to the border with rules of engagement that requires them to cut and run at the first sign of armed intruders? Why was Bush applauded by the Hewitts of the world when he arrogantly and stupidly called the Minutemen volunteers "vigilantes"? Why is the White House still insisting that all 15-20 million illegal aliens now in the country must have a path to citizenship as part of any "regularization" process? Pew Hispanic Center polls of illegal aliens entering the country show that two-thirds of them do not care about citizenship, they want only to work and send money back home, yet the Bush White House insists on giving them all the right to vote. This stupidity passes for political shrewdness only among head-in-the-sand pundits like Hewitt.
The inconvenient truth Hewitt is so desperate to hide is that the White House has been allowed to make a mess of the immigration reform issue precisely because it has had a cheering section in the media led by the Hugh Hewitts of the world. If Hewitt wants to find the reason why the Republican Party suffered mass desertions from its base in 2006, he shouldn't look at Tom Tancredo. He should look in the mirror.