If there is one saying that ought to come to mind when gauging the caliber of a politician, it should be: Where you stand depends on where you sit.
We are seeing a lot of applications of that homely truth in the developing campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
Candidates such as U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., have pilloried Texas Gov. Rick Perry for being “soft” on illegal immigration. She is one of those who absurdly suggests building a wall across America’s southwest border.
Perry is not bringing up immigration issues unless asked about them.
But if asked, he says his state has done a lot to block illegal immigration. “There is nobody on this stage who has spent more time working on border security than I have,” Perry said during the debate in Florida.
While it would be easy to grandstand on immigration issues if you live on the Canadian border, it’s not so easy for a governor of Texas. Perry cites the money Texas spends on preventing illegal immigration, but he also rightly defends his stand against denying schooling to children, even if their parents are undocumented immigrants. Perry signed a bill allowing in-state college tuition for children of undocumented immigrants.
As many Republican insiders are aware, the camps of Perry and former President George W. Bush are not exactly friendly with each other, although not exactly public enemies. If there is one thing, though, that the two have in common, it is that they appreciate the danger of the Republican Party being seen as a bastion of anti-Hispanic prejudices.
One of Bush’s best initiatives was his proposed reform of immigration laws, but neither he nor his successor has been able — despite pouring money into border enforcement — to persuade hard-liners that the complement to enforcement must be rational steps to bring immigrants into society and make them the next generation of Americans.
We hope that Perry sticks to his guns on this issue. Bush was surely right about it, particularly in the danger to the long-term future of the GOP, as well as America’s need for new workers in the coming decades.