Posts Tagged ‘This Week’

How Lawless and Increasingly Violent is the Arizona-Mexico Border? Not Very.

Monday, May 17th, 2010

I’m impressed with Jake Tapper’s handling of This Week in the interim before Christiane Amanpour takes over in August. Tapper seems committed to widening the opinions voiced on the show from the typical “Beltway” crowd to some of those voices most influential in the Beltway who are critical of it. Which means bringing on Glenn Greenwald and Bill Maher. I’m still waiting on his bringing in some conservatives similarly positioned as “outsiders” while being very influential in the Beltway. Maher and Greenwald substantially influence our political conversation while never before being given the opportunity to intrude on the polite Sunday morning territory and confront the people they so regularly criticize. In the same spirit, Tapper has added a fact check component to his show — in which Politifact evaluates the truthfulness of factual claims made in his interviews. This is a huge improvement given the churning of misinformation that seems to be the main purpose some leaders use it for.

The quality of Tapper’s program was brought to mind watching this clip of Mike Murphy, a Republican political operative and frequent guest on Meet the Press. (For what it’s worth, Mike Murphy seems a genuinely likable guy and often, even a straight-shooter — and I don’t mean this as an attack on him personally.) If David Gregory allowed a fact checker to go over the claims of his guests, then perhaps the above-moment with the very inside-the-Beltway figure of Mike Murphy would not have happened. Because you see that moment was entirely fact-free. Entirely. Yet, Mike Murphy’s statement represents an oft-repeated “fact” in the opinion media — especially on the right. And it is driving the actual policy of the state of Arizona.

Let’s look at Mike Murphy’s claims and the facts:

It’s a lawless frontier because of the failure of the Obama administration to protect the American border. People are getting killed and murdered.  It has become really bad in Arizona.

Describing illegal immigration in partisan terms as a “failure of the Obama administration” seems best explained as a fudge rather than a blatant lie. It’s been an ongoing problem that as a nation we do not control our borders and maintain a law which cannot be enforced. Gregory interjects as Murphy is speaking, “This goes back before Obama, though, to be fair.” However, by stating such, Gregory seems to be conceding Murphy’s general point.

But look at the stats on this “People are getting killed and murdered” bit — which “has become really bad in Arizona,” according to Murphy, as he voices the “Conventional Wisdom” accepted by David Gregory as well. Yet there have been exactly four (4) murders along this supposedly lawless frontier in the past year. One of them generated thousands of headlines about the scourge of illegal immigration, the death of the rancher Robert Krentz. These anti-immigrant activists who talk casually of “People getting killed and murdered” (as if to double the impact of each homicide) — of the overall situation being “really bad” — even of, specifically, many ranchers being killed — always seem to point to this single example — Robert Krentz. I’ve seen no news story or other evidence linking more than this one death to border crossing. I’ve asked a number of people who have said this to point to some statistic — and instead I get the story of Robert Krentz, being exploited for politics. Remember: Arizona’s border is supposed to be the worst example of a lawless border and yet there is this single example which is always pointed to in order to justify the claim of plural murders — and even huge amounts of violence. I do not doubt there are other deaths along the border — perhaps on the Mexican side — of people trying to make the illegal crossing themselves and dying of thirst or other privation.

Mike Murphy follows this up by doubling down on his above false claim in an attempt to both place the blame for this historic problem on the Obama administration and make the case that Arizona’s very violent crime rate along the border is getting worse:

[I]t’s gotten, it’s gotten worse and worse.

To be fair to Murphy, one could consider that he means that any level of violence is bad — and that it is getting worse. So, let’s take this as a separate claim — that Murphy is instead claiming that violence along the border is increasing. CNN reported:

According to FBI statistics, violent crimes reported in Arizona dropped by nearly 1,500 reported incidents between 2005 and 2008. Reported property crimes also fell, from about 287,000 reported incidents to 279,000 in the same period. These decreases are accentuated by the fact that Arizona’s population grew by 600,000 between 2005 and 2008.

Let’s give Mike Murphy the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant that the overall problem of illegal immigration into Arizona has “gotten worse and worse” under the Obama administration. Homeland Security helpfully provides statistics on this which I have compiled into this chart:

This drop in illegal immigration isn’t due to any Bush, Obama, or local level actions. It’s due to the recession.

However, another consequence of a recession is a surge in anti-immigrant sentiment.

Which explains why Mike Murphy along with much of the Republican establishment is out there demagoguing illegal immigrants by making false claims about all these murders and violence: Because during times of economic trouble, people look to scapegoat someone for their troubles — and immigrants, especially illegal ones, get some of the blame.

But let’s stop with this pretense of “violent illegal immigrants.” That is the stuff of demagogues and prejudice as it simply is not based on facts.

Instead, let us acknowledge forthrightly that the excitement over this issue is being drive by cultural and economic resentment rather than “violence.”

This Week With Christiane Amanpour

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Max Fisher in The Atlantic describes Christiane Amanpour as an ideal candidate to host This Week. He has me convinced:

Beltway pundits tend to emphasize Beltway concerns, like electoral campaigns and private scandals and colorful personalities.

Foreign reporters’ great strength, however, is their ability to see politics not as theater but as an extension of cultural, social, and economic forces. If Amanpour brings this approach to This Week, it would be more than just a breath of fresh air in the homogeneous Sunday line-up.

Some questioned her ability to be a tough interviewer for the seasoned Washington pols who would appear on her show. It seems a silly objection, especially considering this nugget Fisher pulled out of a recent New York Times article:

Reflecting on her interviews with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, whose reign is considered one of the world’s most brutal since World War II, Amanpour recently quipped, “He would slap you on the back, offer you a drink. He tried to be charming. But many of them do. You have to be on your guard.” Surely she can handle John Boehner.

[Image by Witness.org licensed under Creative Commons.]

Lamar Alexander Defends Senate from Those Who Say It Needs Reform

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Watching Lamar Alexander being interviewed on This Week it struck me that he was defending how the least popular institution in America works. Being a politician, he wouldn’t admit this outright – but his meaning was rather clear:

Well, you know, former governors — and I’m one — always have a hard time with the Senate. You know, we’re — we’re used — governors are used to saying, “Let’s go this way,” and a legislator in a reactor to things. So that’s part of the problem.

According to Alexander, the problem is that governors expect to get things done – that’s “part of the problem.” Lamar Alexander defends the the Senate as an institution designed to slow things down; but he further defends the current status quo which combines recent rules changes and a changed political atmosphere, to create an institution now seemingly designed to prevent any major legislation from being passed at all. Lamar Alexander though – and many other Republicans these days – defend this status quo. Alexander claims that this inability to create big programs means we instead will have to adopt a piecemeal approach, which is better. From an interview with Ezra Klein:

It is arrogant to imagine that 100 senators are wise enough to reform comprehensively a health-care system that constitutes 17 percent of the world’s largest economy and affects 300 million Americans of disparate backgrounds and circumstances.

He lists all the failed bills that attempted to find comprehensive solutions to problems that failed in the Senate: Immigration and social security reform under Bush, health care reform under Clinton, health care and climate change under Obama. But Alexander sees this as a good thing:

We don’t do comprehensive well in the Senate. It’s not because we don’t do our job well. It’s because we’re such a complicated country.

The common understanding, and probably the true one is that Alexander – like George Will – apparently has come around to this disdain for comprehensive solutions in the period since a Democrat took office. Accusations always fly back and forth over convenient flip flops regarding institutional power and procedures once the balance of powers changes. This isn’t news – and its hard to figure out how to approach this issue if you don’t take the position being offered at face value, even if you can see the partisan strings that seem to be motivating the change in position. Even Alexander’s position seems at odds with the Republican plans he cites and supports – allowing insurance to be sold across state lines for example which is an extremely radical move.

But if you squint you may see some consistency in Alexander’s positions. Alexander may not be deriding radicalism as it seems, but, as his words say, “comprehensive” radicalism. The problem isn’t then that the Senate might introduce a radical change that entirely changes America’s health care system – it’s that the solution is comprehensive and complicated. One thing each of the comprehensive failures Alexander points out have in common is that they all involved difficult and contentious issues with many interests groups competing and the reform attempted to preserve many elements of the status quo. The only status quo that I’ve heard Lamar Alexander defend however is the broken legislative body of which he is a member.

On the other hand, Alexander was a major proponent of Bush’s tax cuts which were radical, budget-busting legislation that significantly re-wrote America’s social contract. They weren’t part of some comprehensive plan though – they were just one isolated measure enacted (perhaps) without regard to the consequences or preserving the status quo. (Or, actually several isolated measures.) He supported the Iraq War which was certainly radical – but once again, didn’t seem to be part of any comprehensive plan to accomplish anything. He supported Medicare Part D – which seem much closer to being comprehensive, but could also be seen as merely “fixing a hole in the roof” and helping out the seniors who he needs to get reelected.

Senator Alexander’s problem then isn’t with radical measures passing the Senate. It is with well-thought out and complicated legislation – with, in his words, “comprehensive” legislation.

[Image by Talk Radio News licensed under Creative Commons.]

Cokie Roberts Thinks the Rule of Law Might Be More Important Than A Pleasant Atmosphere in Washington

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

When I heard Cokie Roberts saying this on Sunday my jaw dropped:

The self-centeredness of the response – and the fact that she showed no shame about explaining this as her reasoning on national television when she was supposed to be acting as a serious commentator. Though it is pretty awesome that she is willing to undergo the inconvenience of the “bad atmosphere” in Washington as a result of attempting to uphold the Rule of Law. I’m glad she is willing to make the sacrifice for the rest of us.

It’s pretty telling that committing war crimes isn’t what is credited with souring the mood – but instead the blame is foisted onto those who uphold the law…