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Will the Last Centrist Turn Out the Lights?

I was just finishing my story last night on Red Meat Politics (see Outlook on Sunday -- I'll post a link when doing so becomes legal) when the immigration bill died in the Senate. It's all related. It's the political Zeitgeist: There is no center anymore. Bipartisanship is collaboration with the enemy. To form a coalition is to engage in political suicide, unless, that is, you join the burgeoning National Coalition To Stop Political Coalitions.

I'm not sure who killed the center in American politics, but the FBI might want to consider pulling Karl Rove's phone records.

(Or does that sound like a partisan shot? Sorry. I'm not a partisan, you know. I'm beholden to no faction. I refuse to associate even with those who describe themselves as Independents, lest they think I'm one of them. Reporters aren't joiners. No label can confine my vast and sprawling and complex and extremely eccentric ideological portfolio. Also there are issues on which I've yet to formulate a firm position, such as whether we should return to the Gold Standard.)

(I will note that it's conceivable that I'm a pagan libertarian, to use Michael Lewis's phrase.)

Here are some key passages in the Dan Balz analysis in today's Post:

'The November midterm elections changed the balance of power in Washington, with Democrats now in control of the Capitol. The compromise immigration bill in the Senate enjoyed the support of Bush, Senate Democratic leaders and some prominent senators from both parties -- the kind of coalition that many politicians claim to prize. The bipartisan bill still ended up in a heap.

'As McCain said in Tuesday's Republican debate in New Hampshire, "It's our job to do the hard things, not the easy things." But for a long time, Washington politicians have flinched at the hard things, preferring to engage in political combat aimed at gaining partisan advantage first.

'There is little time for progress on difficult issues before Bush's lame-duck status reduces his power even more and before the 2008 presidential and congressional campaigns turn the country into a partisan battlefield. Immigration provides one clear test for the system before that reality locks in. So far the system is losing.'

Broder, meanwhile, is pretty much disgusted with the presidential candidates and the campaign-trail extremism, and sees an opening for a third-party challenge. I doubt it, but who knows. (By the way, whatever happened to Ross Perot?)

Mickey Kaus celebrates demise of the bill and takes issue with Balz: 'Balz's piece is a near-Platonic example of the Neutral Story Line--a sweeping, seemingly profound and biting analysis that nevertheless doesn't offend anyone because it doesn't seem to be taking sides. But of course it does take sides. It takes the "bipartisan" side--simply assuming that "comprehensive immigration reform" is a good idea.'

Here's McJoan at Dailykos: "A much better bill can be crafted two years from now, when we'll likely have a more reasonable Congress and President to deal with."

Hugh Hewitt also pleased: 'Round 1 to the realists, both as to the security issues and also to the broader point of how the Congress operates. Now it is Mr. Reid's choice: Does he want a bill? If so he will give ground and time to the GOP, and if a new version appears shorn of its worst features and bulked up in crucial respects, he won't try and con America on a process designed not to illuminate and persuade but to cajole and jam down.'

But Kevin Drum is disappointed: "The defeat came almost entirely at the hands of the hardliners, and I confess that I can't figure out what they're thinking. Sure, they think the current bill is worse than doing nothing at all, but when do they think they're going to get another crack at this? It's going to be years, and at this point it looks to me like the political

environment in the future is more likely to be more liberal than it is to be more conservative. My guess is that the hardliners aren't going to get a better deal in 2010 than the one they voted down on Thursday."

Tom Tancredo, prez candidate, suggested today on Good Morning America that with tough enforcement of existing laws, the 12 million illegal immigrants will go home (transcript from Federal Document Clearing House): "Here's how you handle it: It's called attrition through enforcement. If we actually begin to enforce the laws, secure our border and enforce the law against people hiring people who are here illegally, you will see attrition. People go home if they cannot get the thing for which they came. And then they get in line and they come in the same way anybody else does."

Here's Rudy Giuliani's full statement (via email) after the immigration bill failed: "The American people demand that their politicians enact an immigration reform bill that addresses security first. I cannot support any immigration deal that compromises on this basic principle. This bill failed to guarantee a uniform, tamper-proof, biometric identification card, a single nation-wide database of foreigners in our country, and did not mandate the full implementation of a biometric check-in, check-out system. We can and must guarantee the American people that we know who is coming in and out of our country. As President, my administration will dedicate itself to assuring the American people that we have a secure border."

By Joel Achenbach  |  June 8, 2007; 11:16 AM ET
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