Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Casting the gauntlet...

That is, in essence, what is happening with the ad featured in the Wall Street Journal on Monday. The civil disobedience campaign is continuing, and it is starting to have an effect, as AJ-Strata has revealed. Quite properly, the Republicans are retreating from part of the horrendous House bill, much to the anger of the hard-liners. In essence, the GOP is finally standing up to Tom Tancredo, albeit too late to do much except kill the provisions in the conference committee.

This is a big step. In essence, the business owner in that ad has dared the hard-liners to demand the law be enforced. It is, in essence, the start of a major offensive by proponents of a bill along the lines of the Senate compromise that includes some key portions of the Republican coalition (small-L libertarians like Grover Norquist, pro-business elements like the Chamber of Commerce, and people who are Bush/Republican loyalists). This bill is largely opposed by other key portions of the Republican coalition (law-and-order conservatives, traditionalists, and populists).

I think that Hugh Hewitt has grossly understated what is happening on this issue. This is a full-blown civil war on the right - and one that has been brewing for some time under the surface. We've seen glimpses of it earlier, during the debate over the prescription drug program for Medicare, over relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and even over No Child Left Behind, but within the past two months, it has become obvious that this civil war was inevitable.

The "Fort Sumter" of this civil war was the controversy over the Dubai Ports World acquisition of P&O. The resulting betrayal turned immigration into a "must-win" battle for President Bush, who would have otherwise been faced with a serious decline in the relationship with one of America's most crucial allies in the war on terror (before you think I'm reaching, ask yourself how valuable it is to have an ally whose intelligence service can infiltrate human intelligence sources into Iran, Syria, and even Saudi Arabia - the UAE can do that). A number of those who sabotaged the deal have also opposed the President on immigration.

This meant that President Bush had to choose between preserving a vital strategic alliance in the war on terror, and risking losses in the 2006 mid-terms, or keeping internal GOP harmony, and risking a vital alliance. Anyone who has watched George W. Bush over the four-and-a-half years the war on terror has been going on does not need to guess at what he would choose.

That meant that these two factions of the Republican coalition were going to have to fight. It meant that they might be fighting all the way until the 2008 Republican Convention. But that was not his choice. He did not start this Republican Civil War, but he will end it, and he intends to win it. It will be good for the GOP, and good for the country.

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