Thursday, August 18, 2005

Cavalcade of Blowhards

David Brooks of the New York Times recently visited San Antonio and employed the town as the setting for a column on illegal immigration (our nation apparently is having one of its periodic public head-scratchings over the issue; it’s very hot public policy). It appears, though, that Brooks was only making a stopover at the airport, since he doesn’t actually quote one living San Antonio resident in his piece (at least in the version we read this morning in the Houston Chronicle). In fact, the only live person he quotes is Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute, who predictably harrumphs with regard to current immigration policy that it’s “very hard to enforce enforceable rules.”

So, in lieu of an actual human being, Brooks condescendingly conjures a “working class guy from the south side of San Antonio” who, although the columnist doesn’t say so, has to be white, because Brooks feels compelled to add that this fictional salt-of-the-earth gent is “not a racist” and many of his “favorite” neighbors are hard-working Latinos. (We’d suggest that if Brooks wanted to hear some real breathing Americans vent their spleens on illegal immigration, he dig up a Garcia or Hernandez or Rodriguez whose family has been in this country for generations; they shouldn’t be too hard to find in San Antonio, and it would save Brooks the trouble of attaching the “not a racist” disclaimer to his make-believe everyman.) But then he goes on to blithely dismiss Minutemen types, many of whom in fact do not possess Ivy League degrees, as “beer swilling good old boys” (so much for the noble working-class), although he talks to exactly none of them.

In the wake of this arduous fact-finding mission, Brooks endorses the pending jury-rigged and highly unrealistic federal legislation as a suitable compromise remedy to what he calls “immigration chaos” that is “spreading a subculture of criminality” in the U.S. In other words, he basically favors keeping the immigration pipeline open, with some slight adjustments to the valve. Why? Because the economy demands “hundreds of thousands of new workers to clean hotel rooms and process food.” And, as he forgets to add, take jobs from citizens and depress wages. And place enormous burdens on the public health and education systems. Not to mention raise troubling questions about language and common culture and national identity—all that icky stuff that leaves most of us too discomfited to even discuss in a rational manner.

Next time Brooks does a “drop in” to snare a dateline for an Olympian pronouncement on immigration, we’d suggest he walk the streets of Nuevo Laredo for a first-hand reading of what truly makes lots of Americans uneasy about the blurring of borders. Of course, that would require some knowledge of another language and possible exposure to gunfire, not to mention reporting skills … ahhh, that’s way too much work.

Another media type who’s been crawling up our ass lately is Christopher Hitchens. We like the man’s writings, and we admire him for his heresy and excommunication from the High Church of the Left after 9/11. And we’ll acknowledge that his support of the war in Iraq always seemed predicated on the lifting of Saddam’s killer hands off that country’s throat, based on Hitchens’ knowledge of and friendships with Iraqi dissidents, and not necessarily on the various 101 rationales that the Bush administration was throwing against the wall before it decided to essentially stand down from the arguments while waiting for the Iraqis to stand up.

But Hitchens, like other highly visible war supporters, seems to have been driven around the bend by Cindy Sheehan. We caught him briefly on C-SPAN early today---not exactly looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed---and heard him imperiously dismiss “Sheehan’s antics” and then accuse her of promoting the belief that that “a secret cabal of Jews in the [Bush] administration” is responsible for the war in Iraq. In other words, he’s joined in the pile-on smearing of the woman by suggesting she’s an anti-Semite (is there any other way to interpret his jaunty off-hand deployment of “secret cabal of Jews,” a phrase which, as far we can tell, has never crossed Sheehan’s lips?). Then we learned that Hitchens’ blowsy early-morning banter was a less-studied extension of a column he wrote for Slate in which he attacks Sheehan for her somewhat off-key pronouncement that her soldier son died in Iraq for “lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel.”

That’s fair game for criticism, although we don’t see “secret Jewish cabal” in there. But Hitchens keeps piling on: He writes that ex-Nazi and “Euro-American Heritage” blogger David Duke “went flying” to Sheehan’s side after her “Jewish cabal” statement (again, Hitchens' words). We took that literally until we hit the link in Hitchens’ story and wound up looking at a pro-Sheehan, anti-Israel screed on Duke’s Web site. Flying to her side, my ass.

We are not possessed of the conspiratorial turn of mind that attributes the U.S. folly in Iraq to the crafty designs of ex-Trotskyites and closet Zionists who’ve brainwashed a helpless Bush (we blame it on mere standard-brand if deadly bumble-fuckery, for which the architects are now all scrambling to change the subject or otherwise avoid responsibility), and we generally view the world in somewhat less high-contrast hues than Mrs. Sheehan apparently does.

Yet the woman should have a right to speak about the war without having David Duke rubbed all over her. While she may not be entitled to the “ultimate” moral authority the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd would grant her, she’s probably deserving of a tad more than, say, Hitchens, the British ex-pat whose great sacrifices for the war he’s backed from the beginning include … well, let’s just say his profile as a well-compensated public intellectual has risen tremendously since the war began, and in the meantime, judging by what we saw on C-SPAN, he doesn’t appear to have missed too many meals.

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