Marco Rubio and policy analysis in the Age of Oprah

Yesterday, I fretted that the Republican members of the eight person “Gang” negotiating Senate immigration reform lack the knowledge of (and concern over) detail needed to prevent the Democratic members from outfoxing them on the issue of amnesty. This is a secondary matter, to be sure. The primary concern should be that amnesty is on the table at all, and I will have more to say about this soon, including a few words at the end of this post.

Turning back to the composition of the Gang, though, I should mention Sen. Marco Rubio’s involvement. He is, after all, the key member — as a conservative Hispanic he provides the political “cover” that John McCain and Lindsey Graham cannot.

Rubio has already confessed his lack of expertise on the issue at hand. Yesterday, he said “I am clearly new to this issue in terms of the Senate.” But, he added:

I’m not in terms of my life. I live surrounded by immigrants. My neighbors are immigrants. My family is immigrants. Married into a family of immigrants. I see immigration everyday. I see the good of immigration.

Welcome to policy analysis in the Age of Oprah.

In his self-promo, Rubio scrupulously avoided the phrase “illegal immigration.” But that is the aspect of the immigration issue that amnesty pertains to.

Rubio also showed himself to be the perfect Gang companion for John McCain. The Arizona Senator has built a career around confusing his personal life experiences with policy expertise. McCain was tortured, so he knows that torture doesn’t work. Never mind that the methods and intelligence expertise of the North Vietnamese in the late 1960s bear virtually no resemblance to those employed by the U.S. almost 40 years later. And never mind that, according to McCain’s acceptance speech at the 2008 Republican convention, the North Vietnamese did, in fact, “break” him.

McCain was caught up in the Keating Five scandal in the 1990s, so he knows that money can corrupt even the most honest and heroic politicians. Therefore, he reckoned he was just the man to work across the aisle to “fix” our campaign finance system through the atrocity that became McCain-Feingold.

Now along comes Marco Rubio. He’s surrounded by immigration and sees that it is good. Somehow, this general insight is supposed to give him the judgment and expertise to write complex legislation dealing with illegal immigration, a phenomenon he is either incapable of distinguishing, as a moral matter, from the legal variety or is unwilling to denounce.

Instead, Rubio instructs us that “we have to deal with the people who are here now in a way that’s responsible but humane.” But he doesn’t explain how granting an eventual path to citizenship for illegal aliens meets this test. The people who are here illegally now already receive at least as many benefits as they deserve, having violated our laws. They have access to employment opportunities and to a vast array of services that they would not enjoy had they followed the law and not entered the U.S. — opportunities and services that are not enjoyed by those attempting to get into this country legally.

If the absence of a path to citizenship makes this deal insufficiently “humane” for illegal immigrants, then the “responsible” solution is for them to return to their country of origin, not for the U.S. to sweeten the deal. Perhaps Rubio’s immersion in the world of immigrants prevents him from understanding this.

Naturally, there is much speculation about whether Rubio’s collusion with the Senate’s most liberal members, and with professional mavericks McCain and Graham, to bring about amnesty will affect his prospects for winning the Republican nomination. It certainly should.

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