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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

President's speech mauled by his base

(updated below)

So, President Bush gave his big speech last night designed to mollify his rage-fueled base and to stem the tide of his rapidly collapsing presidency. The speech is done and the reviews are in. How did he do?

Michelle Malkin: "platitudes, non sequiturs, and recycled rhetoric I've been deconstructing the last five years."

John "The Rocket" Hinderaker: "He had his chance and he blew it . . . President Bush is being destroyed by vicious people who hate him. So far, he hasn't seemed to notice. Apparently, he doesn't think he needs any allies. He certainly didn't win any with tonight's speech . . . . President Bush doesn't have many chances left to salvage his second term. After tonight, he might not have any."

(As a bonus, definitely don't miss the unbelievably patronizing summary by The Rocket of his conversation with his "African immigrant" driver last night after the speech, in which Rocket "patiently" tried to explain the real issues to the immigrant driver, only to be "sure he'd forgotten everything I said by the time he left my driveway").

Paul "Deacon" Mirengoff: "President Bush did wimp out, and fatally so I think, on his fourth point, i.e., what to do about illegals who are already here. . . . This means that Bush's proposal taken as a whole is probably self-defeating."

Ankle Biting Pundits: "Whether he likes it or not, the president did not carve out a 'centrist' position at all. He articulated one of the two conflicting positions in this debate. And by pretending to be a 'middle grounder' I believe he cheapened his argument."

Misha at Anti-Idotarian Rottweiler: "long on blather and emotion and amazingly short on actual solutions. . . . Take your 'virtual' fence and your hi-tech vaporware coupled with your amnesty plan and shove them up your ass, Jorge."

The good news for the President is that he is prevented from ever reaching zero on the approval rating scale thanks to the existence of Hugh Hewitt, who swooned: "President Bush did exactly what he had to do tonight . . ." But after he posted that, Hewitt fundamentally reconsidered his assessment as a result of his interview with Julie Myers, the nepotism-based appointee at Bush's Homeland Security Department:

My interview with Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Julie Myers staggered me, undoing in a handful of minutes my confidence in the president's commitment to border security first. Either the president's team had not communicated effectively with sub-cabinet appointees about the fence, or the president doesn't really believe in the fence, because Assistant Secretary Myers is clearly not a proponent of the fence.

So, by the end of the night, the President's speech even made Hugh Hewitt angry. Does the White House do anything right anymore? If this speech wasn't going to serve up some of those extremist measures necessary to satisfy Bush's rabid, voracious base, what was the point of it?

It was a mushy, uninspired speech with little that was new, so it wasn't going to win the president any converts. But for the same reason, it had the effect of exacerbating the Right's growing dissatisfaction with Bush by getting their hopes up, only to then rub their noses in the fact that the president is never going to embrace their views on immigration, which they have decided is now The Paramount Issue. What did the White House hope to gain from any of this? One thing is clear: the longer and more prominently immigration remains on the table, the better it is for Democrats.

Finally, as a follow-up to my post from yesterday, Jesse Walker at Reason offers up some interesting speculation as to why the Right, which has long agreed to ignore Bush's immigration softness, has suddenly decided, now, that this issue is of critical importance.

UPDATE: There are a few more unhappy people who have spent the last five years as enthusiastic Bush followers but who are now infuriated by the president:

Mark Levin, National Review: "I didn't spend 35 years in the conservative movement for this. . . . This is pure idiocy, and it has the potential of being far more damaging to this nation than any big-government power-grab perpetrated by any previous president and Congress."

Dave Riehl: "Unfortunately, visitors to a Bush '43' Library may have to cross the border into Mexico to take it all in. In a speech which was as much a eulogy for the so-called Reagan Revolution, as it was an unfortunate beginning to a pending political battle on immigration, President Bush all but declared himself irrelevant to the conversation. In essence, the sitting President of the United States through (sic) up his hands and declared, 'No mas.'

John Hawkins, Right Wing News: "After the speech last night, I took a look around the right side of the blogosphere to get a sense of what people thought. The reaction was probably -- oh, let's say somewhere between 75-90% negative and to be truthful, as often as not, I got the impression that the bloggers who said they liked the speech were reading out of the old "root, root, root for the home team playbook" rather than genuinely being enthused about what Bush had to say."

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