Pat Buchanan just announced that President Bush is derelict in his duty to protect America. Buchanan called for “some courageous Republican” to introduce a bill of impeachment charging the President with “a conscious refusal to uphold his oath and defend the states of the Union.’”
Why is this conservative pundit and former Republican presidential candidate calling for Bush’s impeachment?
Buchanan says the failure to stop illegal immigration is a violation of the President’s constitutional obligation to protect the states “against invasion.” Of course, Buchanan is twisting the Constitution’s reference to a military invasion to support his xenophobic fear of immigration. It’s vintage Buchanan – he’s spent years making outrageous claims to demonize immigrants, minorities, women and many other groups.
But Buchanan isn’t the only conservative revolting against Bush over immigration. Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo is on a national tour attacking Bush’s immigration policies and any amnesty proposals. Tancredo is mulling a White House bid and he’s already taken his belligerent, anti-immigrant message to the primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Last month he even outlined options for the U.S. to bomb Mecca. This reckless extremism has only helped Tancredo excel among House Republicans, who crowned him Chairman of the 82-member Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus. He’s bragged that his efforts led Karl Rove to label him a “traitor” and ban him from the White House.
Where did this junior congressman find the courage to lead Republicans in bucking the White House?
Like Buchanan, Tancredo knows Americans are very worried about immigration. And he knows Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of Bush’s performance on it – it’s his second most unpopular issue in the new ABC/Washington Post Poll. As Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway explained a few weeks ago, immigration is one of the two “biggest threats to the Republican Party.” Buchanan shares her fear. He has long argued that immigration will doom Republicans to “permanent minority status.” He has written that Republicans fare better in “states with the smallest share of immigrant population,” while Clinton’s reelection campaign swept “six of the seven major immigrant states” and “carried first-time Hispanic voters 15-to-1.”
So in fear of losing power, demagogues like Buchanan and Tancredo are turning up the heat on Bush and increasing their bigoted, anti-immigrant rhetoric.
But Bush is wedded to amnesty proposals, both to court Hispanic American voters and to meet business demand for cheap labor. (Bush clearly rejected Buchanan’s fatalist “immigrant state” electoral analysis, campaigning for reelection on amnesty and bilingual education. He drastically improved his support among Hispanic Americans from 2000 to 2004.)
This immigration conflict exposes a fundamental tension in today’s embattled GOP, between its race-baiting Southern Strategy and Bush’s big tent for big business.
Bush has yet to directly address Tancredo’s challenge or Buchanan’s call for impeachment. With immigration concerns heating up and Bush’s approval heading down, will he face the issue before fear, anger and xenophobia completely fracture his political base?