Newt’s Risky Statute of Limitation Strategy

 Bookmark and Share    Back in 1999 and 2003, I was living in Brooklyn, where I was born and raised.  It was an exciting time to be a Republican in Brooklyn and the other 4 boroughs of New York City.  Rudy Giuliani was running for Mayor and the city G.O.P. was on the verge of electing a Republican mayor for the first time in over a generation. 

But Rudy lost in 1989.  It was very close, but a loss nonetheless.  However there wasn’t much time wasted before preparations began for Rudy to run  in 1993. 

That second campaign saw a correction of course which assured that mistakes made the first time around, were not made a second time. One of those changes dealt with Rudy’s image.  The campaign of the hard nosed, steely nerved, former prosecutor with a tough on crime reputation that preceded him, started to market Rudy as a softer, nicer candidate than he was in 1989.  So in ’93, out came campaign literature featuring, warm toned images of a smiling Rudy Giuliani.  The words spoken were more subtle and the images were softer. 

That year, Rudy won and the rest is history.

That same kind of softening of his image is what we saw Newt Gingrich begin to do when last Wednesday, he used a debate on national security to make clear that he did not want to use U.S. immigration policy as a tool used to break up and destroy families.

The move is a risky one among the conservative faithful of a Republican Party whose electorate is tired of games being plaid with ineffective immigration policies and an unwillingness to enforcement effective anti-illegal immigration policies.  It seemed to be antithetical to the hardline, “deport their asses” thinking, that many of us have towards illegal immigration.  However Newt’s position was a strategic move designed to position himself in the general election. 

Newt’s position is that those illegal immigrants who have gone undetected for so many years now that they have established their roots and become productive members of communities, should not see their lives destroyed by tearing their families apart.  He did not offer amnesty and did not suggest that these people be pushed to the head of any line for legal immigration.  But he was accused of doing so.  And understandably so.  The issue is not quite as clear cut as many of us wish it to be.  The difference is that Newt is acknowledging the fact that it is not so clear cut.  Others like Michele Bachmann are not.

The truth is that those who have assimilated into our society after years of the federal government’s unwillingness and inability to enforce its own laws, should not suddenly be uprooted because the federal government is now suddenly willing to play by  its own rules.  As with many crimes, there is a statute of limitations.  Such  statutes are meant to balance the substantive right to justice with the notion of procedural fairness, and in truth, those illegal immigrants who have been here for ten, twenty, and thirty years, and have become a part of our society and created new lives, with new families of their own, would be seeing a change in procedures that at this point in time can only be seen as unfair.

Newt’s position is not amnesty, it is a logical extension of jurisprudence through an understandable statute of limitation.

If the United States suddenly intends to finally get serious about its immigration laws, sobeit.  I’m all for that.  Let us first secure borders and then let us enforce our laws and make it clear that the United States is closed to illegal immigration.  That is what Newt Gingrich sees fit to do as well. 

As with everything else in politics, it is not quite as simple as that.  You still have to somehow find a way for those who fell through the cracks to become citizens.  But Newt is willing to address these issues.  Others in the G.O.P. are not.

If Newt can articulate this approach effectively, conservatives, especially social conservatives, will come to see that he is taking a conservative approach to the issue, one which encompasses all aspects of conservative beliefs, such as the preservation of families and communities.   If he can explain his position properly, conservatives will see that Newt is willing to address the problem of illegal immigration, but not just some of it.  All of it. 

Yet Newt’s seemingly compassionate view of long term illegal immigrants is still conservative and it is quite different than the position on in-state tuition discounts that Rick Perry supports.  Newt’s policy is not one that rewards illegal immigration with economic benefits paid for at the expense of taxpayers.  It is one that accepts reality and realistically deals with it.

However, in a politically charged atmosphere that only allows one to score points with soundbites, Newt’s position may be a hard sell among conservatives.  But if he can convince them that his approach is a realistic one to a very real and very complex problem, Newt will be better positioned if he does become the nominee.  Justas Rudy was in 1993.

In the general election, when the Republican presidential nominee is painted as an evil, cold-hearted, fiend, Newt will have his leverage.  He will be able to point to his preservation of families and his understanding of the problems that face us, as evidence of a man of both heart and mind.  Like Rudy in 1993, when he won , Newt is smoothing out the seemingly hard edges of conservatism.  He does so at the risk of being painted too soft but the Republican base will be doing itself a disservice by not recognizing the difference between liberalism and logic.

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One Response

  1. Newt is so right on this immigration issue. His answer shows compassion, Bachman responded like this issue related to inanmiate objects that can be discarded at will. I know of such a family. His comment also included that they are working and paying taxes; therefore they are not taking advantage of us taxpayers. There has to be allowance for something. Romney’s and Backman’s response distorted Newt’s intention and showed lack of compassion, something the pundunts are always espousing of Republicans.

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