Hermits Rock

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I’m surprised the president didn’t choke when he said, “solidarity.” Mostly, I thought the speech bland, which I suppose is to be expected: his poll numbers dropped again today to rival Nixon’s in 1974. It was typical fare as far as proposals are concerned: propose a bait and switch health care plan that does no one but insurance companies any good; slander American workers by pretending to beg for his guest worker program; beg too for his judges to be confirmed; trumpet pathetic outcomes for AIDS aid in Africa as progress. As for war, he on the one hand said that time has given us “a much clearer view of the nature of [the] enemy,” then he proceeded to characterize the enemy as the exact same entity—haters of freedom, opposite of civilization, yadda yadda—that he said the enemy was five years ago, only this time, he qualified that it consists of Sunni extremists. So much for greater clarity. The inevitable attack on Iran was subdued, although he did put Hezbollah (defined as Iran-supported) on par with Al Qaida. For the most part, such as when he claimed Al Qaida had no safe haven, I wondered if he even knows he’s lying anymore, or does his Secretary of Defense’s ignorance of Afghanistan mirror his own?

Meanwhile, you might be interested in a graphic keyword analysis of the address by the New York Times (via CT).



unfortunately, not this kind of clarity…

I agree, HG, the speech was mostly bland, trotting out the same misguided crap about the ‘war’ on terror as he tried to plead to be allowed to hangout at the congressional playground.

I’m conflicted about something you mention in your post, though. I agree that GWB’s guest worker program is a swipe at American workers and would add that it is mostly a way to take advantage of an unprotected underclass. But, I’m no great fan of the jingoistic wall-building that is going on as well.

I’m not sure that Clintonian globalization (which is what I think GWB is trying to revive) is the way to go, but hardening immigration and border policy is no way to go either. What do you imagine would be a way to protect (or at least support) the American working class without the resort to some kind of nationalist position on immigration?

I didn’t mean to imply I support walls and other such draconian policies. I was referring to this line, which I seem to remember he said differently than the transcript suggests:

Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border—and that requires a temporary worker program. We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis.

I think he added last night to that last line—and if he didn’t, then it’s the exception to his usual language, which is to add—“to do the jobs that Americans won’t do.” That is to say, to create working class of immigrants who we can underpay for difficult labor. It’s the assertion that Americans won’t do it that I protest.

I don’t think much about immigration policy in general, but I’d support policies that encourage other countries to engage in liberal, labor-friendly laws: to privilege with trade those nations that allow collective bargaining, for example, and to shame—even penalize—those US companies who forsake labor by setting up shop in countries who oppress their workers by not allowing them to bargain for their pay and refusing good labor conditions. There’s no better way to alter the face of immigration and of the world than to encourage the very things that lifts the bottom line—e.g. fair labor, fair trade—for everyone.

Thanks, HG. I didn’t mean to imply that you were a fan of those draconian border policies. I knew where you were coming from after your line about ‘solidarity’. I was just curious what you thought about the way that immigration relates to labor issues. GWB’s plan only seems to legalize what is already going on (the underpayment of an immigrant working class) instead of dealing with it.

By all that I mean, the best way to protect an American working class is to raise the floor of the working class of the rest of the world. If I think of it in terms of protection at all, I think of as class protection rather than national protection.

5 to 3

4: I think that’s right re: GWB’s proposal. I initially wasn’t really commenting on it per se, more on the rhetoric he introduces it with.

FWIW, it’s significant that GWB used “solidarity” in reference to Iraq’s 2005 elections and not in reference to labor. I suspect that’s why he didn’t choke on it.

Eric Martin (via Henley) points out something I’ve been thinking, but was having trouble articulating. Responding to GWB’s initial line, “nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity we should never forget,” Martin writes:

Solidarity? I hate to get hung up on one word in a long speech, but this one stands out for being not just a simple exaggeration or useful embellishment. The concept is diametrically opposed to the actual event described.

12 million Iraqis came out to vote along remarkably strict ethnic/sectarian lines in a show of communalism and zero-sum factionalist thinking. Shiites voted only for Shiites, Kurds for Kurds and Sunnis for Sunnis. This ballot box discipline was driven by the twin engines of tribalism and fear. Fear of what fate might befall the voters should rival factions gain in power at their expense. In this sense, the elections did not serve as an event fostering a sense of national unity or “solidarity,” but rather an expression of the ever-increasing divisions and distrust plaguing Iraqi society post-regime change.

More generally, private-ballot elections, if viewed as expressions of individual preference, are by design not solidarity. Perhaps one may cast one’s vote as if it were an expression of it, but it will never be a standing together or a show of unified strength. Elections are a means to create solidarity, but they are not themselves demonstrations of it.