[Marxism] Obama's immigration speech echoes Bush in policy, rhetoric, Both presidents took a centrist position while calling for

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 5 07:04:45 MDT 2010


Obama's immigration speech echoes Bush in policy, rhetoric
Both presidents took a centrist position while calling for more border 
security. They also favored a path to citizenship for immigrants and 
opposed rounding up those who were in the U.S. illegally.

By Peter Nicholas, Tribune Washington Bureau

7:18 PM PDT, July 3, 2010

Though he is quick to deride former President George W. Bush's 
performance in office, President Obama seems to think his predecessor 
gives a pretty good immigration speech.

Obama's widely publicized speech on the controversial topic Thursday 
closely tracks, in rhetoric and basic policy, a speech Bush gave on the 
same subject in May 2006.

Speaking at American University, Obama delivered an address intended to 
rally the nation behind a plan that would strengthen border security 
while providing a path to legal status for the estimated 12 million 
people living in the U.S. illegally.

Obama's speech was longer than the one Bush delivered four years ago — 
4,100 words compared with 2,600. Bush, speaking from the Oval Office, 
did not have to expend words thanking people. And Obama used the 
occasion to recap victories on healthcare and education.

But in fundamental ways, the speeches carry the same message. The 
parallels show the two presidents — one a Republican, the other a 
Democrat — have staked out basically the same centrist position on 

The speeches also reveal similarities in ways presidents of both parties 
communicate with the public.

After reading a transcript of Obama's immigration address, former Bush 
speechwriter Matt Latimer said in an e-mail that "this speech could 
almost word for word have been delivered by George W. Bush on the exact 
same subject. Do they just copy our old speeches?"

Latimer, who wrote a book called "Speech-Less" that was critical of the 
Bush speechwriting operation, added, "That's not a compliment."

The policy similarities are not that surprising. Bush, even before he 
ran for president, was at odds with many in his party on immigration. As 
governor of Texas, he challenged Republicans — including the California 
governor at the time, Pete Wilson — who took a hard line on immigration 
and wanted a crackdown on illegal immigrants.

Bush's position was ultimately repudiated by his party and he was 
repeatedly rebuffed by Republicans in Congress when he offered proposals 
for tightening borders but also creating a path to citizenship for 

A White House official said Friday he did not believe that anyone 
examined Bush's old speeches while drafting the Obama address. Rather, 
the speech was written by a member of the president's speechwriting 
team, with Obama providing "a good deal of writing," the official said.

Both speeches talk about immigrants who "live in the shadows." Both 
mention immigrants who came to the U.S. in search of "a better life." 
Both describe the U.S. as "a nation of immigrants" and reject calls to 
"round up" people who are here illegally.

And both use the same language about business. Obama said businesses 
"must be held accountable" for hiring undocumented workers; Bush said, 
"We need to hold employers to account."

Plunging into the body of his speech, Obama discussed how "in recent 
days the issue of immigration has become once more a source of fresh 
contention in our country." That's a reference to the strict new 
anti-illegal immigration law in Arizona, which has touched off protests 
and lawsuits.

Bush, in his speech, alluded to a wave of street protests in favor of an 
immigration overhaul, saying, "The issue of immigration stirs intense 
emotions, and in recent weeks, Americans have seen those emotions on 

Neither Bush nor Obama wanted to be seen as neglecting border 
enforcement. Obama said that "government has a threshold responsibility 
to secure our borders," whereas Bush said that securing the border is "a 
basic responsibility of a sovereign state."

Each president laid out steps they'd taken to prevent illegal crossings, 
using the same multipliers. Bush said he "doubled" the size of the 
Border Patrol; Obama said that he "doubled" the personnel assigned to 
border enforcement security "task forces."

Yet neither claimed that the borders are impregnable. Bush said, "We do 
not yet have full control of the border." Obama said that the Mexican 
border is more secure than ever, but acknowledged that "that doesn't 
mean we don't have more work to do."

Both speeches use a device in which they rejected what they portrayed as 
extreme positions — blanket amnesty on the one hand, and deportation of 
all illegal immigrants on the other.

Instead of those extremes, each president said, the country should adopt 
a more moderate alternative in which illegal immigrants could gain legal 
status by meeting tough requirements.

Bush said immigrants must "pay their taxes" and "learn English." Obama 
used the same language — "pay their taxes" and "learn English," among 
other things.

And at some point in each speech, the president told an inspiring story 
of an immigrant who came to the U.S., joined the military and gained 

Bush mentioned Guadalupe Denogean from Mexico, who joined the Marines 
and was wounded in Iraq. Obama's example was Perla Ramos, who came to 
the U.S. from Mexico after the Sept. 11 attacks, joined the Navy and 
became a citizen.

peter.nicholas at latimes.com

Julia Love in the Washington bureau contributed to this story.

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