WASHINGTON — By DAN K. THOMASSON
To use the Boston bombing to justify opposition to fixing the nation's immigration problems is not only disingenuous, it is also downright stupid and not a little bit tragic. The tragedy comes in the repeated election and re-election of this clack of bozos that have no use for any policy that was in place after the dawn of the 20th century.
Would someone please tell that to the likes of Senate Republicans Charles Grassley of Iowa, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and a half dozen more shallow thinkers who regard any reform -- of gun control, immigration, taxes, and on and on -- as near treason?
The turn-back-the-clock caucus wants to make sure no more mad bombers can cross our borders, like the two who blew up the Boston Marathon, killing three and maiming many. The only problem with that, of course, is that both the suspects -- the one who was killed in a shootout, and his younger brother, who was badly wounded and found hiding in a boat in a driveway -- were here legally and really didn't cross any borders. The older brother was even interviewed by the FBI and nominated by the CIA for a government terror watch list, and nothing untoward was found.
Those who really don't want much except a Chinese-like wall built along our southern border to keep out the perceived riff raff are saying we should reassess an arduously negotiated compromise immigration bill in light of the Boston massacre. They would find some other reason to trash the proposal if the bombing had never taken place. Besides, once you've forced all the undocumented to leave, who would be left to build the wall? That's an old question that is more and more valid.
Egging on the self-styled libertarians and contrarians in Congress are the professional dissenters -- those ubiquitous nay saying blabber mouths on radio who incite to riot nearly any chance they get. I mean, there is good money in that nihilist shtick, what with all the paranoids running around waving semi- automatic assault weapons -- or hiding under their beds when they aren't running to the phone to shout, "Kudos to that."
I'm sorry, but when I first began observing those charged with carrying out the public's business nearly 60 years of journalism ago, there was some sanity in the conducting of it. Sure, there were crazies then, too, but most people ultimately recognized their diatribes as utterly counterproductive in the end. There were spirited differences in the legislature, but as dusk fell the parties involved were willing to take a chance on putting them aside for the good of all.
But I don't just want to pick on one side. Aiding and abetting the dysfunction around here is a president who apparently thinks arm twisting has no place in political rough-and-tumble. How noble of him. Not only is it a part of the natural political order, so is eye gouging and ear biting and crotch kicking when necessary.
No less a master at that than Lyndon Johnson once told me that sitting down to reason things out always worked better when you had the other person's arm held firmly behind his back. And Gov. Earl Long of Louisiana said that even ethics had a place in politics because "we use anything we can get our hands on."
Yet getting four more senators from his own party to pull the lever for a crucial vote the other day apparently was undoable for Barack Obama, even when the public edge was sufficiently with him. This caused various critics to legitimately complain that the one ingredient he lacked was forceful leadership, the kind that makes it unequivocal that if you want something, you better give me what I want. His response was to cry shame and let it go at that.
Would Johnson have made the political ship jumpers pay? You bet he would have. But so would have Jack Kennedy (more likely Bobby) and Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan and, for that matter, Abraham Lincoln. If forceful leveraging isn't in your nature, as your minions indicated, you're in the wrong job, Waldo.
In this age of know-nothingness and intransigence and disingenuousness and stultifying partisanship, there should be one universal plea: Please, please send us lawmakers with the gumption and skill and brains, selflessness and courage to meet the obvious needs of the 21st century.
Editors: Resending without editing note
(Email Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at thomassondan(at)aol.com.)