Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dobbs, Obama, and deportation

-- by Dave

So tonight on Wolf Blitzer's show, Lou Dobbs went after Barack Obama, who had earlier slammed Dobbs and his kindred spirit, Rush Limbaugh, for their Bill the Butcheresque attitudes on immigration:
OBAMA: When I hear Rush Limbaugh or, you know, Lou Dobbs, or some of these people talking about how we need to send them all back. We're not going to send them all back.


BLITZER: All right. Go ahead and respond.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Go ahead and respond. What is he thinking about? This is a guy who says he wants to be president of the United States. Now Rush Limbaugh doesn't need any defense. But as far as I know, he's never called for deportation of illegal aliens but let me tell you. I certainly have not.

He is either - his people are either misinforming him or he's simply not informed and I think one of the primary characteristics of anyone seeking to lead this nation should be they're well informed and the other part of that is, which he obviously is not, and secondly, these people and referring to illegal aliens as 'them' in some sort of condescending way. I mean this is to me an atrocious moment for a senator who is trying to pander on the issue of illegal immigration.

Let me tell you what Senator Obama. May I take a moment and talk to Senator Obama directly?

BLITZER: You have 15 seconds. Go ahead.

DOBBS: Fifteen seconds. I raise you one on pandering Senator Obama. You say you won't send them all back? I wouldn't send any of them back. Now it's your turn.

This is a good ol' Lou Dobbs twofer: one outright falsehood, complemented by a Bizarro-style attempt to slam Obama that instead highlights his gross hypocrisy.

First, the falsehood: As it so happens, you need only go back to less than a year ago to find an example of Dobbs advocating the deportation of all illegal immigrants -- while disingenuously claiming he's not:
Lesley Stahl: But I wonder if you think that we can possibly deport all those people.

Dobbs: I've never called for their deportation. But at the same time, when this president and open-borders, illegal-alien-amnesty advocates say, ‘You can’t deport them,’ my answer is, ‘You wanna bet?’ Because this is the United States."

Stahl: Can you even find them? How are you going to round them up, if you think it’s possible? How’s it possible?

Dobbs: I think this country can do anything it sets its mind to.

Note the neat rhetorical trick of denying he's advocated something he then immediately advocates -- sorta like saying you've never supported genocide but by God this is America and we can do anything we put our minds to doing.

And in fact, rhetoric indicating he favors such a solution has been a standard feature of his reportage on illegal immigration since he started out.

On Nov. 17, 2003, for instance, just as his immigration reportage was getting started, he put it this way:
Ten million illegal aliens live in this country. But many politicians--in fact, most--business leaders and union leaders are silent about this critically important issue.

It's not particularly clear he's advocating deportation in this instance, but it's clear that the fact these people are living here is a problem in his eyes.

The next day, Nov. 18, 2003, he reported:
There are an estimated 10 million illegal aliens in the United States, and federal agencies are doing little to investigate and apprehend them.

On Sept. 30, 2003, he lectured his guest by decrying the fact that we're not deporting illegal immigrants:
We've got nearly approximately 700,000 illegal aliens crossing our borders every single year. It continues unabated despite the national security interest in this war on terror. We have not been deporting illegal aliens. As a matter of fact, you just used the expression 'undocumented worker.' They're illegal aliens. The niceties of language--it's sort of interesting to hear how there's been this language shift, from 'illegal alien' to 'undocumented worker' to 'guest without status.' I mean, where does the nonsense end?

Dobbs further attacked the use of "illegal immigrants" in favor of his own preferred term, "illegal aliens":
You've added the word 'immigrant' rather than 'illegal alien,' which is the point we're talking about. And, really, there's quite a major, important distinction, do you not agree?

Well, legally speaking, there is in fact virtually no distinction between the terms. However, there is in fact a meaningful distinction, but not one that favors Dobbs: "illegal alien" rather nakedly demonizes the subject, which was part of the intent of the coinage of the term, which originated with the anti-Asian agitation of the 1870-1930 period. (It largely arose first during the push for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924, both of which were in many ways the founding pieces of legislation for today's obviously dysfunctional immigration laws.) "Illegal immigrant" is widely considered the more generic alternative, which is why most press organizations (such as the Associated Press) insist on its preferred use.

Moreover, there is an important syntactical distinction: "illegal immigrant" somewhat accurately refers to an act -- that is, it means someone who immigrated illegally. Conversely, "illegal alien" only describes a person -- that is, it defines another human being in distinctly (and purposively) nonhuman terms and defines their essence as an "illegal."

Maybe Dobbs is still licking his wounds over the gashing Laura Flanders gave him over insistence on using the term. But it's downright weird that Dobbs, without any apparent irony, attacks Obama for referring to "illegal aliens" "in a sort of condescending way," when in fact Dobbs' incessant use of the term has no "soft of" to qualify it: Not only does it condescend, it is contemptuous. It belittles and demonizes.

Finally, as to Limbaugh, he merely says things like this, which achieve the same effect:
So invasive species like mollusks and spermatozoa are not good, and we've got a federal judge say, "You can't bring it in here," but invasive species in the form of illegal immigration is fine and dandy -- bring 'em on, as many as possible, legalize them wherever we can, wherever they go, no matter what they clog up. So we're going to break the bank; we're going to bend over backwards. The federal judiciary is going to do everything it can to stop spermatozoa and mollusks from coming in, but other invasive species? We're supposed to bend over and grab the ankles and say, "Deal with it." Well, the mollusks may be brought in against their will. My point is they don't know where they are, and they, frankly, don't care. So if you ship them out -- but we can't ship 'em out. It's not that we can't ship 'em out. We're not going to be able to bring 'em in now, but invasive species that, say, on their own power and of their own desire and volition cross the border and come here, we can't say diddly-squat about it.

This is classic eliminationist rhetoric, of course -- something Dobbs indulges as well. And it's something Obama must be getting tired of hearing.

As they say back home: Good on him. And shame on Lou Dobbs.

[HT to Dover Bitch.]

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