About these detention facilities, down on the border: In my observation, many on the right are loath to countenance any criticism of the facilities, interpreting the criticism as an attack on Trump and on the cause of curbing immigration (both illegal and legal). (“Our country is full!” the president says.) It’s natural for the “in” party to be defensive of the government.
At the same time, many on the left are loath to acknowledge the gargantuan task the government has been handed, coping with the waves of people from the south. Who can envy the government’s task? Would you like to be in charge? There ought to be a measure of sympathy, as for the migrants.
I don’t know about you, but I have seen too much reporting — credible reporting — to believe that the facilities are okey-dokey. That they are “essentially summer camps.” Yesterday, the president tweeted, “Friday’s tour showed vividly, to politicians and the media, how well run and clean the children’s detention centers are. Great reviews! Failing @nytimes story was FAKE!” Etc.
By “Friday’s tour,” the president meant a trip made by Mike Pence and others to the border. Pence himself said that conditions are unacceptable.
There’s an old line in politics: “They’d rather have the issue than have the solution.” This is true of many pols and their followers, I think, concerning the detention facilities. And yet a solution is cried out for. Even the most hard-bitten immigration hawk, I think, must flinch a little when he sees the reports on the facilities.
People I hear from on Twitter are not flinchers, true — not at all. They are pretty, um — unflinching, to put it as nicely as possible. But not everyone tweets or “comments” (or even blogs). I imagine that there are plenty of Americans who consider the facilities a national disgrace and want a just solution: common human decency toward the migrants and respect for our rule of law.
Let us grant that three of the most dread words in American politics are “blue ribbon commission.” We have all laughed and snorted at these commissions all of our lives — a group of elder statesmen (a.k.a. has-beens) getting together and practicing goo-goo.
Do you know the term “goo-goo”? It’s an old one in our politics, dating from the late 19th century. “Goo-goo” stands for “good government.” An advocate of good government is himself called a “goo-goo.” Opponents of Tammany Hall, the political machine in New York, were called “goo-goos.” Bob Novak introduced me to the term. It is usually used derisively.
But, you know? Good government is important. The government ought to do what it ought to do — and we can debate what those tasks are (and we do) — and do it well. Should there be something like a Simpson-Bowles commission on these border facilities? A commission given a strict deadline and, unlike Simpson-Bowles, listened to?
Let me mention one more phrase from American politics — this one more recent: In the mid 1980s, Congress passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act (which sought to balance the budget). The Rudman — Senator Warren Rudman (R., N.H.) — described the act as “a bad idea whose time has come.” Far be it from me to propose a blue ribbon commission — but maybe it would not be a bad idea, just now.