Dafydd at Big Lizards has an alternative view to Mickey Kaus's assertion's of Bill Frist caving on the fence.
I read the Kaus column late last night, and I must say that cynicism is very unbecoming... particularly when it's not warranted. There is a simpler explanation:
* Perhaps Frist really did think that everyone in the Senate, on both sides, would rise above what Frist sees as petty bickering to enact the plans for the fence;
* But then, when the Democrats made it clear that they were going to filibuster, and a handful of Republicans joined them, Frist now realizes that the yolk's on him -- the bill he so loudly touted was going nowhere, and he (Frist) was going to look like an idiot.
This alternative explanation perfectly explains Frist's initial enthusiasm, his current probable intent (which we don't actually know yet to be true) to drop the subject again, and even the so-called "guilty, knowing grin" that Kaus insists he saw. It's certainly true, as Micky Kaus writes, that:
It's easy to let the fence bill drop and blame Democrats. Wink, wink. But a forceful majority leader who actually wanted either a) a vote or b) a sharpened issue against the Dems wouldn't give up just like that. He'd call a press conference to demand that the Democrats allow a vote. Put a spotlight on the issue. Make Harry Reid come up with an equally well-publicized explanation for why the Democrats oppose this popular common-denominator measure. That would be hard for Reid to do without hurting Dem election chances, and he might not do it--resulting in a Democratic cave-in and a vote. And the fence Frist says he wants.
But the problem with Kaus's reasoning is that, like so many others, he starts from his honest admission that "I can't think of any other possibilities" than "phoniness, fecklessness, or a corrupt bargain;" but then he makes the illogical leap from "I can't think of" to the conclusion that there are no other possibilities. I suppose his idea is that if he can't think of any, how could any lesser mortal?
But of course, there is a good reason -- one that we Big Lizards ourselves support -- for rejecting the enforcement-first approach to immigration reform. And it would be easy for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) to give exactly that press conference that Kaus so knowingly asserts cannot be given. And if Reid gave it (and did a better job than he usually does), it could indeed flip the whole immigration issue around and hang it like an anvil around the Republicans' necks.
Simply put, the fence is great; I'm all in favor of the fence; but there are other reforms equally vital, without which the fence alone cannot work. And here's the kicker: once we get the fence, the enforcement-first crowd in Congress will turn into the enforcement-only mob, and I am 100% convinced that they themselves will do everything in their power to obstruct and disrupt every other element of immigration reform.
The only incentive for "enforcement only" Congressmen to support other reforms is to tie those reforms to the border fence. It's a sad state of affairs for the nation -- but one that is forced upon reformers by the monomania of the enforcement-only representatives and senators. Both moderates and conservatives have immigration ideas that are vital to solving this problem; but the hard right refuses even to consider the moderates' ideas... even to the point of letting the border fence go unbuilt, if to build it means they have to accept some other reforms.
I think Dafydd is onto something here. Why would the Democrats help the Repubicans heal this rift and why would the moderates cave when they can always blame the failure to get a wall on the hardliners being stubborn?