Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Selective Compassion, or, Why I Dislike Some Republicans

Hate is a strong word. So I won't say I hate Pete Domenici. I'll just say I strongly dislike him.

He's a classic example of why socialism is still the world's most popular ideology: because (nearly) everyone is a socialist for him- or herself, and then varying degrees of ideology for everyone else outside their immediate family.

An exaggeration, of course, but Republican politicians have always had powerful cases of Selective Compassion: if it affects them personally, they perceive market failures and a need for fuzzy-headed government intervention to improve people's lives. Otherwise, it's strictly everyone for themselves. Thus, the patchwork quilt of isolated GOP votes for this or that example of decency. Bob Dole had a soft spot for some group [Armenians? Kurds?] because of some personal relation he'd had with one or more of that group; otherwise, it was hard-headed realism all the way. Several GOP doctors in the House of Representatives have supported a patient's bill of rights (rights vis-a-vis HMO's, that is, not doctors) because they've dealt directly with affected patients; otherwise, for every other economic transaction, it's freedom of contract, baby, and caveat emptor.

Domenici, for his part, once teamed up with the late, great Paul Wellstone to support parity in insurance coverage for mental health treatment. The much-missed Wellstone wasn't being inconsistent, because he wasn't selectively compassionate. He was just compassionate. Domenici, meanwhile, knew someone personally who was affected by mental illness, and wanted to help them out. He doesn't seem to know any poor people, though, because his compassion hasn't extended to them anytime in recent memory.

His latest hit is a different take on immigration. According to the New York Times,
During the heated immigration debate on Capitol Hill, some Republicans have portrayed immigrants as invaders, criminals and burdens to society. But for Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, the image that comes to mind is that of his mother and the day the authorities took her away. It was 1943, World War II was raging, and federal agents were sweeping through Albuquerque hunting for Italian sympathizers. They found Mr. Domenici's mother, Alda V. Domenici, a curly-haired mother of four and a local PTA president who also happened to be an illegal immigrant from Italy. Mr. Domenici, who said he was 9 or 10 years old then, wept when his mother vanished with the agents in their big black car

Wow, incredibly rude, abrupt, disruptive treatment of someone who was contributing to society, causing no problems, and just happened to be an illegal immigrant. No wonder little Pete cried. And hopefully that memory will help shape his response to current proposals regarding illegal immigrants, right? Sure enough,
Mr. Domenici said his experience had persuaded him to introduce legislation that would grant illegal immigrants like his mother, who have deep roots in the community, the chance to become citizens...
which is quite noble - he's employing his compassionate understanding of the complicated issues at play in immigration in order to extend fair treatment towards all who deserve it, right? Err, no:
...while more recent arrivals would be allowed to work here only temporarily. He does not support the bill passed by Mr. Specter's committee, which would not distinguish between recent arrivals and those who have spent several years here. "You ought to try and give people with five years and more the opportunity for some kind of break," Mr. Domenici said.
In other words, only people who resemble his mother get the chance to become citizens. After all, why should people who have been in violation of the immigration laws for a longer period of time, and in theory have had more chances to rectify the situation, get "some kind of break," while people who have been here sooner shouldn't get one? Why, no reason at all - except that Ms. Domenici, all those years ago, was here for a long time before they caught up with her.

If you keep your head down, work steadily, abide by all the laws, support your family in the developing world with the remittances that substitute for our inadequate foreign aid, pay Social Security and sales taxes and keep your mouth shut for four years and eleven months, and the immigration authorities hear about you, no compassion for you - go home, cuz we don't need your kind here. We only need people who remind Pete Domenici of his mother.

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