So before the big Immigration Speech this week, the press narrative was that it was designed to mollify the conservative base. Since Bush's approval amongst self-identifying conservatives stands at 45%, the quest to bolster the President's approval ratings must begin there. As usual, they leaked the entire contents of the speech before hand, with a special emphasis on the National Guard stop-gap measure. The only thing that ended up being unspecified was the number - 6,000 troops on a 2-3 week rotation. Fine.
So, as I thought about the speech during the preview period over the weekend, I couldn't quite understand where they were going. If the President stuck to his guns, as he always seems to, the speech couldn't possibly please the conservative base. The sticking point in his plan was clearly "amnesty," which there was no way the base would accept. The rhetoric over amnesty and boarder protection has simply been too vehement - there was no way the conservative Representatives and commentators could walk it back. I mean, they had been proposing impeachment over this issue! Clearly, if "amnesty" as they define it was included, the speech couldn't possibly help Bush's numbers. The Democrats are long gone, having been called traitors a few thousand too many times, and he's been polling abysmally amongst independents for over a year.
Watching the speech itself, I kept thinking, "where's the surprise? Where's the play that will actually make someone happy?" It never came.
Surprise, surprise! The conservative base is pissed. So what was the point of the speech? The only way the speech translates into a net positive is if Bush actually gets his plan passed. Then, they can spin a narrative of "fighting his own party to claim the holy middle ground on a contentious issue." But do you think Sensenbrenner and Tancredo in the House are going to have anything to do with it? I can't imagine the arm-twisting that would be required, and with Mr. 29%'s political capital not even registering, I just don't see it happening.
So, maybe I'm just a double-thick Thicky from Thickonia, but I don't get it.