CommentaryRambling on Rove, immigration

As he exits, Karl Rove continues to talk about national security as the defining American issue. He says George W. Bush has it right for history and that Democrats are repeating errors from Vietnam by appearing weak-willed.

That is counterintuitive, to understate. John McCain has been the presidential candidate most tied to Bush's military policies, and, speaking of history, McCain seems pretty much to be it.

Maybe Roger Simon, who writes columns for, has it right. He says Rove never was all that smart. He points out that Rove actually managed to lose to Al Gore in 2000, at least in the popular vote. He wonders how Gore could even have come close in Florida where his opponent's brother was the governor.

Simon says beating John Kerry as a wartime incumbent in the first presidential election after 9-11 was no great feat and that Rove mostly managed to keep Kerry close. He says Rove really blew the midterm elections in 2006.

Rove as hype? It's an interesting premise. And while Bush's purported brain gives an exit interview focusing on military security, everyone else seems to be gearing up to politicize illegal immigration. That, by the way, did much more to make apparent history of McCain than did his stubborn alliance with Bush on Iraq.

Let's fast-forward through the three current steps of immigration politics.

First, Republicans have decided to base targeted congressional campaigns on this fact: The expansion of the children's health insurance program that House Democrats recently supported would remove the existing provision of law that requires applicants to prove citizenship. Republicans intend to say Democrats want to take away Medicaid for Grandma in the nursing home and send that money to kids of illegal immigrants.

It's a powerful argument, perhaps sufficient even to mitigate, or at least muddy, stout Democratic advantages based on their support for expanded health insurance for kids while Republicans have opposed it.

But it's not true or fair.

That citizenship requirement was burdening states with paperwork and standing in the way of coverage for eligible poor kids whose parents couldn't produce birth certificates. The idea of repealing the requirement was to expedite coverage of eligible children. That's what the experts say will happen.

Second, Rudy Giuliani, who once spoke warmly of illegal immigrants in New York City, intends to deploy newfound intolerance on immigration to establish the essential conservative bona fides by which he can make himself palatable to a majority of Republican primary voters.

Giuliani got chummy on television Tuesday with a well-chosen associate, Bill O'Reilly, to say he intended to build a fence, part physical and part technological, the latter of which would alert swarms of Border Patrol agents.

Then he said he would insist on tamperproof biometric ID cards for all visitors to the country.

Immigration is fine, but the point must be assimilation, he told O'Reilly, who no doubt thrilled him by remarking that the ACLU wasn't going to like that.

Third, the remarkably disciplined Hillary Clinton does not intend to let immigration drive the Republican wedge that would beat her. Did Giuliani mention a technological fence? Hillary suggested that in 2003. Oh, and about that biometric ID card ... Hillary endorsed that, also in 2003, and went so far as to say that maybe all of us will need ID cards.

So there you have three things -- how Republicans hope to win back the Congress, how Giuliani intends to lock up the Republican presidential nomination and how Clinton intends not to be caught flat-footed by this new right-wing Rudy.

John Brummett is an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock and author of "High Wire." His e-mail address is jbrummett@