How Talk Radio Torpedoed Immigration Reform


With the collapse of the immigration bill in the Senate, the pundits and commentators had a common theme: Nothing gets done in Washington.

With an unpopular and lame-duck president and a divided and highly partisan Congress, they have a point. But why is there no compromise and needed action on enormous issues such as immigration, Social Security, and, of course, the open-ended war in Iraq?

On immigration, some in Congress knuckled under to talk radio babblers and the constant attacks by Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs on CNN. Dobbs was on a rampage virtually every night on his program that has no bearing on the news. He called it the amnesty bill, not immigration reform, and was almost foaming at the mouth.

The phone system in Congress collapsed with the call-ins by those who listen to Limbaugh or local wannabes. I wonder how many callers had the slightest idea of what was contained in the legislation other than versions by the Limbaughs of the world.

The immigration bill was not perfect. Both sides had some worries about it. But it was a start on fixing a problem that desperately needs fixing.

Look at Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, and the state's two GOP senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, who worked hard for it. That trio from a border state showed courage in the face of the drumbeat. Some otherwise liberal Democrats got cold feet in the Senate as those angry calls and letters came in. And President Bush was unable to rally Republicans who thumbed their collective noses at him.

Yes, Bush and the Democratic Congress are in a stalemate of low esteem these days. I have less opinion of talk radio and cable television bloviators, who ought to run for office if they know so damn much.