Frum wonders why we have immigration at all

Paul Nachman writes:

David Frum actually asks basic questions and makes basic observations about immigration, here.


Congress will have to return to the drawing board on immigration. And it should start with this question: What is immigration for? What are we trying to accomplish? …

That seems a poor payoff for the disruption caused by mass migration. Imagine if your kid’s classroom went from zero non-English-speakers to 10 in just a couple of years. Then you are told that this turmoil is adding just fractions of a penny to the national income? Surely you’d ask: Why are we doing this?

Is Frum like Gingrich—saying useful things, then quickly forgetting them and even saying opposite things?

LA replies:

Frum has been writing about immigration at least since 1991, when he attacked Buchanan’s immigration restrictionist stand in The American Spectator.

He has never criticized immigration as such or questioned why we should have immigration as such. He has never called for any reduction of immigration. For him to ask this question now, out of the blue, is further evidence of a man without an intellectual center, who wanders from one position to another, as I have documented about him in the past.

You write:

Is Frum like Gingrich—saying useful things, then quickly forgetting them and even saying opposite things?

That’s been consistently true of him in the past, so I expect it’s true in this case as well. But there’s only one way to be sure. Let’s see what he says next. Let’s see if there’s any follow-up on this.

Also, “asking questions” about immigration does not commit him to anything. He’s been writing about immigration for 20 years, and his only position is to ask questions about it? If he actually takes a position I’ll be amazed.

Frum reminds me of the OPPORTUNISTS in Dante’s Inferno. They have no permanent residence in the afterlife. No place will have them, not even Hell, because they’ve never had any position except what they think serves their self interest from one moment to the next. Their punishment is to follow forever a banner that keeps changing direction and moves in circles.

This is from Canto III of The Inferno (John Ciardi’s translation). Dante, led by the shade of the Roman poet Virgil, has just come to the gates of Hell where the words are inscribed, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

So saying he put forth his hand to me,
And with a gentle and encouraging smile
He led me through the gate of mystery.

Here sighs and cries and wails coiled and recoiled
On the starless air, spilling my soul to tears.
A confusion of tongues and monstrous accents toiled

In pain and anger. Voices hoarse and shrill
And sounds of blows, all intermingled, raised
Tumult and pandemonium that still

Whirls on the air forever dirty with it
As if a whirlwind sucked at sand. And I,
Holding my head in horror, cried: “Sweet Spirit,”

What souls are these who run through this black haze?”
And he to me. “These are the nearly soulless
Whose lives concluded neither blame nor praise.

They are mixed here with that despicable corps
Of angels who were neither for God nor Satan,
But only for themselves
. The High Creator

Scourged them from Heaven for its perfect beauty,
And Hell will not receive them since the wicked
Might feel some glory over them.” And I:

“Master, what gnaws at them so hideously
Their lamentation stuns the very air?”
“They have no hope of death,” he answered me,

“and in their blind and unattaining state
Their miserable lives have sunk so low
That they must envy every other fate.

No word of them survives their living season.
Mercy and Justice deny them even a name.
Let us not speak of them: look, and pass on.”

I saw a banner there upon the mist.
Circling and circling, it seemed to scorn all pause.
So it ran on, and still behind it pressed

A never-ending rout of souls in pain.
I had not thought death had undone so many
As passed before me in that mournful train.

And some I knew among them; last of all
I recognized the shadow of that soul
Who, in his cowardice, made the Great Denial.

At once I understood for certain: these
Were of that retrograde and faithless crew
Hateful to God and to His enemies.

These wretches never born and never dead
Ran naked in a swarm of wasps and hornets
That goaded them the more the more they fled,

And made their faces stream with bloody gouts
Of pus and tears that dribbled to their feet
To be swallowed there by loathsome worms and maggots.

- end of initial entry -

N. writes:

Reading the article at CNN that Paul Nachman points to, it seems that David Frum is retrenching from his previous open-the-borders position to a more, shall we say, nuanced one. He expresses wonder that about 1/3 of immigrants did not complete high school (a number that seems low to me) and wonders what useful effect they have. As noted, he actually makes a useful observation about the effects of immigration upon the national economy.

However, he then turns to Australia and Canada as examples of “good” immigration, where a Western country takes only the best of applicants. Nowhere in this thumbsucker of an article is there any reference to any effect other than economic. There is no hint of any social cost, or any effect upon the larger culture, of immigration.

So it appears to me that Frum is merely retrenching a bit, from his open-borders embrace to a semi-open border, but there isn’t a shred of a hint that he’s actually re-thinking anything. Nachman’s parallel between Frum and Gingrich is very interesting, and bears further consideration.

PS: Your cite from Dante’s Divine Comedy is very apropos for the current scene, both political and social.

LA replies:

Just one quibble: Frum has never been simply an open-borders advocate. He’s always thrown in some kind of mealy mouthed concern about the issue, never adding up to anything real.

N. writes:

I wrote about David Frum as an open-borders advocate and you corrected me with:

“Just one quibble: Frum has never been simply an open-borders advocate. He’s always thrown in some kind of mealy mouthed concern about the issue, never adding up to anything real.”

This is far from a quibble, it is an important correction. If Frum were to be open about his position on immigration, he would be more vulnerable to criticism. By always paying some degree of lip service, as seen in the CNN thumbsucker, Frum manages to preserve some vague claim to being kind of, sort of, in favor of limits.

So perhaps the reality of Frum is, he has over and over again embraced policies that are de facto open borders, while always using words that create a kind of smoke screen of moderation. His latest project, “No Labels,” is yet another example of this illusion of moderation connected with a clear, political bias.

Is this the set of skills that a modern speechwriter has to have, I wonder?

LA replies:

So Frum is allied with that ridiculous phony John Avilon in the “No Labels” business? At the very moment that the left has been carrying out a leftist revolution to transform America, that’s when these supposed moderates want to remove all labels, destroying the ability of people to identify and oppose that leftist revolution. Amazing.

We need a new Inferno, with a series of circles expressly designed for new types of sinners that didn’t exist in Dante’s time. The “No Labels” movement would have a prominent place in it.

Daniel F. writes:

I think you’re being unfair to David Frum. I understand the problems you have with him generally, but, as far as I know, for quite some time (at least since he left the Bush administration early in the last decade), he’s been consistently opposed to unrestricted immigration (whether legal or illegal). This sharply distinguishes him from, for example, the one-dimensional neocons who write for Commentary and the Weekly Standard. That his position may have changed since 1991—about 20 years ago—does not discredit what he is saying now. Moreover, he clearly is not talking tough on immigration to further his project of “modernizing” the GOP, because the audience he is targeting—highly educated metropolitan professionals—are generally in favor of unrestricted immigration. Frum at least deserves points for intellectual honesty.

LA replies:

It’s not true that he’s been consistently opposed to unrestricted immigration. From time to time, he’s made wimpy, ambivalent criticisms of illegal immigration. That’s it. To my knowledge, he has never seriously criticized the overall level and content of U.S. immigration or suggested an alternative policy.

I sum up his pathetic record on the issue in this 2007 entry, where I respond to his bizarre, self-serving claim—made right in the middle of the life-and-death battle over the 2007 Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill—that he has been a leader and pioneer on immigration reform.

Nota bene: the fact that a person claims to have taken a certain position on an issue, doesn’t mean that he has actually taken it. We are not obligated to accept self-seeking parties’ views of their own great contributions.

January 6, 2011

LA writes:

Let us also remember that Frum, in his descpicable cover article in Newsweek in summer 2009, portrayed Rush Limbaugh—who never talks about race and who has never discussed immigration policy let alone called for a reduction in legal immigration—as a vicious bigot who should be silenced, along with the supposedly “extreme” conservatism that he represents. Yet people now want to think of David Frum as an immigration reductionist and give him credit as such? But how could people sensitive to the evils of “bigotry” go near the immigration issue, given an intellectual environment, exacerbated by Frum himself, in which any non-liberal position is seen as hateful bigotry that must be shunned?

A man who jacks Political Correctness to a new level, as Frum did in his Limbaugh article, is the last person in the world who is equipped to take a stand on the supremely un-PC issue of immigration reduction and stick with it.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 27, 2010 09:53 AM | Send

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