Bad Move by Bush

President Bush is on the attack against opponents of the new immigration plan.

GLYNCO, Ga., May 29 — President Bush today accused opponents of his proposed immigration measure of fear-mongering to defeat it in Congress, and took on his own conservative political base as he did so.

“If you want to scare the American people, what you say is the bill’s an amnesty bill,” Mr. Bush said this afternoon at a training center for border enforcement agents located in this town in Georgia’s southeastern corner. “That’s empty political rhetoric, trying to frighten our citizens.”

The president used some of his toughest language yet as he began an effort to build support for the bill in the Senate. The measure hews closely to his long-sought goal of a new immigration system with three components: tighter seals on the nation’s borders, a guest-worker system for noncitizens who want to work here, and a path to citizenship for some 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

The bill, the product of a compromise struck by Republican and Democratic leaders two weeks ago, has encountered stiff resistance from the left and right. Liberal opposition taking aim at the proposal for shifting the system for awarding permanent residence status to give more weight to education and skills and less to family reunification, while conservatives have derided the plan for allowing illegal aliens to legalize their status.

It was the conservative opponents whom Mr. Bush seemed to address most forcefully in his remarks here today — a rare example of the president crossing swords with key members of the political coalition that helped him attain the Oval Office and then keep it four years later: The same conservative radio hosts, writers, bloggers, and legislators who killed an attempt at compromise immigration legislation last year. MORE

This is a big mistake, and doubly sad because Bush has made it before. Remember the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination? The Dubai Ports World deal? In both cases, Bush faced serious opposition from his own base and was eventually forced to back down.

Bush seems to have a real problem with what he perceives as "disloyalty." The problem is he can't fire the American people, like he does with staff who disagree too loudly. Yet instead of addressing their concerns, he lashes out at the same folks who would like to be his allies on other issues. This is not the way to win friends and influence people.

The immigration deal was already on shaky ground and this may be enough to kill it. Whatever support Bush ever had with grassroots conservatives is gone. The strange thing is he doesn't seem to mind. It's enough to make you wonder if he is a liberal at heart.

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