John McCain's campaign is attacking Barack Obama for Obama's rather indisputable comments about the rise of anti-immigrant fervor in small town America. Obama said that the rise of such fervor has a lot to do with bitterness.
But wait - didn't John McCain say something similar in December to The New Yorker?
Anti-immigrant passion also owes much to the disproportionate influence of a few small states in the nominating process. National polls show that, as an issue, immigration is far behind the Iraq war, terrorism, the economy, and health care as a concern to most Americans; a recent Pew poll shows that, nationally, only six per cent of voters offer immigration as the most important issue facing the country. But in Iowa and South Carolina, two of the three most important early states, it is a top concern for the Republicans who are most likely to vote.
"It's the influx of illegals into places where they've never seen a Hispanic influence before," McCain told me. "You probably see more emotion in Iowa than you do in Arizona on this issue. I was in a town in Iowa, and twenty years ago there were no Hispanics in the town. Then a meatpacking facility was opened up. Now twenty per cent of their population is Hispanic. There were senior citizens there who were--'concerned' is not the word. They see this as an assault on their culture, what they view as an impact on what have been their traditions in Iowa, in the small towns in Iowa. So you get questions like 'Why do I have to punch 1 for English?' 'Why can't they speak English?' It's become larger than just the fact that we need to enforce our borders."
Sure, it's not exactly the same, but it's pretty darn similar. In fact, McCain seems to be saying something far more controversial. While Obama is saying economic hardship breeds anti-immigrant feelings, McCain is saying lots of rural people just hate Hispanics. That may or may not be true - but the fact that McCain's campaign is feigning outrage over Obama's truisms when their own candidate has made thematically similar statements strikes me as...what's the word...oh yeah - dishonest.