A Story About Hugh Hewitt, Immigration Reform, and Daddy Trump
He was for the Republican immigration plan before he was against it. Why did he flip?
1. Hugh Hewitt
I am open to the argument that the biggest hack in Conservatism Inc. is Hugh Hewitt. The latest example is Hewitt’s decision to be against the Ukraine/immigration reform deal.
Over the weekend I got a long email from a Republican friend—we’ll call him Mr. X—who brought the receipts on Hewitt’s evolution. Here’s Mr. X:
Hugh Hewitt is attempting to distinguish himself as one of the more ardent opponents of the emerging border-security deal in the Senate. Not only is the deal bad, but, according to Hewitt, “in a long career of watching the GOP commit policy and political malpractice at every level—the worst own goal by the @SenateGOP ever. And that is saying a lot. I cannot conceive of who came up w/this ‘compromise,’ or who still thinks it is good idea or who continues to push it.”
Wow. That sounds really bad. What’s in this “compromise”?
No one has seen the particulars of the bill yet, but from what its lead Republican negotiator, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, has previewed, it contains a mix of asylum reforms, prohibitions on catch-and-release, a new Title-42-like authority for the border, and increases in enforcement money. It does not include any new pathways to citizenship for illegal aliens, the DREAM Act, or any other relief for undocumented migrants who are currently here—namely the main political priorities for Democrats.
I see why he put “compromise” in scare quotes: if this is accurate, the deal is actually Republicans getting away with highway robbery.
Why would Democrats agree to this? The answer is simple: Slava Ukraini!
President Biden, Senate Democrats, and a vanishingly small number of Senate Republicans take the needs of the democratic West seriously. That small number of Senate Republicans have used these needs to blackmail the adults in the room (Biden and the Senate Democrats) into capitulating on the border.
From the Republican perspective, this sounds nothing like policy “malpractice.” Rather, it sounds like an unusually savvy—if cynical—use of leverage by Senate Republicans to pocket border wins that the party has long said it wants. Recall that in 2019 Donald Trump whined about Democrat “immigration obstruction” preventing the “asylum loophole” from being closed. The Heritage Foundation bemoans catch-and-release. Stephen Miller says that Title 42 is the policy change he most wants. It really doesn’t make sense that Hewitt doesn’t get this until you realize the reality of the ecosystem in which he operates.
Because where Hewitt operates, policy doesn’t matter. Here’s what matters:
“As the leader of our party, there is zero chance I will support this horrible open borders betrayal of America,” Trump said on Saturday. “I’ll fight it all the way. A lot of the senators are trying to say, respectfully, they’re blaming it on me. I say, that’s okay. Please blame it on me. Please.”
Is Trump against it? Then Hewitt says it’s a bad deal. It’s as simple as that.
We know what Hewitt actually thinks about the policy aspects because we have a re record of what he said when Trump was—once upon a time—in favor of an immigration deal.
Let’s wind back the clock to early 2018. Unified Republican government was eager to offer a path to citizenship to the Dreamers and the only question was how.
Wait a minute, wouldn’t that have been AMNESTY? Wouldn’t a path to citizenship for 1.8 million “undocumented Democrats” be the sort of thing only RINO-CUCKS like John McCain and Jeff Flake would have supported? Well back in 2018, John McCain and Jeff Flake did support it. But so did Donald Trump. And as a result, Hugh Hewitt was all in.
As the deals were being debated, Hewitt did a segment on his show saying that we should “allow the ‘dreamers’ to stay” in exchange for 700 miles of border wall because these are “real people, people with real lives” and that’s why “we need the deal.” As the deals were collapsing he chimed in to note that, while DACA unfortunately didn’t give a path to citizenship, Trump’s “proposal did so.” That’s why he applauded the assistance from the Koch network in securing “[t]his obvious and necessary deal.”
When you go through Hewitt’s advocacy at the time you’ll note that he only cares about two things: Dreamers and The Wall.
The more sophisticated members of the restrictionist right, of course, have always known that The Wall wouldn’t actually be all that helpful in securing the border. It was just a symbol for the rubes.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s Mark Krikorian, the guru of Republican nativism, who, during the Trump years, was concerned that The Wall had become a distraction: “I've always [been] kind of worried about that, that [Trump] was going to give the Democrats far more than really was warranted in exchange for the wall. Because more border barriers, like I said, they're important. But there are other things that are more important, things like plugging loopholes in our asylum laws, E-Verify and what have you.”
In other words, The Wall is a totem of Trumpism and Hewitt knows it.
That’s why Hewitt kept advocating a deal trading amnesty-for-The-Wall long after the DACA floor debate ended. He talked to the Senatorial arch-foe of the current compromise, Mike Lee, who was still early in his Trumpist turn. Lee told Hewitt that a DREAM Act “could happen. It should happen.” By the end of the year Hewitt was still bemoaning that “a DACA-for-border barrier opportunity was missed last year” and was asking Morning Joe Scarborough, “Would you not like everyone to see that the best outcome is to ‘go big’ with the DACA/border barrier deal from last year? Perhaps even a bigger deal, with regularization for millions of undocumented alongside reform of immigration law?”
An even bigger and better amnesty is a theme to which Hewitt soon returned, “35-45 @SenateGOP would support ‘going big’ on immigration deal not just 4 DACA but all 10 mil undocumented IF they get long, strong double layered fencing, long path to citizenship and @realDonaldTrump provided cover from fringe screaming ‘amnesty.’”
This posture from Hewitt continued into Biden administration, when he was pushing Democrats to do an amnesty-for-wall deal—only now for a piddling 300 miles instead of the 700 miles he initially said he wanted.
Anyway, you get the point. There are countless such receipts of Hewitt spending years advocating for amnesty in exchange for the least important Republican border policy—because that just happened to be the policy Donald Trump supported.
And today he’s decrying a deal that actually achieves the kinds of border-policy restrictions that will make the Democratic base howl with no amnesty anywhere in sight—because Donald Trump just happens to oppose it, too.
Oh, the humanity. Stop this fight before someone gets hurt.
Reminder: The Washington Post pays this man to add value for its readers while at the same time getting criticized from the right for being part of the corrupt “mainstream media.”
What a world.
We have a lot of new readers here so I want to remind you that we don’t play the both-sides game. Our goal is add value for you, relentlessly—not to waste your time by publishing bad-faith actors because we’re trying to check boxes in order to prove “objectivity.”
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2. Neutral Republicans
Many moons ago Tim wrote about how there were two Republican primaries: A fantasy primary and then one happening in the real world. But even I was shocked at how deluded the fantasy was for some Republicans.
On Saturday we got breaking news that a giant group of Richie Rich Republican donors called the American Opportunity Alliance had invited both the Haley and Trump campaigns to pitch them.
Donald Trump has won all but two counties so far. He has been endorsed by nearly the whole of the elected Republican establishment. He is a former president who attempted a coup and is currently facing 91 criminal indictments. He is objectively pro-Putin. Last week, a jury of his peers found him liable for defamation of a woman a previous jury had ruled he had sexually assaulted. His plans for a second term include becoming “a dictator” and acting as the people’s “retribution.”
Nikki Haley is . . . I dunno . . . a normal Republican? She likes normal Republican stuff? She has not been accused of any crimes? Nor has she committed any treason?
And the wealthy men and women of the American Opportunity Alliance look at these two candidates and can’t make up their minds on whom to support in this ongoing contest that is absolutely still wide open.1 They’re both so great! Just, you know, in different ways.
So the AOA needs to have Haley and Trump do a showcase showdown in front of them, live. And then they’ll do some modeling and regression analysis and maybe—maybe—after careful deliberation they’ll be able to choose one of these fabulous patriots in the Republican primary race which is—again—wide open and winnable by anyone.
Say what you will about Donald Trump, but he understood that the Republican establishment was so weak and desiccated that he could break its husk open and take control of the party as easily as he picked up Stormy Daniels.
3. Life Goals
Five hundred days alone in a cave. I’m not saying I could do it. I’m just saying that the idea doesn’t fill me with horror.
After graduating, Flamini taught aerobics in Madrid. She was admired for her charisma and commitment. “Everyone wanted me for their classes,” she says. “They fought over me.” By the time she turned forty, in 2013, she had a partner, a car, and a house. But she felt unsatisfied. She didn’t really care about financial stability, and, unlike most people she knew, she didn’t want children. She experienced an existential crisis. “You know you’re going to die—today, tomorrow, within fifty years,” Flamini told herself. “What is it that you want to do with your life before that happens?” The immediate answer, she remembers, was to “grab my knapsack and go and live in the mountains.” . . .
When the pandemic arrived, in 2020, Flamini drove her camper to the mountains of Catalonia and set herself up in an abandoned pre-Romanesque hermitage. She told me that she loved “its cemetery, its rows of dead, dusk falling,” adding, “It’s a tranquil place.” Flamini would speak on the phone to an old friend and hear how bad the covid-19 situation was in Madrid; then she’d go hiking among wolves.
In July, 2021, just after lockdowns in Spain ended, Flamini thought about coming down from the mountains. But her real desire was to go somewhere more remote: the Gobi Desert, in Mongolia. Only one European had ever crossed it alone on foot, she’d learned. She moved to northern Spain and began training for the Gobi expedition by hiking steep mountain trails while carrying a backpack weighed down by bottles filled with water. She soon decided that she was prepared physically—she could carry twice her weight at six thousand feet—but not mentally. The longest stretch she’d ever spent alone was ninety-five days, in the Cantabrian Mountains. . . .
Flamini thought about test runs that might prepare her for the extended solitude of the Mongolian desert. Spending time in a cave, she decided, could provide useful lessons in endurance and focus. She’d gone spelunking numerous times since El Reguerillo, and in the late nineties she’d spent longer stints with groups of cave explorers, serving as their photographer. She’d never had a bad time in a cave. . . .
She read on the Internet about people who had survived in caves for extended periods. The modern record was four hundred and sixty-three days. It had been set in 1970 by Milutin Veljković, a Serbian man who had gone underground near the town of Svrljig. But nobody had inhabited a cave in the way Flamini was envisaging. “They either wore a watch or talked on the phone every day,” she told me. “Or their families brought them food, or they had a pet for company.” Veljković, for example, had remained in contact with his nearby village, thanks to a phone with an extremely long cord, and he kept up with world events by listening to the radio. Flamini decided to not only beat Veljković’s record but do it in a way that felt right to her. She recalls settling on “five hundred days, just to round it up—because I knew I could, I just knew it.”
The great capitalist meritocracy is something to behold.