Politics & Policy

The House Divided

How long can a people remain a People when its leaders side with its foes?

Bill Bennett and Seth Leibsohn don’t mince words on NRO: “Allowing the running down of a part of the United States by the head of a foreign government, at the White House, standing next to the president — who not only didn’t challenge him, but encouraged him — is a foreign- and domestic-policy catastrophe.” I couldn’t agree more with them, or with Mona Charen and Michelle Malkin, who’ve written forcefully about the absurdity of entertaining commentary on our immigration enforcement (or lack of same) from Mexico. That would be the same Mexico that enforces its immigration laws with the very “intolerance, hate, discrimination and abuse” of which its president, Felipe Calderón, falsely accuses Arizona.

#ad#It is sadly noteworthy, though, that Bill and Seth wrote their essay before Calderón’s appearance Thursday before a joint session of Congress. It was at that latter event, with Vice President Biden and Speaker Pelosi presiding, and with President Obama’s cabinet front and center, that the most breathtaking display took place. I refer not to the tongue-lashing from Calderón, but to the standing ovation from nearly two-thirds of the People’s representatives and from the assembled administration officials. The ovation was for a brazen attack on the People.

Make no mistake: In the Congress of the United States on Thursday, it was a hostile Mexico against a besieged Arizona. Mexico won in a rout.

I was talking to a friend the other day, trying to explain my melancholy over the country. Conversations like that tend to get a bit self-absorbed, but indulge me for a second. I said I couldn’t think of a better example than myself for relating the problem no one wants to face up to. A number of years ago, at some risk to myself and my family, I prosecuted savage jihadists who had made themselves enemies of the United States. I was lauded for doing so by the Clinton administration. Though I disagreed with that administration philosophically, and particularly with its conception of international terrorism as a crime problem, I praised the much-needed overhaul by which it put teeth in our counterterrorism laws. Our disagreement was over the best way to protect the country, not over the imperative that the country be protected. Our debate was the traditional Right-Left debate.

Moreover, as a New York lawyer who made no secret of having conservative views, I was a decided minority, even among my fellow prosecutors. But that only mattered in the occasional, friendly joust over a beer. Day to day, our politics had nothing to do with how we went about our jobs. At the office, I had friends across the ideological spectrum. Most of them were from the political left, but we liked and respected one another. The bond we shared, the sense that we were doing something good for the nation we all loved, was stronger than any ideological divisions.

Why does that matter now? Because, for the first time in our history, we have a president who would be much more comfortable sitting in a room with Bill Ayers than sitting in a room with me. We have a governing class that is too often comfortable with anti-American radicals, with rogue and dysfunctional governments that blame America for their problems, and with Muslim Brotherhood ideologues who abhor individual liberty, capitalism, freedom of conscience, and, in general, Western enlightenment. To this president and his government, I am the problem. Americans who champion life, liberty, and limited government are not just the loyal opposition; they are deemed potential terrorists, and are derided with considerably more intensity than the actual terrorists. Arizona — for criminalizing criminal activity, for defending its sovereignty and protecting its citizens’ lives and property — is slandered as a human-rights violator.

#page#And here is the excruciating part: As the Calderón spectacle demonstrates, these sentiments are not fringe sentiments.

To be sure, they are not held by the majority. To be elected, candidate Obama had to run as a post-partisan moderate, a pragmatic centrist who would not be constrained by ideology. Two camps well knew that this was nonsense: those few of us on the right who bothered to study Obama’s record, and those on the Alinskyite left who understood the campaign to be merely a charade necessary to grab the reins of power.

#ad#It was the second camp we saw standing and cheering for Calderón in Congress on Thursday. They used him as a vehicle to condemn Arizona.

This second camp, Obama’s transformative Left, had the numbers to give a thunderous ovation in the People’s House because a lot of people agree with them. If I had to guess — after its two generations of marching through our institutions, controlling the academy, and scripting the legacy media — I’d put it at one in five, or maybe even four, Americans. That’s enough to form a country the size of France or Germany.

Whatever that country may be, it is not America as we know it. Quite the opposite: Its purpose is to remake America, to render it unrecognizable to those who love America as she is, or has been. To that frightening new country, the rest of us are Arizona. We are here to be jeered and loathed. We are necessary only to pay for the unsustainable Change.

That, however, is not supposed to be the social contract, not for most of us. We don’t aspire to be citizens of the world. America suits us just fine. Arizona suits us just fine. And while the Alinskyites know they need us to underwrite their utopia, we will eventually figure out that we don’t need them to govern — and bankrupt — us.

A nation is a big, bumptious thing. It needn’t agree on everything. It can even bitterly disagree on major things. But to be a nation, a People, it has to agree that it has a shared destiny: that its unique culture, core principles, and independence are worth preserving, protecting, and defending.

I didn’t see a shared destiny during those moments in the People’s House Thursday. I saw Democrats cheering for Mexico’s attack on Arizona. It was a catastrophe.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, to be published by Encounter Books on May 25.

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