The Corner

Politics & Policy

Memory Lane, with Billy J.

It is not like me to bring up Bill Clinton’s State of the Union addresses. I lived through them once — year by year — and am not eager to re-live them. The most famous line, at least in conservative ears, is “The era of big government is over.” (Famous last words.) That was in the 1996 address.

A friend has just sent me a clip from the 1995 address. I listened to it with some amazement. That clip is here, but I will paste from a transcript. I realize that this clip has made the rounds, so it may be old news — doubly old news — to you. But it is remarkable to me.

I’m struck by the language — language that is verboten in President Clinton’s party today (never mind the ideas):

All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country.

Stop right there. “Illegal aliens”? That phrase is now at the level of hate speech. During the most recent presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton apologized for using the term “illegal immigrant” and promised never to use it again. (Maybe she is free from that promise now?)

Anyway, in 1995, Bill Clinton continued,

The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public services they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That’s why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more, by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens.

Holy Moses. One more swatch:

We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.

As I recall, the president was reelected the following year.

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